Almost half of Conservative members would reject Muslim Prime Minister, poll finds
Almost half of the Conservative Party's rank-and-file members would not accept a Muslim as the country's Prime Minister, a new poll has found.
A YouGov study carried out by anti-racism charity Hope Not Hate found that just 8% of the party's members "would be proud of Britain if we were to elect a Muslim as our Prime Minister".
But 43% agreed that they "would prefer to not have the country led by a Muslim".
The findings come after Home Secretary Sajid Javid forced the Conservative leadership contenders to agree to an independent probe into allegations of anti-Muslim prejudice in the party.
The survey also revealed that 67% of Tory members believe that “there are areas in Britain that operate under Sharia law", with just 18% disagreeing with that statement.
Meanwhile 45% said there were "areas in Britain in which non-Muslims are not able to enter" - with just over a third (34%) saying they did not believe that to be the case.
Forty percent of those surveyed said Britain should lower the number of Muslims entering the country, compared to just five percent who said the same for Christians or Jewish people.
Hope Not Hate campaign director Matthew McGregor said: “No mainstream political party should accept racism and racists within its ranks.
"The Conservatives have paid lip service by saying they have zero tolerance to Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice, but this new poll confirms they face a real crisis.
"From the grassroots to the great offices of state, Conservative members buy into racist myths, with almost half unwilling to have a Muslim Prime Minister – and only 8% being proud to have one – and most denying that there’s even an issue to confront."
Hope Not Hate has now penned an open letter to rivals Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt urging them to publicly acknowledge "that there is a problem with Islamophobia in the Conservative Party" and commit to "tackle it as leader".
They also urge the leadership candidates to set up an independent body to probe Islamophobia; agree to publish a definition of Islamophobia the party intends to use; and commit to "transparency in all disciplinary procedures".
Mr McGregor added: "The first step to challenge this crisis should be a show of leadership from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. They must both confront the racism of some party members and the complacency of others, state clearly that they accept there is a problem, and confirm their commitment at last week’s TV debate to a full and independent investigation."
YouGov polled 864 Conservative party members for the online study.