Top Muslim group urges equalities watchdog to launch formal probe into Conservative 'denial' of Islamophobia
A leading Muslim group has urged Britain's equalities watchdog to launch a full-scale investigation into the Conservative Party.
In a letter to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, accused the Tories of showing a "callous" attitude to allegations of anti-Muslim abuse.
And he called for a formal probe into the "serious issue" of whether the party has failed its obligations under Britain's equalities laws.
The intervention came as the EHRC announced that it had launched a separate investigation into allegations of anti-semitism in Labour's ranks.
Mr Khan said: "I am writing on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain – the largest umbrella body of Muslim organisations in the UK – to formally request the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate whether the Conservative Party has breached its obligations under the Equality Act.
"Given the Act makes it unlawful for the Party to discriminate against its members, prospective members or its guests, we believe there is sufficient evidence to suggest that there is a prima facie case to answer of systemic unlawful acts by the Party."
The group's complaint centres around five key areas, including claims that the party took "no action" in response to controversial remarks by Conservative leadership frontrunner Boris Johnson and other MPs in the party.
Mr Johnson came under fire last summer when he likened those wearing face veils to "post boxes" and "bank robbers", but was cleared by a party probe which argued he had been exercising his right to free speech.
The MCB also alleges that there is an "atmosphere of hostility agains Muslim Conservative party members", with discrimination against Tory members who are Muslims "tolerated" by party bosses.
They meanwhile urge the watchdog to look into the "scale" of Islamophobia in the party, arguing that it "runs deep" - and accuse the Tories of presiding over a "failure" in its complaints process.
"Those in charge of the process of handling complaints within the Party (Chair, Deputy Chair) have demonstrated a callous attitude to complaints, misleading members and the public with limited (if any) transparency," Mr Khan writes.
The Conservatives are further accused of a "denial of Islamophobia", with party chiefs alleged to hagve "denied there is even a major problem of Islamophobia" in the organisation.
Mr Khan said: "Any one of these charges should be sufficient to indicate a serious problem.
"Taken together, this has led to there being a situation where members of the Party and prospective members from a Muslim background specifically, have felt and publicly stated that there is an institutional problem of Islamophobia, where racism against Muslims is not dealt with other than where there is a media spotlight on the issue."
The group also attaches a 24-page dossier to its EHRC letter, which includes a string of instances of "Conservative councillors, candidates and representatives" engaging in anti-Muslim abuse online.
The comments flagged with the watchdog - previously uncovered by media organisations including BuzzFeed, PoliticsHome, the Independent, Vice and the @MatesJacob Twitter account - include a prospecitve Tory councillor branding the Prophet Mohammed a "f****** paedophile" and a candidate for Lewisham Council who called Islam "the new Nazism".
In a statement, Mr Khan said: "It is a sad day for us to have brought this complaint to the doors of the EHRC, but the concerns of Muslims at large about Islamophobia within the Conservative Party have fallen on deaf ears.”
“We have taken this step after an unprecedented number of cases have been brought to our attention, suggesting a culture within the Conservative Party where Islamophobia is not only widespread, but institutional. We now request the EHRC to look at all the evidence and investigate this matter with great urgency."
The Conservative Party has been approached for comment.
A spokesperson from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We have received complaints regarding the Conservative Party and are considering them in line with our usual processes. As part of our standard process, we have written to the Conservative Party to ask for information in order to help assess the complaints.”
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