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The Conservative Party is still in denial over growing Islamophobia

The Conservative Party is still in denial over growing Islamophobia

(Alamy)

3 min read

In 2011 when I stated Islamophobia had passed the dinner table test, I was calling out the elephant in the room; a concern that this new and pernicious form of racism was manifesting in the most respectable of settings: in newsrooms, think tanks, the corridors of power and at middle-class dinner tables.

A decade later, whilst there has been some progress in government via the cross-government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group and the disaggregation of religious hate crimes by police authorities, we still have a government reluctant and in denial about the extent of the issue.

Last month the Home Office released figures showing a worrying trend that religious hate crimes have increased, with offences against Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) making up the majority, at nearly half of all religious hate crimes (47 per cent). These hate crimes range from damage being caused to property or places of worship, harassment or abuse online, discrimination at work or in the education sector and people being threatened or physically attacked in public as underlined by the experience of countless victims and case studies. Islamophobia often manifests into violent attacks against our fellow citizens. It’s why it must be challenged and defeated.

It seems they have given up on even pretending to care about this issue

You cannot defeat what you do not define. It’s why for years alongside the call for government to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism, or anti-Jewish hate, there have been calls to adopt a definition of Islamophobia or anti-Muslim hate.

In 2018 the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims conducted the most comprehensive consultation on this issue to date. Parliamentarians travelled across the United Kingdom, engaged with elected members in the devolved nations, held large town hall style debates and engaged academics and experts. The APPG proposed a draft definition of Islamophobia. The draft was then disseminated across British Muslim communities with over 800 Muslim institutions and organisations supporting and adopting it.

The definition is crucially rooted and supported in the communities it seeks to protect. The definition has had national support from local authorities and has been adopted by all the major political parties, including the Conservative Party in Scotland. The government however decided it wanted to consult further.

In May 2019, the then secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, the late James Brokenshire, told the Commons: “It is clear that with such a complex issue we need to interrogate this further as a matter of urgency...That’s why we will be appointing two advisers and ensuring this reflects the need for community representation… our priority is to arrive swiftly at a collective position.” 

Since then, work on this issue has stalled. Only one adviser was ever appointed and three years on, with no terms of reference set, no resources allocated and no engagement with government ministers, he too was unceremoniously and appallingly removed.

Media reports now suggest the government is reneging on its promise to adopt any definition. It seems it has given up on even pretending to care about this issue.

This unwillingness to act is a pattern that both my party, the Conservative party, and government have in common.

When allegations of Islamophobia were made to my party, it acted only when the media became involved. Despite numerous requests to hold an inquiry, they eventually succumbed when bounced into holding an inquiry during a live TV debate by the then leadership candidate Sajid Javid.

We now have a third prime minister in office since the damning allegations made by my colleague Nusrat Ghani. She detailed how she was fired during a 2020 cabinet reshuffle due to ministerial colleagues being uncomfortable with her “Muslimness”. The allegations remain unresolved.

The recent terrorist attack in Dover was motivated by far-right ideology. Andrew Leak, the perpetrator, openly expressed anti-Muslim hatred. The sirens of concern I sounded over a decade ago are still ringing, it’s time for the government to finally start listening. 

 

Baroness Warsi, Conservative peer.

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