LONDON: Britain’s top Muslim lobbying group has said that the next prime minister needs to seriously tackle the “systemic” Islamophobia in the Conservative Party after “an alarming radio silence” from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is standing down on Sept. 5.
Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that Johnson should have apologized to the Muslim community in his resignation speech last week, warning that there have been “no concrete steps” taken to deal with Islamophobia in the Tory party.
Mohammed told Metro.co.uk that the MCB had recorded more than 300 instances of Islamophobia in the party since 2019, adding that the next prime minister “must represent everybody and they have to make sure that they do that fairly.”
She said: “We’d like to see these new candidates actually take this issue seriously, because it is quite deep-seated.
“We found over 300 cases, as well as senior members of the party themselves complaining about the problem.”
Recent controversies in the party include Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani reporting that her “Muslimness” was raised when she was fired as transport minister.
Mark Spencer, MP, said that he spoke to Ghani, but rejected the accusations as “completely false and I consider them to be defamatory.”
A report into the situation is still unpublished six months after the alleged event, adding to the pressure that the party is facing following a 2021 review into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, which found that anti-Muslim sentiment existed and criticizing the Tories for inadequately investigating allegations.
It did not find that the party was institutionally Islamophobic, a finding which the MCB and other groups slammed as a whitewash.
Mohammed said: “There has to be a commitment to zero tolerance on Islamophobia — a party pledge that there will be action where there are Islamophobic comments, whether that is dismissal, whether that is disciplinary.
“There needs to be a real strong voice from leadership saying ‘this is totally unacceptable and this does not reflect the views of the Conservative Party’.”
Mohammed did not comment on the Tory leadership candidates, saying that they “all have their positives and negatives.”
Sajid Javid, the former health secretary who dropped out of the race after the first ballot, attracted attention in the 2019 race for the leadership when he called for the independent investigation that concluded in 2021. But so far, no comments have been made on the issue in this year’s leadership elections.
Mohammed pointed to Johnson’s infamous comments when he compared women in burqas to “letterboxes and bank robbers.”
“We’ve yet to see any apology on that,” she said. “I think the impact that had on Muslim women was real.
“We did see a spike in hate crime, particularly against Muslim women who did wear the burqa or the veil after that, and even a confidence in racists and bigots feeling that they were entitled to say such things or do things like that.”
“I think it is a time for us to see a leadership that is inclusive, that is willing to work with Muslim communities and all communities.
“We want to see that across the political spectrum, but certainly in the Conservatives with the leadership election coming up.
“Can we get a politics that we can be proud of, as opposed to embarrassed of?”
A UK government spokesperson said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Muslim hatred in any form and will continue to combat discrimination and intolerance.”