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The Islamophobia Row: Rishi Sunak Denies his Party has Islamophobic Tendencies

islamophobia

As a mounting Islamophobia row has engulfed the Conservative Party, Rishi Sunak has faced increasing pressure to break his silence on anti-Muslim rhetoric. However, the Prime Minister has insisted that his Party does not have Islamophobic tendencies.

Calling Islamophobia Out

Some senior Conservative figures have been vocal in their criticism of the “dangerous” discourse promoted by Lee Anderson on Friday. Anderson claimed on GB News that Islamists have got control of Sadiq Khan and that the Mayor has given away the capital to his mates. Following his refusal to apologise, Anderson had the Whip removed on Saturday.

The Prime Minister has since faced pressure to denounce Islamophobia and tackle it within the party. Baroness Warsi, who was a cabinet minister in David Cameron’s government, said Sunak needed to “find the language” to “call Islamophobia Islamophobia”.

In a statement on Sunday, Sunak decried “the explosion in prejudice and antisemitism since the Hamas terrorist attacks on 7 October” in Israel. He did not explicitly refer to Islamophobia. Sadiw Khan criticised the Prime Minister on social media for failing “to mention anti-Muslim hatred at all”.

In an interview this morning, Sunak says Lee Anderson’s comments were ‘not acceptable’, but denies claim Tory party has Islamophobic tendencies. Similarly, the deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden said he did not agree with Anderson’s comments but added: “I don’t believe that Lee Anderson said those remarks intending to be Islamophobic.”

Ministers have also faced questions over why no action had been taken against Suella Braverman, the former home secretary, who wrote an article for the Telegraph saying: “The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now.”

Responses

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair and shadow secretary for state for women and equalities, told the Today progamme this morning that the government should adopt the definition of Islamophobia used by Labour and other major parties. This is the definition produced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, which describes Islamophobia as “rooted in racism and a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

In response, Kemi Badenoch said that the Conservatives do use a definition of Islamophobia. “We use the term “Anti-Muslim hatred”. It makes clear the law protects Muslims. In this country, we have a proud tradition of religious freedom AND the freedom to criticise religion. The definition of “Islamophobia” she uses creates a blasphemy law via the back door if adopted”.

“As the minister for the Equality Act, I also know the definition of Islamophobia that @AnnelieseDodds and Labour have adopted is not in line with law as written. Anti-Muslim hatred is more precise and better reflects the UK’s laws” Badenoch continued.

The Muslim Council of Britain, Britain’s largest Muslim body, said the Conservative party should launch an investigation into alleged “structural Islamophobia”. In a letter to the Conservative chairman Richard Holden, MCB secretary general Zara Mohammed said: “Our view is that the Islamophobia in the party is institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership.”

The request for an investigation into structural Islamophobia in the Conservative Party follows a previous dossier of 300 cases of Islamophobia in the party submitted by the Muslim Council of Britian. The Council asserts that “this week of extremism in the Conservative Party demonstrates that discrimination against Muslims remains strong”.

Final thought

The refusal of some senior Conservative figures to recognise and define islamophobia, let alone call it out, questions the extent to which the Party can claim that anti-Muslim beliefs are not internally rife.

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