MPs clapped at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday when Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi asked the prime minister to apologise for comparing Muslim women to letterboxes in a “racist” attack.
“If I decide to wear a turban or you decide to wear a cross or he decides to wear a kippah or skullcap or she decides to wear a hijab or burqa, does that mean it is open season for right honourable members of this house to make derogatory and divisive remarks about our appearance?” asked Dhesi, who is a Sikh.
“For those of us who from a young age have had to endure and face up to being called names such as towel-head, or Taliban, or coming from bongo-bongo land, we can fully appreciate the hurt and pain of already vulnerable Muslim women when they are described as looking like bank robbers and letterboxes.”
Traditionally MPs do not clap in the Commons.
Earlier this week the hate crime monitoring organisation Tell MAMA announced that there was a 375 per cent rise in Islamophobic attacks the week after Boris Johnson wrote a column in the Telegraph comparing Muslim women to letterboxes and bank robbers.
Dhesi accused the prime minister of hiding behind “sham and whitewash investigations” and asked when Johnson was going to launch an inquiry into Islamophobia.
At the end of June Boris Johnson said his party was committed to a “general investigation into all types of prejudice,” rather than an external investigation specifically into Islamophobia as was previously suggested by Chancellor Sajid Javid.
Johnson didn’t answer Dhesi’s question and instead stated that Labour should apologise for anti-Semitism within its party and that he had made his comments as part of “a strong liberal defence of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want.”
Last year former Conservative co-chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi warned that Islamophobia was “widespread” and goes “right to the top” of the Conservative party but is ignored for electoral reasons.
A Hope Not Hate poll by YouGov revealed that 60 per cent of Tories believe Islam is “generally a threat to western civilisation” and that nearly half would rather their prime minister is not a Muslim.
The poll also found that only eight per cent of the party’s members believe Islamophobia is a problem within the party.