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Over 140 UK Muslim institutions urge anti-racism watchdog to investigate Tory Islamophobia

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, UK 2 on October 2019 [Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency]
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech during the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, UK on 2 October 2019 [Ray Tang/Anadolu Agency]

A group of over 140 mosques and Muslim organisations have urged the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to launch an investigation into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. In its letter the signatories accused the UK Watchdog of a conflict of interest and a “dereliction of responsibilities” for dismissing more than 300 cases of alleged anti-Muslim racism within the Tory Party.

Writing to EHRC chair, David Isaac and its board, British Imams and leading Muslim organisations said that they were “greatly concerned at the failure of EHRC to fulfil its remit and carry out an investigation of Islamophobia allegation within the Conservative Party.”

The letter arrived on the heel of a dossier submitted by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to EHRC, containing more than 300 cases of Islamophobia amongst Tory party members, and MPs including Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The Watchdog, which is currently investigating the Labour Party for alleged Anti-Semitism, has refused to launch a similar probe into the racism within the ruling party, raising accusations that it has not taken racism against Muslim as seriously as racism against Jews.

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“It is unacceptable” said the group “for an independent statutory body whose responsibility encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination to opt out from investigating allegation,” the signatories said.

Warning of the spike in Islamophobia, EHRC’s failure to launch its own probe was denounced as “a dereliction” of responsibility, which the group argued would expose British Muslim to further racism. It is “unsatisfactory” said the group for “EHRC to remain on the side-line and simply monitor the Conservative party carry out its own internal and self-appointed investigation.”

The Conservative Party is currently undertaking its own investigation into “all forms of prejudice,” having initially pledged to launch a probe into anti-Muslim racism.

Islamophobia amongst Tory members is “extremely serious,” said the group, citing the MCB dossier and media reporting on Conservative politicians expressing anti-Muslim remarks notably by Nadine Dorries MP, Bob Blackman MP, former MEP Daniel Hannan and racist posts on social media by more than 30 current and former councillors.

Sections of the British right have been reluctant to investigate Islamophobia. Right-wing commentators such as Melanie Phillips dismiss the notion by suggesting that “the concept of Islamophobia” itself was anti-Semitic.

Full text  of the letter:

To,

David Isaac and the Board of Equality Human Rights Commission:

We the undersigned Imams and organisations are greatly concerned at the failure of EHRC to fulfil its remit and carry out an investigation of Islamophobia allegation within the Conservative Party.

It is unacceptable for an independent statutory body whose responsibility [1] encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination” to opt out from investigating allegation. It is further unsatisfactory for the EHRC to remain on the side line and simply monitor [2] the Conservative party carry out its own internal and self-appointed investigation.

The allegations against the Conservative Party members are extremely serious, with Muslim Council of Britain indicating 300 cases that were submitted to you in March. The media [3] has also reported numerous cases of Conservative politicians expressing Islamophobic views that require an independent investigation. This includes Nadine Dorries MP [4], Bob Blackman MP [5], former MEP Daniel Hannan [6] and racist posts on social media by more than 30 [7] current and former councillors.

Further, some of the EHRC’s board members’ external posts are raising concerns of conflict of interest. Since Suzanne Baxter, a board member of EHRC has taken up a position at Pinsent Masons, a corporate law firm that represents the Conservative government. It is also alleged you, Mr David Isaac benefit from Pinset Masons with a salary of £620,000 a year [8].

The Islamophobia allegations are in the backdrop of 47% of all religious hate crime in 2018/19 [9] being targeted against Muslims.

For the EHRC to deny investigating Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, with the general rising rate of Islamophobia is a dereliction of responsibilities that is exposing an already vulnerability British Muslim community to greater discrimination.

We therefore call upon EHRC to immediately review its position and call for an investigation into the allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. We also require assurances of impartiality for such an investigation.

 

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