Britain’s ruling Conservative party accused of Islamophobia
London, May 31 : One of the UK’s largest Muslim groups today accused the country’s ruling Conservative party of Islamophobia and called on the party chair to launch an investigation and a “full audit” to remove racists and bigots from its fold.
Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) used the appearance of a controversial speaker from West Bengal, Tapan Ghosh, at a seminar in the UK Parliament complex last year as an example of anti-Muslim activities by some Tory MPs.
“No action has been taken against Bob Blackman MP who has now shown a consistent record of endorsing Islamophobia. Blackman re-tweeted an anti-Muslim post by the far-right extremist Tommy Robinson, hosted the anti-Muslim extremist Tapan Ghosh in Parliament, shared an anti-Muslim post on Facebook and this week was found to have been a member of a number of Islamophobic Facebook groups,” notes the open letter from MCB Secretary General Harun Khan addressed to Conservative party chair Brandon Lewis.
Blackman, MP for Harrow East – a heavily Indian-origin constituency in north London, has previously distanced himself from comments made by Ghosh, founder of the extremist Hindu Samhati group, at a seminar hosted by him as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Hindus in October last year.
“I did not host Tapan Ghosh in Parliament. He was invited by an organisation without my knowledge. In the past I shared a social media post in error which I apologised for at the time,” Blackman said in a statement today.
On the wider allegations, he stressed that he condemned Islamophobia, adding: “I utterly refute this allegation. I was added to Facebook groups without my knowledge or permission and immediately removed myself from them when I became aware I had been added.”
MCB goes on to list out other instances of alleged anti-Muslim activities by Tory MPs, claiming “weekly occurrences of Islamophobia” from candidates and representatives of the Conservative party. The nine incidents listed in the letter range from sharing allegedly anti-Muslim posts and articles on social media to membership of far-right, anti-Islamic organisations.
“These cases are just the tip of the iceberg and what is in the public domain. Whilst they were thankfully dealt with once they were brought to public light, these cases suggest a wider problem,” the letter claims.
Its list of recommended steps for the Tory party include launching a “genuinely independent inquiry” into Islamophobia within the members, structures, electoral campaigns and public representatives of the party, publishing a list of incidents of Islamophobia within the party where action has already been taken, adopting a programme of education and training on Islamophobia, and publicly reaffirming from the highest levels a commitment against bigotry.
In its response to MCB’s letter, the Conservative Party said: “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”
Since being appointed Tory party chairman in a Cabinet reshuffle in January by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Brandon Lewis has launched a code of conduct for MPs and local election candidates and encouraged members to email him if they hear of bigotry.
The MCB described the effort as admirable but claimed more needed to be done.