British Muslim group calls for Islamophobia inquiry inside governing party

British Muslim group calls for Islamophobia inquiry inside governing party
A crowd of demonstrators on Portland Place in freezing conditions ahead of a march against racism. (Files/Getty Images)
Updated 01 June 2018

British Muslim group calls for Islamophobia inquiry inside governing party

British Muslim group calls for Islamophobia inquiry inside governing party
  • Britain’s Muslim Council has filed a request for an official inquiry into Islamophobia in the British Prime Minister’s Conservative Party, amid claims of Islamophobia
  • The council, an independent body that represents more than 500 mosques, schools and associations in Britain, requested a full audit “to ensure racists and bigots have no place” in the Conservative party

LONDON: The largest Muslim organization in Britain has called for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the governing Conservative party.

Harun Khan, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), sent an open letter to the party chairman, Brandon Lewis, strongly criticizing the Conservatives for failing to tackle the “simmering underbelly of Islamophobia” in their ranks.

He was immediately backed by one of the most senior Muslim Conservatives, Sayeeda Warsi, a Cabinet member under former prime minister David Cameron, who said that the party had “buried its head in the sand” over the allegations.

Khan said that there were “more than weekly” incidents of Islamophobia within the party and singled out Bob Blackman as a member of parliament with “a consistent record of endorsing Islamophobia” while facing no reprimand from his party leadership. Blackman denied the accusations.

The MCB is an umbrella body representing 500 Muslim groups and schools in the UK. The letter, published on Wednesday, highlighted nine alleged incidents of Islamophobia by Conservatives in the past two months alone. 

Those named included Mike Payne, a Conservative councillor from Yorkshire in northern England, who in 2013 — before he was a councillor — shared an article which called Muslims “parasites” and “freeloaders.” 

Others mentioned in the letter included council candidates Alexander van Terheyden, who called Islam a “violent political ideology” comparable to fascism and communism, and David Boston, who posted a photo of bacon hanging from a door handle with the caption, “Protect your house from terrorists.” 

“These cases are just the tip of the iceberg and what is in the public domain,” wrote Khan. “Furthermore the inaction taken in high-profile cases sends a signal that Islamophobia is to be tolerated in the Conservative party.”

While Payne, van Terheyden and Boston have been suspended from the Conservative party, the same fate has not befallen Blackman or Zac Goldsmith, Conservative candidate for mayor of London in the 2016 election.

During the election campaign Goldsmith made remarks suggesting that his opponent, and the eventual victor, Sadiq Khan, would be a security risk.

Such “shocking Islamophobia” in the mayoral contest “left Muslim communities reeling,” Khan, the MCB secretary-general, wrote. “There has been no censure of Mr. Goldsmith’s action and he has instead been invited to represent your party again.” 

When he became chairman of the Conservative party in January, Lewis introduced a new code of conduct requiring members to “encourage and foster respect and tolerance.” He also asked people to report incidences of bigotry directly to him via email.

Blackman, the MP singled out in the MCB letter, represents a constituency in the north London suburbs that includes a significant Muslim population. 

He previously faced criticism for retweeting an anti-Muslim post by far-right activist Tommy Robinson and hosting an event attended by the controversial Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh in parliament. He was also accused of belonging to Islamophobic Facebook groups. The MP denied the allegations yesterday. 

“I utterly refute this allegation,” he told Arab News. “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.”

Ghosh, the founder of Hindu Samhati, a nationalist group based in India, has called for the UN to control the birth rate of Muslims and advocates Muslims being forced to abandon their religion if they migrate to a Western country. 

Last October he appeared at two parliamentary functions that were hosted by Blackman, who is chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Hindus. But the MP insists Ghosh was not his personal guest.

“I did not host Tapan Ghosh in parliament. He was invited by an organization without my knowledge,” he told Arab news. 

Concerning other allegations, Blackman said: “In the past I shared a social media post in error, which I apologized for at the time. I will continue working with all communities in my constituency and I condemn Islamophobia.”

In his letter Khan urges the Conservatives to launch a “genuinely independent inquiry into Islamophobia” inside the party, publish a list of Islamophobic incidents within the party where action has already been taken and “publicly reaffirm from the highest level a commitment against bigotry wherever is found.” 

In response to the letter, a Conservative spokesman said: “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”


Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Updated 04 December 2020

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

Militants open fire and burn police car in Philippine town

COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of militants aligned with the Daesh group opened fire on a Philippine army detachment and burned a police patrol car in a southern town but withdrew after troops returned fire, officials said Friday.
There were no immediate reports of injuries in Thursday night’s brief attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang town. Nevertheless it sparked panic among residents and rekindled fears of a repeat of a 2017 militant siege of southern Marawi city that lasted for five months before being quelled by government forces.
“We are on top of the situation. This is just an isolated case,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said in a statement.
Security officials gave differing statements on the motive of the 30 to 50 gunmen. Some said the militants targeted Datu Piang’s police chief over a feud but others speculated that the militants wanted to project that they are still a force to reckon with by attacking the army detachment in the center of the predominantly Muslim town.
Officials denied earlier reports that the militants managed to seize a police station and burn a Roman Catholic church.
When reinforcement troops in armored carriers arrived and opened fire, the militants fled toward a marshland, military officials said.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one of a few small armed groups waging a separatist rural insurrection in the south of the largely Roman Catholic nation. The groups opposed a 2014 autonomy deal forged by the largest Muslim rebel group in the south with the Philippine government and have continued on and off attacks despite being weakened by battle setbacks, surrenders and factionalism.
The armed groups include the Abu Sayyaf, which has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for kidnappings for ransom, beheadings and bombings.