LONDON: The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has accused the UK’s governing Conservatives of “deceiving the public” after it was revealed that an independent body had dropped an inquiry into Islamophobia within the party.
The party on Tuesday said it would conduct an internal investigation into alleged discriminatory behavior and prejudice within its ranks, leading to the decision by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to drop its inquiry.
The EHRC said its decision was based on the release of the terms of reference of the party’s own investigation into complaints of “discrimination over religion or belief and significantly Islam,” adding that it did not believe it would be “proportionate” to initiate one at this stage.
An EHRC spokesperson said it would monitor how the Conservative internal investigation progressed.
“If we are not satisfied with progress or how the investigation is conducted, we will review our decision and do not rule out the use of our legal powers,” the spokesperson said.
But Harun Khan, general secretary of the MCB, slammed the decision and called the internal investigation a “facade” in a statement.
“We have previously described the Conservative Party’s attitude to Islamophobia as one of denial, dismissal and deceit. The publication of the terms of reference for its inquiry reflects that regrettable attitude. They are a facade to hide the hundreds of incidences of Islamophobic bigotry we have identified in its ranks,” he said.
“This inquiry appears aimed at deceiving the public and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that the problem is being looked into, when in reality the majority of the issue has already been dismissed.”
The MCB said it had previously sent the EHRC dossiers documenting hundreds of examples of Islamophobia associated with party members, including the Conservative candidate for London Mayor Zac Goldsmith.
He was accused in the 2016 mayoral election of trying to link Labour’s candidate and current Mayor Sadiq Khan to extremism.
Conservative MP Anthony Browne faced criticism during the 2019 general election when articles he wrote in 2003 resurfaced in which he questioned the loyalty of British Muslims after prominent Muslim leaders raised concerns about the Iraq war.
He wrote that British Muslims were “a large minority with such divided loyalties.” Browne later apologized.
Khan said: “In sum, it seems even today, the Conservative Party refuses to acknowledge that there can be bigotry and prejudice directed at Muslims. After denying there was a problem in the first place, it has taken years for the leadership to enact any real action.”
The MCB, which alerted the EHRC about its concerns of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party in May 2019 and March this year, has also accused the party of delaying a proper investigation into the specific issue of discrimination against Muslims by only looking at how complaints of prejudiced or discriminatory behavior are handled.
“By restricting the terms to an inquiry merely into the complaints received, the Party is choosing to summarily dismiss all the issues of the toxic culture of racism that have been raised by the Muslim Council of Britain and many others,” Khan said.
“Whilst it is clear that Islamophobia is not treated equally to other forms of racism in the public domain including by many public bodies, we still hold out hope that many will see through this facade, and we can — sooner rather than later — have a true independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Party.”
The EHRC launched an investigation last year into the opposition Labour Party for accusations of anti-Semitism within its ranks, and will report its findings later this year.
The Conservative investigation will be run by Prof. Swaran Singh of the Social and Community Psychiatry department at the University of Warwick.
The Conservative Party did not comment when contacted by Arab News, but its co-Chairwoman Amanda Milling said on Tuesday: “The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind. It is why we are committed to this investigation, to ensure that any abuse that is not fit for public life is stamped out.”