UK advocacy group takes Tories to task on Islamophobia

Demonstrators protest against Islamophobia in Birmingham, in 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 October 2020

UK advocacy group takes Tories to task on Islamophobia

  • Hope not Hate: Dozens of party members have made anti-Muslim statements on social media
  • Poll: 47% of members consider Islam a ‘threat’; just 27% say it is compatible with life in Britain

LONDON: UK advocacy group Hope not Hate says it has identified dozens of members of the country’s ruling Conservative (Tory) Party who have used social media to make anti-Muslim statements.

It also cited “alarming” private polling, compiled for a report into allegations of Islamophobia in the party, that shows a large proportion of party members harbor disparaging views about Islam, including that the religion is “incompatible” with British culture.

“In recent years, Hope not Hate has tracked, highlighted and campaigned against the poison of hatred impacting individual political parties,” the report said.

“None have been immune. For several years, there have been well-documented incidents of Conservative Party MPs, councillors and locally elected representatives engaging in vile racism, particularly towards Muslims,” it added.

“Muslim members have reported a lack of action when they complained. Many have resigned from the party in protest.”

The report forms a broad submission by the group to an inquiry into discrimination in the party led by Prof. Swaran Singh of the University of Warwick, after an appeal for evidence.

Allegations of Islamophobia have been raised recently by senior Tory politicians, including former Chancellor Sajid Javid and former party Chair Baroness Warsi.

The inquiry itself has been criticized by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) for running the risk of ignoring “the systemic problems of Islamophobia in the party,” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reneged on a pledge to focus on anti-Muslim prejudice, and instead opened the inquiry up to all instances of prejudice since 2015.

Hope not Hate said it had reported more than 20 Tory councillors to the inquiry for incidents of Islamophobia.

Meanwhile, in its poll of 1,200 Tory members carried out by YouGov, just 43 percent of respondents said they hold favorable views of Islam, with 47 percent saying they consider it “generally a threat” to British society.

Almost a quarter claimed it breeds “intolerance.” Just 27 percent believe Islam to be compatible with life in the UK.

In comparison, 75 percent of respondents said they have positive views of Sikhs in the UK, and 73 percent look favorably on Britain’s Hindu community.

Hope not Hate said it had identified 40 cases of Tory activists or politicians using social media to post offensive anti-Muslim content.

In one incident, a member posted offensive content about the 2019 Christchurch mosque massacre in New Zealand.

Hope not Hate said the member, who was made to complete an “online diversity course,” was subsequently allowed back into the party, and continued to post Islamophobic content online.

Another case saw a councillor suspended in 2018 for sharing an article that called Muslims living in France “parasites,” only to be re-admitted months later.

The group said quiet re-admittance was standard practice for members disciplined for instances of Islamophobia.

In one example, a female councillor was re-admitted after comparing an Asian man to a dog, saying: “He’s brown, he stinks, he can’t speak a word of English.”

The group highlighted that this contradicted the following statement made by Johnson in 2019: “What we do in the Tory party is, when anybody is guilty of any kind of prejudice or discrimination against another group, then they’re out first bounce.”

Hope not Hate’s Chief Executive Nick Lowles told The Times newspaper: “It’s been clear for a number of years that the Conservative Party has a deep problem with anti-Muslim prejudice. The evidence is clear; the only question is what the Conservatives decide to do with it.”

The report suggests a number of measures to deal with Islamophobia. They include setting up a new independent complaints and disciplinary process, a transparent suspension system, and compulsory training for MPs and others on Islamophobia. 

An MCB spokesperson told Arab News: “For years, we’ve been alarmed at how entrenched deeply Islamophobic views are in the Conservative Party. This polling, coupled with the MCB’s dossier of over 300 members engaging in Islamophobia, is further evidence of how institutional, systemic and embedded in the culture of the Conservative Party this is.” 

The spokesperson added: “If the Conservative Party was serious about eradicating the concerning levels of vitriolic hate from amongst its membership, it would immediately suspend all those highlighted in this report and hold a truly independent inquiry specifically into Islamophobia, instead of this review into its complaints procedure which will serve as nothing more than a rubberstamping exercise, further kicking the can into the long grass.

“Instead, all we’ve seen is a total dereliction of duty by successive prime ministers and party chairs to address Islamophobia within its ranks. The total absence of political leadership only serves to condone Islamophobic views and embolden racist sentiments.”

A Tory spokesman said: “We take any complaint very seriously. There is currently an independent investigation into our complaints processes. We will consider any recommendations to further strengthen our procedures.”

The UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, which recently launched an inquiry into allegations of systematic anti-Semitism in the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, said in May that before it decides whether to conduct its own formal inquiry into allegations of Tory Islamophobia, it will await the outcome of Singh’s investigation. Pre-emptive action would not be “proportionate,” the commission said.


Arabs in Middle East know the US election will affect their lives, experts say

Updated 44 min 5 sec ago

Arabs in Middle East know the US election will affect their lives, experts say

  • Editor-in-chief and columnist take part in US radio discussion of Arab News/YouGov survey of opinions on the presidential candidates
  • Whether Biden triumphs or Trump wins second term, the poll suggests most people in region want Washington to maintain a tough stance on Iran

CHICAGO: Arabs in the Middle East have a direct stake in the outcome of next week’s US presidential election. That was the conclusion reached on Wednesday by the guests who took part in a US radio discussion of a recent YouGov poll, commissioned by Arab News, that asked people across the region for their opinions on the candidates and their policies.
Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas and columnist Dalia Al-Aqidi agreed that one of the key conclusions that can be drawn from the “Election 2020: What do Arabs Want?” survey is that most people in the region believe the election will have an effect on their lives.
About 40 percent of those polled said Democratic challenger Joe Biden is the better choice for the region, compared with only 12 percent who preferred Trump. However, 53 percent said they had opposed the policies of Biden’s former running mate, President Barack Obama, who is currently on the campaign trail to rally support for his former vice president.
“What is very interesting about the study we did this time around is that while the majority thinks that Biden might be better for the region (about half of the respondents) don’t even know who Biden is,” Abbas said during the “The Ray Hanania Show” on WNZK AM 690 Radio in Detroit, which is part of the US Arab Radio Network. “They are voting for a candidate they don’t know just so they don’t vote for Trump.”
Biden’s close association with Obama is seen by many Arabs as a negative factor.
“You cannot separate Joe Biden from Barack Obama,” said Abbas. “Yet even people who said Biden is better for the region, 58 percent of them said that they would want Biden to distance himself from Obama’s policies, and they think Obama left the region in a worse-off situation.”
Al-Aqidi said it is unrealistic to expect that Biden would disregard his personal history with Obama.
“This is impossible — you cannot expect Biden to distance himself from Obama,” she said. “Actually, Obama is helping and trying to save Biden in the past two weeks, campaigning with him.
“Even in Biden’s platform, it always goes back to ‘I was a VP and as a VP I did this.’ It would be extremely hard for Biden to distance himself … if Biden wins, he will be a shadow of Obama.”
The YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the Arab News Research and Studies Unit, asked 3,097 people in 18 Arab countries about their opinions on a number of issues relating to the US presidential election.
The continuation of Washington’s recent tough stance on Iran was one of the top issues that respondents said the winner should focus on. Notably, the war posture adopted against Iran by the Trump administration, and the strict sanctions it has imposed on the regime in Tehran, received strong support from people polled in Iraq (53 percent), Lebanon (38 percent) and Yemen (54 percent), three nations that have been severely affected by the regional activities of the Iranian state.
“This is not a marginal issue for people living in the Middle East,” said Abbas. “You just have to look at countries, any country in the Middle East: where you find destruction, you will find Iranian fingerprints all over.”
The main issue is not religion or differences between Sunnis and Shi’ites, he added, it is Iranian interference in the affairs of other nations.
“As the former ambassador to the US, Prince Khaled, said, Saudi Arabia used to send tourists to Lebanon — Iran sends terrorists,” Abbas said.
“For people who have short-term memories let me remind them it was the Iranians who attacked the US Marines in Beirut. It’s the Iranians who transformed (Beirut) from a tourist destination … today, Lebanon is (experiencing) one of its worst-ever economic crises and it does not look like there is a way out for it.”
Arabs in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen are therefore very supportive of Trump’s tough approach to Iran, he added.
“Nobody is safe from the Iranian tentacles,” Abbas said. “This is a mad regime.”
On another important regional issue, slightly more than half of the Arabs polled said they do not support a bigger role for Washington in the peace process between the Palestinians and Israelis. However, the proportion of Palestinians living in the occupied territories who favor greater US involvement was higher.
“I think the Trump administration succeeded in this issue (pursuing peace between Israel and the Palestinians) more than any other previous administration,” said Al-Aqidi. “The US approach now is extremely different and it is driven by number one, the economy.”
She added that Trump’s strategy of brokering the recent agreements by the UAE and Bahrain to normalize relations with Israel was “the result of a different strategy.”
“The Ray Hanania Show,” which is sponsored by Arab News, is broadcast on WNZK AM 690, on the US Arab Radio Network, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST on Wednesdays. There is also a live simulcast of the show on the Arab News Facebook page.