UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims

Special UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims
Sayeeda Warsi at No 10 in 2010. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims

UK’s governing Conservatives struggle to contain fallout from Islamophobia claims
  • Baroness Sayeeda Warsi: ‘It’s definitely not a party I recognize’
  • New poll finds 58% of members believe Islam is a threat to British way of life

LONDON: Britain’s governing Conservative Party has once again found itself embroiled in accusations of Islamophobia following the remarks of its former Deputy Chair Lee Anderson.

Speaking on GB News last week, he claimed that London Mayor Sadiq Khan, one of the UK’s highest-profile Muslim politicians, had “given away control of the capital to his mates,” describing him as under the control of Islamists.

Party bosses purportedly pushed Anderson to apologize in an effort to mitigate the fallout, but failed. He has since doubled down, claiming he has public support.

A day after the comments were made, a party spokesperson confirmed that while remaining an MP, Anderson would no longer serve his Ashfield constituents as a Conservative but rather as an independent, in what is expected to be a highly contentious election year.

If the hopes were that a relatively swift, if not immediate, ousting from the party would calm the situation, such hopes have proved misplaced.

Many are pointing not to the event but its handling as indicative of structural Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, with commentators noting that the suspension came not for the comments themselves but for defying party requests that he apologize.

One of the Conservatives’ own leading figures, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi — the first Muslim to serve in the British Cabinet — told LBC Radio: “It’s definitely not a party I recognize, but it’s not a party that so many of my colleagues recognize.

“I’ve had colleagues on the phone … just despairing. I’ve had very senior ex-cabinet colleagues saying, ‘they’re just jokers.’

“What disturbs me more is that this kind of divisive far-right conspiratorial rhetoric is now in the mainstream, and this has real-life consequences.”

Polling by Opinium of 521 Conservative Party members indicated that 58 percent consider Islam a threat to the British way of life, with 52 percent believing an ever more prominent conspiracy theory that pockets of Europe are under Shariah law and “no-go” areas for non-Muslims.

For some, the figures explain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s repeated refusal to describe Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic, instead describing them as “unacceptable” and “wrong,” while denying claims that the party has Islamophobic tendencies.

Responding to Sunak, Khan told Sky News that he had been left “bewildered” by the party’s refusal to “call this (Islamophobia) out.”

“They should say what the problem is. The problem is that you have a senior Conservative saying things that are clearly racist, anti-Muslim and Islamophobic — this is leading to an environment where anti-Muslim crime is spiraling,” Khan said.

“What they’re doing is pouring petrol on the flames of Islamophobia. You wouldn’t put up with antisemitic tropes. Racism is racism.”   

Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf made the point more explicitly, telling STV News that the Conservative Party has a “structural” issue with Islamophobia, and that Anderson’s comments and the response are “just a further demonstration that Islamophobia is normalized.”

The evidence is not hard to find, with another furore having broken out last year when Khan’s Conservative opponent in the summer mayoral election, Susan Hall, whose candidacy has been mired in controversy, said Jewish Londoners were afraid of him and endorsed a tweet describing him as the “mayor of Londonistan.”

These are not the highest-profile Conservatives to have peddled Islamophobic rhetoric in recent years, nor is Anderson the first to have targeted Khan.

The mayor’s 2016 opponent Zac Goldsmith had to launch an investigation into his own team after claims of Islamophobic comments, with subsequent suggestions that he had been running a racist campaign in an endeavor to beat Khan.

Then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s subsequent appointment of Goldsmith to the House of Lords only added fuel to the fire. Johnson himself said women in burkas look like letterboxes.  

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this month claimed that the UK is losing its identity and capacity to peacefully coexist with different faiths and races because Islamists are taking over.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, she said of Islamists: “We see their influence in our judiciary, our legal profession, and our universities.”

She added that they are next coming “for Parliament,” in a diatribe all too familiar with that seen across a range of far-right electoral strategies.

Britain’s largest Muslim body, the Muslim Council of Britain, has written to Conservative Party Chair Richard Holden demanding an investigation.

“Our view is that Islamophobia in the party is institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership. Leaders can shape the agenda and narrative and play a role in Islamophobic hate crime,” the letter stated.

“Islamophobic hate crime has trebled according to Tell Mama. These issues cannot — and must not — be ignored.”

Business Minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Conservative peer Gavin Barwell also condemned Anderson’s comments, but Warsi remains one of the few to have pointed out the wider issues in her party.

And it is a drum she has been beating for more than a decade, having noted in 2011 that around Conservatives, Islamophobia had “passed the dinner-table test.”


Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
Updated 28 May 2024
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Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video

Deputy leader of UK’s Labour Party promises to fight to end Gaza’s suffering, in leaked video
  • Labour, if elected, would recognize Palestinian statehood, says Angela Rayner

LONDON: Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the UK’s Labour Party, has promised that her party will do everything in its power to ease the suffering in Gaza as it bids to regain Muslim voters’ support, a leaked video surfacing on social media has revealed.

The footage was first reported by the political blog Guido Fawkes, which claimed to have obtained the leaked tape from a meeting in Ashton-under-Lyne, Rayner’s constituency.

The MP is seen appealing to voters upset with the party’s stance on Israel’s assault on Gaza, The Telegraph reported.

Rayner — claiming she worked “day and night” to get three British doctors out of Rafah and is now attempting to secure aid for the enclave — said: “I promise you, the Labour Party, including myself, is doing everything we can, because nobody wants to see what’s happening.”

She acknowledged the party’s current inability to halt the fighting, admitting that Labour’s influence would be “limited,” even if it came to power after July’s general election.

Rayner added: “Only last week the Labour Party were supporting the ICC (International Criminal Court). The Conservatives didn’t support the ICC, so with this general election on that issue, we can’t affect anything when we’re not in government.

“And I’ll be honest with you, if Labour gets into government, we are limited. I will be honest. I’m not going to promise you … because (Joe) Biden, who’s the US (president), who has way more influence, has only got limited influence in that.

“And Qatar, Saudi Arabia, all of these people, we are all working to stop what’s happening at the moment; we want to see that. So I promise you, that’s what we want to see.”

Rayner also promised that, if Labour was elected, the party would recognize Palestinian statehood.

She added: “If Labour gets into power, we will recognize Palestine. I will push not only to recognize … there is nothing to recognize at the moment, sadly. It’s decimated.

“We have to rebuild Palestine; we have to rebuild Gaza. That takes more than just recognizing it.”

Gaza has been a divisive issue for Labour since Oct. 7, with reports revealing that Muslim voters have abandoned the party as a result of what they perceive as its politicians enabling the war.

The Telegraph found that Labour’s support had dropped in local elections in areas with large Muslim populations, including Oldham in Greater Manchester, where the party lost control of the council in a surprise defeat.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has expressed his determination to re-establish trust among those who have abandoned his party due to his handling of the Gaza war.

However, when probed on particular commitments, he remained vague.

Rayner said in the video: “I know that people are angry about what’s happening in the Middle East.

“If my resignation as an MP now would bring a ceasefire, I would do it. I would do it if I could effect change.”

However, she said such an eventuality was not “in my gift” due to the “failure of the international community.”

In response to the footage, Nigel Farage, Reform UK’s honorary president, accused Rayner of “begging” for the Muslim vote, The Telegraph reported.


12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
Updated 28 May 2024
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12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains

12 Indians killed in quarry collapse after cyclone rains
  • Several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides, and all schools were shut
  • India’s weather office warned of extremely heavy rains in northeastern states on Tuesday

Guwahati: Torrential rains in the wake of a powerful cyclone caused the collapse of a quarry in India’s Mizoram state killing 12 people, government officials said Tuesday.

“So far 12 bodies have been found, we are looking for more,” deputy commissioner of Aizawl district Nazuk Kumar told AFP.

Rescue efforts in the quarry were being hampered by “heavy rains,” police director general Anil Shukla said, NDTV news network reported.

Mizoram Chief Minister Lalduhoma offered compensation to families of the victims of the “landslide due to Cyclone Remal.”

“I pray for the success of rescue and relief operations and wish a speedy recovery of the injured,” India’s President Droupadi Murmu said on social media.

In Mizoram, several highways and key roads were disrupted by landslides. All schools were shut and government employees asked to work from home.

India’s weather office has issued warnings of extremely heavy rainfall across Mizoram and other northeastern states on Tuesday.

In India’s neighboring Assam state, one person was killed and heavy rains had cut the power supply, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement.

The cyclone made landfall in low-lying Bangladesh and neighboring India on Sunday evening with fierce gales and crashing waves.

Overall, at least 38 people died in the cyclone or storms in its wake.

In India, eight people died in West Bengal state, officials said Tuesday, updating an earlier toll of six, taking the total killed in the country to at least 21.

In neighboring Bangladesh, which bore the brunt of the cyclone that made landfall on Sunday, at least 17 people died, according to the disaster management office and police.


Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
Updated 28 May 2024
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Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine

Poland’s foreign minister says it should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine
  • Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily
  • “We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do”

WARSAW: Poland’s foreign minister says the NATO nation should not exclude the possibility of sending troops to Ukraine and should keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in suspense over whether such a decision would ever be made.
Radek Sikorski made the comments in an interview published Tuesday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
“We should not exclude any option. Let Putin be guessing as to what we will do,” Sikorski said when asked whether he would send Polish troops to Ukraine.
Sikorski said he has gone to Ukraine with his family to deliver humanitarian aid.
But a spokesperson for Poland’s Defense Ministry, Janusz Sejmej, told Polish media on Tuesday he had “no knowledge of that” when asked about a report in Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine suggesting Poland might send troops to Ukraine.
The idea of sending foreign soldiers to Ukraine, which is battling Russian military aggression, was floated earlier this year in France, but no country, including Poland, has publicly embraced it.
Poland supports neighboring Ukraine politically and by providing military equipment and humanitarian aid.


Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
Updated 28 May 2024
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Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy

Baby found dead in stricken migrant boat heading for Italy
  • The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia
  • SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The body of a five-month-old baby was found on Tuesday when some 85 migrants heading for Italy from Tunisia were rescued from distress at sea, according to a Reuters witness.
The infant girl, her mother and 4-year-old sister were in an unseaworthy boat laden with migrants that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia two days earlier bound for Italy, according to charity group SOS Humanity.
SOS Humanity workers aboard its “Humanity 1” vessel found many of the migrants exhausted and suffering from seasickness and fuel burns as they were rescued before dawn on Tuesday, the group said in a statement.
Some 185 migrants rescued in separate operations this week, including the stricken boat overnight, were being taken aboard “Humanity 1” to the port of Livorno in northwest Italy. Another 120 migrants were transferred by coast guard boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in the southern Mediterranean.
Tunisia is grappling with a migrant crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict further south in Africa as well as the Middle East in hopes of a better life in Europe.
Italy has sought to curb migrant arrivals from Africa, making it harder charity ships to operate in the Mediterranean, limiting the number of rescues they can carry out and often forcing them to make huge detours to bring migrants ashore.


Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia

Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia
Updated 28 May 2024
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Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia

Putin warns West not to let Ukraine use its missiles to hit Russia
  • “Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin told reporters in Tashkent
  • “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?“

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the West on Tuesday that NATO members in Europe were playing with fire by proposing to let Ukraine use Western weapons to strike deep inside Russia, which he said could trigger a global conflict.
More than two years into the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two, Putin has increasingly spoken of the risk of a much broader global conflict as the West grapples with what to do about the advance of Russian troops in Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The Economist that alliance members should let Ukraine strike deep into Russia with Western weapons, a view supported by some NATO members but not by the United States.
“Constant escalation can lead to serious consequences,” Putin told reporters in Tashkent. “If these serious consequences occur in Europe, how will the United States behave, bearing in mind our parity in the field of strategic weapons?“
“It’s hard to say — do they want a global conflict?“
Putin said Ukrainian strikes on Russia with long-range weapons would need Western satellite, intelligence and military help — so the West would be directly involved. He said sending French troops to Ukraine would be a step toward a global conflict.
Speaking of NATO members in Europe, Putin said that small countries there “should be aware of what they are playing with,” as they had small land areas and very dense populations.
“This is a factor that they should keep in mind before talking about striking deep into Russian territory,” Putin said.

RUSSIAN ADVANCES TRIGGER DEBATE IN WEST
Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine touched off the worst breakdown in relations with the West for 60 years, and the crisis is escalating into what diplomats say is its most dangerous phase to date.
The invasion has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians, driven millions to flee abroad, and reduced neighborhoods and whole cities to rubble.
Russia, which controls 18 percent of Ukraine, is advancing and has opened a new front in the Kharkiv region, triggering a debate in the West about what else it can do after giving Kyiv hundreds of billions of dollars in aid, weapons and intelligence.
Western leaders and Ukraine have played down Russia’s warnings about the risk of a broader war involving Russia, the world’s biggest nuclear power, and NATO, the world’s most powerful military alliance led by the United States.
Ukraine says it should be able to hit behind Russian lines, including against Russian sovereign territory, to fight back.
But Russian officials say Moscow’s patience is wearing thin after repeated Ukrainian attacks on Russian cities, oil refineries, and, in recent days, even against elements of its nuclear early warning system.
Asked by Russian state television about the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Putin said the only legitimate authority in Ukraine now was parliament, and that its head should be given power.
Zelensky has not faced an election despite the expiry of his term due to martial law which was imposed after the invasion.