Why can’t the UK government tackle the rise in Islamophobia?
TEHRAN – The opposition Labor Party has called on the ruling Tories to “take seriously” and tackle the problem of Islamophobia in Britain, as new data reveals that last year nearly half of all religious hate crimes were targeted at Muslims. But is this something the conservatives can respect when an internal investigation found that “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the party”?
Home Office statistics show that the number of offenses against British Muslims in 2019/20 represented 50% of all reported religious hate crimes, up from 45% in 2020/21. The actual number can of course be much higher because not all Muslims report hate crimes committed against them to the police, authorities or even watch groups.
Labor Party President Anneliese Dodds has told her Conservative counterpart Oliver Dowden not only to tackle Islamophobia in British society but also within her own party.
In a letter, Dodds said Muslims “remain systematically, and most importantly, vulnerable to religiously motivated hate crimes, a trend that shows no sign of abating under the Conservative government.”
She also asked whether the Singh survey released earlier this year “presented a full picture of Islamophobia within your own party” and said Labor would closely monitor the impending deadlines the party has set itself for. respond to the survey.
In May, a long-awaited inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party led by Professor Swaran Singh (the Singh Inquiry) was released and found that two-thirds of discriminatory incidents reported to the party hierarchy over six years involved anti-Muslim hatred.
Dodds’ letter also stated that the Conservative Party refused to use the term Islamophobia, referring instead to “anti-Muslim hatred,” which “undermined [the partyâs] credibility to tackle this problem.
In May, then-Conservative President Amanda Milling said the party accepted all of the recommendations outlined in the Singh report. She said: âWe conducted this investigation to respond to these allegations to ensure that any case of discrimination is isolated and to see how we can improve and strengthen our complaints process. “
But Dodds – who is also shadow secretary for women and equality – notes that the Conservative Party still has a long way to go to say, “It’s time the Conservatives took the fight against Islamophobia in our society seriously and in their own ranks. They can’t do that if they don’t even name it.
She noted that “the Conservatives have dragged their feet on this issue for far too long.” She called for a change of attitude within the government and “this change must start at the top of this Conservative government”.
It was recently revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson himself had not even responded to a call from MPs to take action on Islamophobia for a year now. In November 2020, Afzal Khan, member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, wrote to the Prime Minister and warned of an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes and questioned “the inaction of this government in the fight against the problem. “
An official guide says departments must respond to correspondence from MPs within 20 working days, but a year has passed and Khan has yet to receive a response. Khan called the lack of response “shocking and totally unacceptable” and urged the prime minister to at least make a statement to lawmakers on Islamophobia. His 2020 letter, seen by some British media, accused the government of reinforcing ‘shameful racism’ against Muslims with actions during the coronavirus pandemic, including a sudden regional lockdown on the eve of the annual Muslim occasion of the ‘Eid al-Adha.
Khan wrote: âThis has contributed to a deeply concerning and false far-right narrative that British Muslims are ‘spreading the crown’, as Prime Minister it is your duty to protect and safeguard all communities. However, I am disappointed, even surprised, at the inaction of this government to tackle the problem of Islamophobia, which is clearly growing.
The Singh inquiry was commissioned after accusations of Islamophobic behavior by members and representatives of the Conservative Party. He looked at cases, including a 2018 column written by Johnson comparing Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’. The review said such incidents “give the impression to some of a party and leadership insensitive to Muslim communities.”
The government had previously been accused of “totally neglecting” Islamophobia by failing to come up with a definition that could be used to combat anti-Muslim hatred for more than two years. In 2018, a group of lawmakers drew up a working definition and urged the government to adopt it, saying the absence of any term allowed Islamophobia to “grow in society with devastating effect.”
Statistics show that the number of offenses against British Muslims in 2019/20 accounted for 50% of all reported religious hate crimes, up from 45% in 2020/21. However, the government rejected the proposal in May 2019 and said it would commission independent experts to draft another.
Since then, only one âexpertâ has been appointed and no proposal has ever been published.
During a parliamentary debate on the Conservative Party’s definition of Islamophobia, a Conservative minister said, âWe remain committed to there being a strong and effective definition, and we will outline our measures to achieve it in due course. desired.
At the same time, according to Sajjad Karim, the former conservative MEP, Muslim members of the conservative party have been deliberately excluded from the investigation into Islamophobia within its ranks. Karim, who represented the North West of England in the European Parliament for 15 years until 2019, said the Singh investigation was a “whitewash” and the Prime Minister’s apologies for any infringement he he had committed were “insincere”.
Karim expressed concern that the Conservative Party headquarters would use a “sleight of hand” to avoid implementing the recommendations made by the Singh inquiry. He said party members, including him, âno longer had confidence in the party’s internal will to actually deal with this problem. We cannot rely solely on internal processes to achieve a result â
Karim also revealed that he told party officials about a “specific complaint” before the Singh investigation began and that he was assured he would be contacted once the investigation began, but he heard “absolutely nothing”. He later found out that his complaint had been erased from media reports and said the Conservative Party had told him ‘we are so sorry, it is too late for you to contribute to the investigation – it was open to the public. public but now it is closed â. Karim said it was evidence of a “very lousy attempt to distort the conclusions of the investigation by trying to ensure that only certain people testified so that it moves in a certain direction.” He adds “I am not the only one to find himself in this position”
Singh’s investigation revealed that anti-Muslim sentiment “remains a problem” within the Conservative Party. The 44,000 word report says, âJudging by the extent of complaints and findings of misconduct by the party itself that relate to anti-Muslim talk and conduct, anti-Muslim sentiment remains. a problem within the party. This is detrimental to the party, and alienates a significant part of society.
Singh’s published report also found:
Two-thirds of all incidents reported to the complaints team at conservative headquarters were linked to anti-Muslim discrimination
-Three quarters of all incidents involved social media
High-profile incidents, such as Johnson’s comments on Muslim women “give the impression to many that the party and its leadership are insensitive to Muslim communities”
-The Conservatives’ complaints handling system is “in need of overhaul” due to its “underfunded and insufficiently trained” complaints handling team, a “weak” data collection system and “poor” communication between officials, complainants and respondents
-There was also a “lack of transparency” in the complaint process
Singh said parts of his report “would make a very uncomfortable reading among the leadership and the grassroots.” He added that “change will be a difficult process which will require a completely new mindset in some quarters and which some party members may not like.”
Former Conservative cabinet minister Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, a longtime anti-Islamophobia activist in the Conservative Party, said the “crucial” detail of the report “tells a story that the headlines don’t tell.” She says that each section (of the report) “reveals a deep and ingrained problem of a party at best incapable and at worst unwilling to deal with the problem of racism”
The report found disturbing examples of anti-Muslim prejudice within the Conservative Party. And while the investigation found no evidence of institutional anti-Muslim biases, experts disagree, saying the party leadership is riddled with institutional Islamophobia.
After all, the Conservatives cannot even find the right term to define Islamophobia; and Warsi, the first member who demanded at least an internal investigation into the party’s anti-Muslim sentiment, said there were “top … down” problems of the party.