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We must speak out against this toxic wave of Tory Islamophobia

The Tories are pouring fuel on the fire of racism, which it is vital to resist, warns SABBY DHALU ahead of a protest at Tory Head Office today

IN A  week where we learned of a horrific rise in Islamophobic hate crime, Conservative Party politicians were busy pouring fuel onto the fire of this particular form of racism, with neither acknowledgement nor condemnation from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak nor any senior Tory politician on our screens and airwaves this week.

In fact some Conservative politicians doubled down on Islamophobia with Paul Scully MP suggesting that parts of Birmingham and Tower Hamlets have “no-go areas” — an old and inaccurate racist and Islamophobic trope. 

We must stand firm against this wave of Islamophobia, unleashed by the shenanigans in Parliament last week, and the abject failure of Rishi Sunak and the Tory leadership. 

Phrases like “Jews are in control” or “Jews are in charge” would rightly be considered anti-semitic conspiracy theories. There should be the exact same response when this is said regarding so-called “Islamists,” which is a racist and Islamophobic term that is deliberately used to make a false link between any Muslim and terrorism. 

Former prime minister Liz Truss MP and former home secretary Suella Braverman should have the whip suspended for using these Islamophobic and racist tropes.

As night follows day, such racism, Islamophobia, anti-semitism and hatred from politicians leads to hatred on the streets in the form of violent hate crimes and fascist organisations that use this hatred to mobilise and build support. Braverman’s comments in the run-up to Armistice Day led to a violent fascist riot by Tommy Robinson and others in central London.

Just before this recent wave of Islamophobia was unleashed, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) demanded urgent action after reporting an alarming surge in Islamophobic attacks, with a staggering 335 per cent increase and over 2,000 recorded cases in the last four months, averaging around 500 per month and nearly one case every 90 minutes. Any responsible government would work with Muslim communities and do all it can to prevent such racist and Islamophobic attacks.

Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. This is the definition of Islamophobia that was developed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims, and is widely endorsed across Muslim communities, political parties and civil society.

In a letter to Conservative Party chair Richard Holden MP, MCB secretary-general Zara Mohammed said: “Our view is that the Islamophobia in the party is institutional, tolerated by the leadership and seen as acceptable by great swathes of the party membership.”

The Tory approach of sticking rigidly and dogmatically to the denial of Islamophobia in the party has frustrated even the most right wing commentators. 

LBC presenter, Telegraph columnist and Conservative voter Ian Dale condemned the failure to use the word “Islamophobia” and questioned the wisdom of appointing Lee Anderson MP as Tory deputy chairman. He also said Anderson crossed the line six months ago when he said refugees making perilous journeys across the Channel could “F-off back to France.” Even the notoriously right-wing commentator Nick Ferrari was left exasperated on his LBC show when so-called “Illegal” Migration Minister Michael Tomlinson MP refused to describe Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic. 

Muslim members of the Conservative Party have strongly condemned the leadership. Conservative MP Rehman Chishti said recently that he hasn’t seen Sunak for a year and a half, after Sunak pledged to work with him on fighting Islamophobia in exchange for his support in the leadership campaign.

Meanwhile Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, an outspoken critic on the Tory failure on Islamophobia, called out the Conservative Party for not only failing to acknowledge and address the issue, but stoking it up for electoral purposes. Warsi said: “It’s disturbing that in the current Conservative Party, not only is there a hierarchy of racism, but anti-Muslim racism is being used as an electoral campaign tool.”

This is the cynical context in which this current wave of Islamophobia is operating. After implementing policies that make people worse off — and failing on the Covid public health crisis that is exposed once again in the inquiry — the Tories are stirring up racism before a general election. That is why Sunak and co are refusing to acknowledge, condemn and take action against Islamophobia. 

However this policy is doomed to fail. The Tories are losing support to Reform UK. A YouGov poll — conducted before this recent Islamophobia row unfolded — put the Conservatives on 20 per cent and Reform UK on 13 per cent (-4 and +2 respectively from the previous week). 

We must speak out against this toxic wave of Tory Islamophobia, that is why Stand up To Racism has called a protest outside the Conservative Party Head Office today at 6pm. 

We must stand up to and unite against the scourge of Islamophobia, anti-semitism and all forms of racism. All racism must be rooted out of all political parties and all sections of society. That requires leadership, unity and no concessions to hatred.

Sabby Dhalu is co-convener of Stand up To Racism.

The protest takes place today, Thursday February 29, at 6pm at Tory Party Head Office, 4 Matthew Parker Street, London SW1H 9HQ. Nearest Tube: Westminster or St James’s Park.

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