There's no Islamophobia in the Tory party

There's no Islamophobia in the Tory party, because they don't believe it exists
6 min read

Ruqaya Izzidien

18 November, 2019
Comment: You can't root out something that you view as an attribute, a value and a pre-requisite for becoming prime minister, writes Ruqaya Izzidien.
Unsurprisingly, PM Boris Johnson has backed out of an Islamophobia inquiry [Getty]

Last week, 25 current and former Conservative councillors - including two former mayors - were exposed for posting Islamophobic and racist material on social media.

Three days later, a 
second exposé was released, implicating a further 10 councillors. They are the latest in a never-ending series of anti-Muslim transgressions, and come in the wake of the Conservative Party's decision to rescind its pledge to hold an inquiry into Islamophobia. 

The Party has suspended those offenders who are still members, and a spokesperson said that they are working to ensure that "such instances are isolated".

But to predicate any assessment on the apparent rarity of Islamophobia is wilfully irresponsible. It's not incompetence or ignorance that results in the cyclical examples of Islamophobia held by councillors - or indeed the leader - of the Tory party, but a deliberate and calculated appreciation for prejudice towards Muslims. 

There is no Islamophobia in the Tory party, because they don't believe there's anything wrong with hating Muslims. 

Islamophobia is a core tenet of today's Conservative Party. They have consistently stirred Islamophobic sentiment, taken advantage of it for their own gain, and are more concerned about being called racist than they are about participating in racism.

At the Party conference in September, a panel on Islamophobia focused not on the prejudice that its members espouse, but Islamophobia as a distracting title, and whether it merits discussion. Spoiler alert: it doesn't. 

A YouGov survey carried out in July found that 56 per cent of Conservative Party members think that Islam is a threat to the British way of life. 

There is no Islamophobia in the Tory party, because they don't believe there's anything wrong with hating Muslims

It is difficult to pay a modicum of attention to the Conservatives and not to notice the deep-seated Islamophobia, but it is impossible to be unaware of it if you're on this inside. When a Tory Deputy Chairman highlighted Islamophobic interview processes for council candidates that asked, "Do you pray five times a day?" and "How many times a year do you go to the mosque?" he received no response, and later, left his position and membership in protest.

Concerns about Islamophobia in the party are nothing new. They were first brought to their attention four years and two prime ministers ago, when there wasn't yet the insidious and telling pile of dossiers which expose racism at every level.

This latest exposés include councillors calling for mosques to be banned and the incitement of racist imagery of bloodthirsty, duplicitous Muslims.

The dossiers include numerous examples of Islamophobic slurs, such referring to Muslims as 'barbarians' - a racist colonial trope. Trevor Hales, a parish councillor in Sandiacre, wrote a series of myopic, revisionist and historically amnesic tweets which accused Muslims of slavery and imperialism.  

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Paul Parks, a Conservative councillor in Kettering, liked a post that, referring to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: "No doubt he will be voted in again by the exploding Muslim hordes that now dominate London and suppress any counter votes from the more white conservative outer London boroughs."

Not only are Muslims apparently all terrorists, but they should not be allowed to vote either.

In spectacular service to proving this point, Beverley Dunlop, a councillor in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, responded to calls for an Islamophobia inquiry, by posting on Facebook, "How about them calling for an inquiry into Islamist rape gangs grooming underage, underpriveleged [sic] white girls?"

Stick your hand into the lucky dip of the Tory party, you'll always, always pull up an example of unbridled Islamophobia. In 2011, then-Prime Minister David Cameron criticised British Muslim groups for their "passive tolerance" of extremism, saying that they "are showered with public money while doing little to combat extremism. This is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."

Yes, David, that's exactly what it's like. Who knew he was a soothsayer for his party's current predicament? Who knew he would be a soothsayer for his party's current failure to address Islamophobia?

It's no surprise that Prime Minister Boris Johnson backed out of an Islamophobia inquiry, thereby dodging the necessary condemnation of the party's Islamophobe-in-chief. What would Boris Johnson be, stripped of his right to elevate his ego by insulting the marginalised?

His relationship with Islamophobia, and racism, has been an astoundingly enduring affair. In an essay in a later edition of his 2006 book, "The Dream of Rome", he argued that Islam kept the Muslim world centuries behind the West.

56 percent of Conservative Party members think that Islam is a threat to the British way of life

In 2005, he described Islamophobia as "a natural reaction" in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, and said that "Islam is the problem,". He continues to refuse to apologise for comparing Muslim women to letterboxes, an incident that led to a 375 percent spike in Islamophobic incidents, according to Islamophobia monitoring group, Tell Mama.

After pledging to launch an inquiry into Islamophobia during the Conservative leadership race, something that was also "absolutely" promised by Michael Gove two weeks ago, Boris Johnson has announced that there will be no inquiry into Islamophobia, saying instead that the party would have "a general investigation into prejudice of all kinds".

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi - seemingly the lone Conservative voice to reliably call for an Islamophobia inquiry - was addressed condescendingly by Party colleague Matt Hancock, saying that "She has a particular view on this, there are others who take a more balanced approach."

Of course it takes a white, non-Muslim man to have a true insight into what constitutes Islamophobia. How is it possible to be imbalanced in your own oppression? What does Matt Hancock believe balance looks like? Does balance say that councillors referring to Muslims as terrorists, "the enemy within," "inbred," and "barbarians" is acceptable? I'd hazard a guess that his balance condones such language.

It's no use holding out for the Conservative Party to greenlight an inquiry into Islamophobia. They've rejected a proposed working definition of the term, which has been adopted by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and was proposed by a cross-party group of MPs.

What would Boris Johnson be, stripped of his right to elevate his ego by insulting the marginalised?

You can't root out something that you view as an attribute, a value, and a prerequisite for becoming prime minister.

But no, instead let's ignore the Muslim woman, ignore the hundreds of individuals, anti-racism groups and Muslims who have called for an inquiry, and instead let's ask the privileged, non-Muslims of the Conservative party what Islamophobia looks like.

Better yet, let's follow David Cameron's advice, and ask "a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent, white supremacist movement."

Ruqaya Izzidien is a British-Iraqi freelance writer specialising in social and cultural affairs. Her work has been published in The New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC and Al Jazeera English. She runs a blog, Muslim Impossible, and is the author of a novel, The Watermelon Boys.

Follow her on Twitter: @RuqayaIzzidien

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.