Tag Archive : Islamophobia

From time to time, members of the Conservative Muslim Forum write relevant articles elsewhere, and permit us to reproduce them on our website. Each such article represents the personal view of the writer, and should not be taken as representing CMF policy.

The article below was first published in on the Guardian newspaper’s website on 7 August 2018. 

I’m a Tory councillor. Islamophobia in my party goes beyond Boris Johnson

Hashim Bhatti is the chair of the youth wing of the Conservative Muslim Forum

Anti-Muslim imagery and rhetoric, like the kind used by Boris Johnson, are hurting my party. It’s time for an inquiry

I joined the Conservative party because it was a party of aspiration, one that promised I could realise my dreams if I worked hard. It’s the only party I have ever joined. And why wouldn’t I? It has produced the first female Muslim cabinet minister (Baroness Warsi), the first Muslim home secretary (Sajid Javid) and the first Muslim MEP (Syed Kamall).

I am a dedicated member of the party and a councillor in Windsor. I chair the youth wing of the Conservative Muslim Forum. I have been active in Conservative politics for more than eight years, and in all that time, I never had any bad feeling directed towards me because of my religion. However, I have been alarmed recently by the direction in which the party is going in tackling Islamophobia.

I want to talk in a personal capacity – not as a councillor, but as a member of the party and a concerned citizen – about something that I sense has gone wrong with the Tories. It is something that, perhaps, was always there in some form, but it has undoubtedly become worse since the Brexit vote in 2016. It is a feeling that Muslims are not being listened to when they express concerns about the bigotry they face.

The vast majority of Conservatives are, of course, entirely decent people. But the party has troublemakers, and these often come to light when discussing issues of race and religion. When I became a member, the party was in the process of modernisation under David Cameron. It was an exciting and optimistic time for a young Muslim to join. Sure, there might still have been some prejudiced attitudes on the fringes, but at last, the Tories were providing a home for the large number of ethnic minority voters whose political sympathies were on the centre right. The old stereotype that black and minority ethnic communities would simply vote en masse for the Labour party was crumbling away, and it was good to see it go.

Eight years later, things feel very different. Theresa May, who might once have been relied on to carry on Cameron’s work of modernisation, has been less engaged than her predecessor. In fact, she has been entirely consumed by the Brexit debate while the BAME vote has steadily eroded. Recruiting young members under Cameron was easy, but now it’s become much harder. For example, a young Muslim Conservative whom I spoke to a couple of weeks ago has left the party because she feels she is not welcome anymore.

There were ominous signs before the upheaval of 2016. When Zac Goldsmith fought Sadiq Khan for London mayor in May of that year, the Conservatives ran a disgraceful campaign. Cynically taking advantage of the febrile atmosphere created by Islamic State attacks in Britain and France, the Tories tried to associate the Muslim Labour candidate, Sadiq Khan, with extremism. A party that had appeared to be making progress on the matter of racism abruptly went backwards.

Since then, there has been a steady increase in incidents involving Conservatives expressing appalling views about Muslims. Several incidents from this year alone reveal the mindset in some corners of contemporary conservatism. In March, the Conservative MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, posted on Facebook an article from a US website that carried the headline “Muslim Somali sex gang say raping white British children ‘part of their culture’”. Last October, he hosted Tapan Ghosh, an anti-Muslim Hindu hate preacher, in parliament. In July, Michael Fabricant, MP for Lichfield, shared a picture of Sadiq Khan with a pig. The image was of such ghastly, puerile and overt racism that it feels unseemly to describe it here. Blackman and Fabricant both apologised, but what is disturbing about these events is that both men looked at unambiguously Islamophobic material, saw nothing wrong with it and had no hesitation in sharing it publicly.

This week, the former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, took to the pages of the Daily Telegraph ostensibly to argue against the Danish ban on the burqa. In doing so, however, he found himself comparing women to “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”. This is language that, given the recent lapses into anti-Muslim rhetoric and imagery, was demeaning, insensitive and unnecessary, to say the least.

The Conservative chair Brandon Lewis yesterday asked Johnson to apologise. But Lewis continues to reject calls for an inquiry into anti-Muslim bigotry made by such figures as Warsi, Mohamed Sheikh and the Muslim Council of Britain. These calls remain necessary. The inquiry must be independent, and carried out, perhaps, by a retired judge or a QC. It must have access to the senior leadership but should also speak to grassroots Conservatives across the country, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. It could start by drafting a definition of Islamophobia similar to that of antisemitism developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Any fears that such an inquiry would harm the party’s electoral chances should be put to one side. The danger of further isolating Muslims and other ethnic minority voters as well – not to mention how corrosive Islamophobia is to the party’s moral core – is of greater concern. The question is not so much whether we can identify individuals with invidious beliefs, but what it is about the Conservative party that leads bigots to believe that they will find a home here. If we become a party that is hostile to the Muslim community, it will be through choice. We have a fresh opportunity to connect, listen and to re-engage with the Muslim community. We should take it.

From time to time, members of the Conservative Muslim Forum write relevant articles elsewhere, and permit us to reproduce them on our website. Each such article represents the personal view of the writer, and should not be taken as representing CMF policy.

The article below was first published in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Bright Blue magazine “Centre Write.” 

An end to Islamophobia

The Conservative Party needs to tackle Islamophobia, for moral and political reasons, argues Mohammed Amin

Mohammed Amin

I want to explain briefly why tackling ‘Islamophobia’ is vital, both for our country, and for the Conservative Party in particular.

The word ‘Islamophobia’ is itself contested. I normally avoid using it. Here, I use it purely as an abbreviation for anti- Muslim hatred and prejudice. Neither of those is committed simply by criticising the religion of Islam. But criticising Islam is sometimes disguised Islamophobia, just as criticising Israel can be disguised anti-Semitism.

Muslims matter for three main reasons.

(1) One and a half billion Muslims are the world’s second largest religious group with over 50 Muslim majority countries, and very large Muslim minorities in countries such as India and Nigeria.

(2) In the UK, at 5%, Muslims are also the second largest religious group, and with the decline of Christian religious practice, Muslims represent a much higher proportion of active religious practitioners.

(3) Finally, Muslims are currently the group facing the most widespread hostility, measured by critical media coverage, of any minority group and are therefore a litmus test for our society’s treatment of all minorities.

Suffering Islamophobia directly harms the victim. When discrimination stops you getting jobs that you are qualified for, your current and future earnings and quality of life suffer. Experiencing discrimination and hatred can result in mental and physical illness, with associated costs to the Exchequer, and can lead to alienation, petty criminal activity and even to radicalisation. Our country also suffers from the waste of talent, when we need every highly skilled person to succeed.

Rabbi Lord Sacks has written: “The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews.” The same is true of Muslims. A society that fails to tackle hatred directed at them will soon find itself with hatred being directed at other groups; once one group is marginalised, other candidates for hatred are soon found. Furthermore, Britons growing up today will have to function in a diverse world, where most people are very different from the inhabitants of 1950’s Britain that so many haters of Muslims hark back to. They will be unable to do business with such foreigners if they have grown up hating people who are different. 

Since Islamophobia harms Britain, that is enough reason for the Conservative Party to make it a priority. However, self-interest is the other reason.

The 2011 census showed 80 constituencies where Muslims were more than 10% of the population. By now, the figures will be higher. Historically, Muslims have been concentrated in inner cities, but with growing numbers and wealth many are moving out into the suburbs.

Muslims will not vote for a party they see as tolerating Islamophobia; nor will many young non-Muslim, metropolitan liberals who value the diverse multi-ethnic, multi-religious society that Britain is today.

Recent general elections have shown both the benefits of getting it right, and what can go wrong. In the 2010 general election, only about 15% of British Muslims voted Conservative. In the 2015 general election, thanks to David Cameron’s detoxification of the Conservative Party plus hard work by many including the Conservative Muslim Forum, this had risen to 25%. That increase will have accounted for some of the seats that we won that year to get our absolute majority in Parliament.

In 2017, while our national vote share rose, our Muslim and other minorities vote share fell, contributing to our losses.

To illustrate the effects of demographic change as Muslims and other ethnic minorities move out from inner cities, look at Ilford North, a constituency which is experiencing significant inflows of minorities from East London. From 1945 to 2015, the Conservative Party held the seat for 53 of those years, losing it only in very strong years for Labour such as 1945, 1997, and also in October 1974. However, in 2015, despite the Conservative Party performing strongly around the country, we lost the seat, and Labour increased its majority in 2017.

Ilford North could be our Party’s future.

If we fail to convincingly address Islamophobia within our own ranks, let alone Islamophobia in wider society, we will find ourselves fighting future elections while hobbled and handicapped.