How Long Can the Tories Ignore Their Islamophobia Problem?
After Boris Johnson's attention-seeking racist article, the pressure is building for them to finally take the issue seriously.
Boris Johnson (Chris Bull / Alamy Stock Photo)
Theresa May has stayed silent over Boris Johnson’s Telegraph article on Monday, in which he wrote that women who wear the burka look like "letterboxes" and "bank robbers". The article was a charming example of Boris saying something simply outrageous for attention, and if it feeds into a concerningly Islamophobic public discourse, so be it.
In the last 24 hours:
- Asked about Johnson's article, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi – one of the Conservative Party's highest profile Muslims – told Channel 4 News: "The tragedy that we have is that sadly, in my party, these words, this offensive language, this stereotyping, this abusive approach is not just a cheap shot, it's actually a free pass, because there are no consequences that follow when these kinds of statements are made… It deeply worries me that people in the grassroots of our party – people who will be picking the next leader of the party – are susceptible and actually respond to this kind of language."
- Mohammed Mahmoud – imam of the Finsbury Park mosque, who was praised for his calm response to the terror attack by Darren Osborne – wrote in the Evening Standard: "What would truly be reassuring to communities is a bold strategy from the Government to combat Islamophobia, as part of a broader effort to challenge the far-right… The Muslim Council of Britain's call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, backed by its former co-chair as well as by some newspapers among others, should now be met."
- On BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell MAMA, which records incidents of anti-Muslim hate, was asked what was happening regarding its attempts to help the Tories stamp out their Islamophobia problem. "Nothing. The reality is we had one meeting," he replied. This comes after the organisation told VICE last month, after their initial meeting: "We're not going to be a sop to anyone... If the response doesn't come back from the Conservatives very soon to have a structural-plan meeting, then we will make clear that we're not part of the process."
- The Muslim Council of Britain accused Johnson of "pandering to the far-right" and said it "underscores the Muslim Council of Britain's call for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. Such crass commentary should have no place in our political discourse."
All of this is happening as Islamophobia manifests as attacks in the street, particularly on Muslim women.
How long can the UK's ruling party go on ignoring this?
- UPDATE: The pressure builds with opinion piece for the Guardian entitled, "I’m a Tory councillor. The party needs to get a grip on Islamophobia". Hashim Bhatti, a Tory councillor for Windsor and Maidenhead writes: "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."