The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Conservative Party of “whitewashing” Islamophobia in its ranks by launching a non-specific inquiry into discrimination that supposedly falls short of what it pledged.
On Tuesday, the council repeated its calls for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia specifically, as the Tories announced the appointment of Professor Swaran Singh to lead a review into prejudice and discrimination in the party.
Prime minister Boris Johnson and senior Conservatives had pledged to look into Islamophobia specifically.
The council expressed concern that, by looking at discrimination more generally, the review is “pre-programmed to ignore mounting evidence” of Islamophobia across the Conservative Party.
Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also said Singh’s appointment didn’t instil much confidence.
Singh is the former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights commission. In August, he wrote an article for Spiked magazine – a publication that has previously published articles calling Islamophobia a myth and dismissing the increase of hate crime in the UK.
“This appointment is at risk of being seen in the same light as the Conservative Party’s customary approach to Islamophobia: that of denial, dismissal and deceit,” Khan said.
“We were promised an independent inquiry into Islamophobia specifically. Now we have a review that aims to broaden the scope to examine discrimination more generally.
“A laudable aim if it were not for the fact that the Conservative Party is afflicted with a particular type of bigotry which it refuses to countenance. The appointment of Professor Singh does not instil huge confidence in the process.”
In November, the prime minister apologised for Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. It came as a number of members were suspended pending an investigation after a dossier suggested they had posted or endorsed Islamophobic and racist material online.
There was a “significant spike” of incidents involving anti-Muslim abuse in the wake of Johnson’s comparison between women in burkas and letterboxes, according to an anti-racism organisation.
Tell MAMA said there was a 375% increase in anti-Muslim incidents from the week before Johnson made the comments to the week after.
Shadow equalities minister Naz Shah said: “The Conservative Party is rife with Islamophobia, racism and bigotry from top to bottom, but we have no faith that Boris Johnson will do anything about it.
“Johnson’s comments about Muslim women looking like ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letterboxes’ were linked to a 375% rise in anti-Muslim hate crime, and polls show a majority of Conservative Party members hold Islamophobic views.
“Boris Johnson must commit to a full independent inquiry into Islamophobia and stop pretending it doesn’t exist in his party.”
Earlier this month Tory Party chairman James Cleverly apologised for Islamophobia in his ranks and confirmed that an inquiry into the problem would be initiated this calendar year and take place next year, with preparatory work already under way.
Speaking to BBC 5 Live, Cleverly said he is “sorry” for the cases involving both Tory members and candidates, but that he is “confident” there is now “a robust mechanism” in place to deal with the issue.