THE BLOG
03/06/2018 19:53 BST | Updated 03/06/2018 19:56 BST

Dear Sajid Javid, Denouncing Accusations Of Islamophobia In The Tory Party Doesn't Mean It Doesn't Exist

The fact that you have Muslim heritage does not give you the credentials to dismiss evidence of Islamophobia within your Party

Reuters Photographer / Reuters

Dear Sajid,

I listened to your comments on Marr on Sunday morning and I’m writing to say that sadly you have got this one wrong, very wrong, and here’s why.

Denouncing a fact doesn’t make it untrue. Shooting the messenger because you don’t like the truth presented doesn’t make the fact disappear either. 

The reality is that the Tory Party have an issue with Islamophobia. In their call for an enquiry, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has provided a long list of incidents with evidence.

One of the incidents they refer to includes the hosting of known anti-Muslim extremist, Tapan Ghosh, in Parliament by Bob Blackman MP, for which I personally raised a point of order about in Parliament when it happened.

A number of national newspapers with differing political affiliations recognise an inquiry is required, as do organisations like ConservativeHome. We now know the former Tory party chairman and Britain’s first female Muslim Cabinet minister, Baroness Warsi, has been raising this issue internally for over two years and has said there is a “simmering underbelly of Islamophobia” in the Tory Party.

The fact that you have Muslim heritage or a given Muslim name should not be used to discriminate against you, but nor does it give you the credentials to dismiss the evidence of Islamophobia within your party, nor deny the need for an inquiry.

Your comments on Marr - “Look at who the Home Secretary is… my name is Sajid Javid” - were misleading or at best naive.

The “I’m not racist, I have black friends” defence is a crass statement our generation of BAME people grew up with, and I hoped it was one confined to the history books.

Having a person with a Muslim-sounding name as a senior member of the Conservative Cabinet is a shoddy defence against evidence-based documented accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

In relation to your comments on the MCB, the MCB is an organisation with over 500 affiliated Muslim organisations, some of which are umbrella organisations with further affiliates - which means the MCB may not speak for all Muslims but certainly speaks for many. It is an organisation that, polling suggests, the majority of Muslims appear to believe represents their views well.

For you to quote allegations from over a decade ago, suggesting “they have had links with extremists” as a basis to dismiss the evidence they present, is reminiscent of the disgraceful Islamophobic London mayoral campaign Zac Goldsmith led against Sadiq Khan, a campaign which the Conservative group leader on the Greater London Assembly called out as worse than dogwhistle anti-Muslim hatred.

I know it’s a campaign you must have been uncomfortable with.

Again, denouncing and attacking the messenger does not make the message untrue. This morning you demonstrated a lack of knowledge and understanding of a very serious matter, an issue both in your party and in the country at large.

Indeed you personally received the appalling ‘Punish a Muslim’ letter. As Home Secretary I would expect you, of all your colleagues, to have a detailed understanding of the issue.

You clearly are an individual who is committed to rooting out bigotry, demonstrated by the way you called for a debate in Parliament against cases of antisemitism. You supported, rightly so, parliamentarians who raised the issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party, which is why it’s all the more puzzling and disappointing that you fail to support Conservative parliamentarians and people within your own party who are raising these issues with evidence calling for an independent enquiry.

Integrity, transparency and accountability are essential requirements of your position, hypocrisy has no place. To this end, I ask that you engage and respond instead of deny and dismiss.

Naz Shah is the Labour MP for Bradford West