Members of a Muslim group demanding an investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory party support extremism, Home Secretary Sajid Javid claimed today.
The Muslim Council of Britain called for an inquiry in a letter to Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis last week, but Javid today hit back at the organisation, saying it does not represent Muslims in the UK.
The letter called for action against Tory MP Bob Blackman, who retweeted far-right activist Tommy Robinson and was also a member of Facebook groups posting anti-Muslim material.
It also listed nine other examples of “Islamophobia from candidates and representatives of the Conservative Party.”
Tory peer Baroness Warsi backed the call for an investigation into Islamophobia, saying “I hope that the party will start by stop denying it exists.”
But in a sign of a split over the issue, Javid – one of the most vocal critics of Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism in its ranks – played down the need for an inquiry.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “I have got a lot of time for Baroness Warsi but I’m afraid I do not agree with that… For a start let’s just have a look at who the Home Secretary is in this country. As you’ve just described me my name is Sajid Javid, I am the Home Secretary in this country.
“That said, there are issues with anti-Muslim hatred in the country as there is, for example, anti-Semitism. All types of hate crime are wrong at every level.
“We will fight it and we will continue to have that strategy that deals with it and we will listen to anyone that wants to help us in that fight.”
Javid, who is a non-practicing Muslim, then turned to the group who penned the letter.
He said: “The Muslim Council of Britain does not represent Muslims in this country – find me a group of Muslims that thinks they are represented by the MCB.
“And secondly, I would be very suspicious of anything they have got to say, not least because under the last Labour government and a policy continued by us, we don’t deal with the MCB and we don’t deal with it because too many of their members have had favourable comments on extremism and that is not acceptable.”
In the letter, Harun Khan, the MCB secretary general, criticised Lewis for failing to take action against Tory MP Bob Blackman who expressed “regret” in March after sharing an anti-Muslim Facebook post.
The Harrow East MP has also been criticised for hosting a controversial Hindu nationalist at an event in parliament.
Khan said: “Just last month, there were more than weekly occurrences of Islamophobia from candidates and representatives of the Conservative Party.
“Furthermore, the inaction taken in high-profile cases, sends a signal that Islamophobia is to be tolerated in the Conservative Party.”
“Our democracy should not be overshadowed by a divisive culture within political parties that scapegoats minorities and alienates some who share similar political positions. Instead, fellow Britons should feel enthused to vote for and indeed aspire for office in whichever party that they feel makes the best political argument.”
In April, Tory party vice-chairman James Cleverly denied the party had a problem with islamophobia.
A Conservative Party spokesman said last week: “We take all such incidents seriously, which is why we have suspended all those who have behaved inappropriately and launched immediate investigations.”