Labour: “Not surprising” that 47% of Tories think Islam is a threat to UK

Andrew Kersley
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Labour has said it is “not surprising” that a new HOPE not hate poll shows 47% of Conservative Party members think Islam is a threat to the British way of life given the Prime Minister’s own history of Islamophobic remarks.

Responding to the research today, Labour called on Boris Johnson to “initiate a genuinely independent and transparent investigation” into anti-Muslim racism in his party following accusations that a current inquiry has been watered down.

The research from the anti-racism charity, which was submitted to the Tory inquiry into “all forms of racism including Islamophobia”, also indicated that a majority of party members held negative attitudes towards Muslims.

Commenting on the new findings, shadow faith minister Janet Daby told LabourList: “These are very distressing figures. British Muslims have the right to live without the fear of Islamophobic hate and prejudice.

“This is a question of leadership. Given Boris Johnson’s own disparaging comments about Muslims, it is perhaps not surprising that Islamophobia is so prevalent in his party. To root this out and restore trust, the Prime Minister must initiate a genuinely independent and transparent investigation.”

Johnson has been accused of repeatedly making Islamophobic statements in the past, including arguing that it was a “natural reaction” to be afraid of Muslims, questioning their loyalty after the 7/7 bombings and comparing women who wear burqas to “letterboxes”.

The HOPE not hate poll of over 1,000 Conservative Party members showed that 47% of those consulted thought Islam was a threat to the UK way of life, with only 27% thinking it was compatible with living in Britain.

Of those who felt Muslims were a “threat”, 50% agreed with the statement: “Islam breeds intolerance for free speech and calls for violent actions against those who mock, criticise or depict the religion in ways they believe are offensive.”

41% of members polled believed Muslims did not want to integrate and the same number agreed with the idea that Islam promotes discrimination against, and the physical abuse of, women as well as the grooming of white British girls.

A further 24% thought that the Muslim population was growing at too fast a rate and will supplant white British people, mirroring the ideas of the far-right ‘Great Replacement‘ conspiracy theory.

58% of the Tory members also agreed with the unfounded theory that there are no-go areas of the UK, where Sharia Law dominates and non-Muslims are not allowed to enter.

The data was collected by the charity for their submission to the party’s racism inquiry, alongside examples of 40 Conservative councillors, MPs and activists who have been faced Islamophobia complaints but faced no disciplinary action.

Recent high-profile cases of racism among Tory councillors include one calling Saudi Arabians “sand peasants”, another suggesting Tommy Robinson was a patriot and the Tory mayor of Pendle comparing Asian people to dogs.

During the Conservative leadership election last year, the then candidate Boris Johnson pledged in a BBC debate to implement an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory Party.

Johnson subsequently downgraded the pledge into a broad-brush review into how the party handles disciplinary complaints on all forms of racism as well as Islamophobia.

The decision led the general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain Harun Khan to argue that the Conservative Party was following its “customary approach to Islamophobia, that of denial, dismissal and deceit”.

Commenting on the poll, HOPE not hate CEO Nick Lowles said: “The Conservative Party has to face up to the widespread anti-Muslim prejudice in its ranks if it ever hopes to eradicate the problem.

“It’s dispiriting that HOPE not hate has to again call attention to the prejudiced idea held by many within the Tory rank and file that there is a conflict between being Muslim and being British.

“We have also documented further instances of publicly expressed anti-Muslim sentiment from members, activists and councillors, and even MPs. It’s difficult to argue against the many proofs of the problem, the real question is how bold the Conservatives will be in taking action.”

Despite the findings suggesting widespread Islamophobia among Tory members, past research from the charity has found that only 8% of them believed their party had any kind of problem with anti-Muslim racism.

The group chose to take out banner ads on Tory activist news site Conservative Home in July last year to spread awareness of the Islamophobia problem, as well as to criticise the lack of any firm commitment from party leaders to deal with it.

Hate crimes in the UK doubled between 2013 and 2019 according to government figures published last year, including a significant rise in the number of hate crime offences perpetrated against Muslims.

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