Exclusive: Action urged as poll finds lack of trust in Labour to tackle Islamophobia

Elliot Chappell

Labour has been urged to take action on Islamophobia after new research showed that 68% of Muslim Labour supporters do not trust the leadership to tackle Islamophobia effectively, LabourList can exclusively reveal.

A new report by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) found that 20% disagree and 48% strongly disagree with the statement “I trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively”.

The research followed a November 2020 report by LMN, in which the same question was asked. The 20% who said they disagreed is a ten-point decrease on the earlier research, while the 48% who said they strongly disagreed represents a 23-point increase.

Asked how they thought the Labour leader had handled the issue since the last report, 4% said he had done “very well” and 7% “quite well”. 18% said the leader had done “quite badly”, while 46% said he had done “very badly”.

59% of respondents to the latest study, conducted via an online survey and phone interviews over a three-week period in January, thought Labour had handled the issue “quite badly” (19%) or “very badly” (40%) since November 2020.

A spokesperson for LMN told LabourList that the latest findings show “the crisis has only deepened” since the publication of the report into the Muslim experience of Islamophobia in the party 15 months ago.

“It is a mark of shame that almost half of Labour Muslim members and supporters do not trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively, an increase of 23 percentage points from 2020,” LMN added.

“These numbers betray a growing sense among Muslims, but it is not the end of the road if the Labour Party acknowledges where it has gone wrong and works with its Muslim supporters to tackle Islamophobia wherever it exists.”

Commenting on the latest findings, a Labour spokesperson said: “We are committed to a strong relationship with the Muslim community, and to tackling Islamophobia in our party and wider society.

“Last July, the NEC approved a code of conduct on Islamophobia, which includes the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

“In our pursuit of a new Britain which guarantees everyone security, prosperity and respect, Labour will continue to robustly stand up for the rights of Muslims everywhere.”

Asked about feeling “well represented by the leadership”, 25% of those surveyed said they “disagreed” with the statement, down eight points on the previous poll and 47% said they “strongly disagreed”, a 25-point increase.

24% of the Muslim Labour supporters and members surveyed “disagreed” (-7), and 39% “strongly disagreed” (+23), that the party represents the Muslim community effectively. 26% “disagreed” (-3) and 45% “strongly disagreed” (+19) that the shadow cabinet represents the community effectively.

The poll was carried out by LMN’s research team, as was the previous report. They surveyed people who identified as both Muslim and Labour members or supporters, and conducted phone interviews with elected Muslim officials of the party.

There were 428 respondents in total. 83 were rejected for “either having not passed our validation checks” or on “the basis of either not identifying as a Muslim and/or not being a member or supporter of the Labour Party”, which left 345 valid responses.

A Labour Party spokesperson said in response to the report published in November 2020 that “we look forward to working with LMN to implement their recommendations”. The recommendations put forward by the group included:

  • A “public commitment” from the leadership to equality for Muslims;
  • Developing “comprehensive” Islamophobia training with LMN, the Muslim Council of Britain and other Muslim organisations;
  • Conducting an equality impact assessment on all policies adopted by the party;
  • Adopting the all-party parliamentary group definition of Islamophobia by all Labour-run councils, groups and local parties;
  • Establishing a code of conduct around Islamophobia setting out specific “behaviours, policies and cultures” that can be Islamophobic;
  • Publishing a handbook to educate members on Islamophobia including a list of commonly used tropes; and
  • Implementing a new “transparent and impartial” complaints process.

Labour’s ruling national executive committee approved a new code of conduct on Islamophobia in July last year, which included the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

Party chair Anneliese Dodds is known to have written to Labour council leaders to encourage wider adoption of the APPG definition of Islamophobia. The party has also rolled out Islamophobia training to staff.

Muslim Labour MP Zarah Sultana described the move as a “really good first step” in an interview with LabourList to mark Islamophobia Awareness Month in November, but added that she believed there is much more work to be done.

LabourList understands that Keir Starmer has met with the Labour Muslim Network several times since being elected leader. Angela Rayner, Anneliese Dodds and David Evans have also met with the LMN on multiple occasions.

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