The recent allegations made by MP Nusrat Ghani are yet another example of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. Ghani, who was appointed as a Minister within the Department for Transport in January 2018, claims that she was dismissed from her role due to her Muslim faith. This accusation is the most recent in a long line of Islamophobic cases that the Tory Party has been accused of.
To view Ghani’s allegations in isolation would be a betrayal of these cases, ignoring the history of rampant anti-Muslim discrimination within the Tory Party. Instead, this should open up a conversation about the conspiracy of silence over Islamophobia that our governing party is complicit in, and about the pervasiveness of anti-Muslim rhetoric in modern British society.
The lack of media coverage that this issue has received is startling, as incident after incident of inflammatory Islamophobia appears to go largely ignored with little if any consequence for those who engage in it. In order to understand how Ghani’s allegations are the most current in a long line of historical Tory Islamophobia, it is necessary to explore some of the most striking examples in recent memory.
How many people are aware of YouGov polling that found that 60% of Tory members believe Islam is “generally a threat to western civilisation” and that 43% are averse to the idea of a Muslim Prime Minister?
Or when Boris Johnson described Muslim women as “bank robbers” and compared them to “letterboxes” and Islamophobic hate crimes went up by 375% in the following two week period?
And what of current Tory MPs such as Bob Blackman and Nadine Dorries retweeting posts by Tommy Robinson? How many people are aware of this?
Numerous Muslim candidates have stated that they were quizzed on their faith during the selection process and one was told that being Muslim would likely be a problem. This led Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the most senior female Muslim politician in the Conservative Party, to describe Tory Islamophobia as “institutional”.
Cases like these are a damning indictment of the size and scope of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. What’s more, the answer to the question of why so few people are aware of this, is likely that much of the press is also complicit in this endemic anti-Muslim discrimination.
According to an analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain, 59 per cent of newspaper stories in the UK featuring Islam as a theme portray Muslims in a negative way. The study found the Mail on Sunday had the most negative coverage of Islam, with 78% of its stories about Muslims being negative, an astronomically high percentage.
All of this begs the question of why there hasn’t been a formal, third-party investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory Party? The most recent investigation was astonishingly left for the Tories to conduct themselves, like students marking their own homework. Perhaps unsurprisingly it found no evidence of institutional racism and was immediately rebuked by many Muslim Tories. This may explain why Boris Johnson’s latest assurances that the Cabinet Office will investigate the sacking of Nusrat Ghani hasn’t generated the kind of welcome praise that the Tories want. The tendency to deny accusations of Islamophobia, only to mount investigations when the issue is forced into the public light is one that this government is all too fond of, and one that trivialises the validity of accusations made.
The correct step forward should involve an investigation of the Tory Party by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, similar to their inquiry into numerous instances of antisemitism within the Labour Party in 2019. The fact that this hasn’t already happened demonstrates the pervasiveness of Islamophobia amongst the British establishment. Moreover, the Conservatives have appeared far from eager to welcome such an investigation, suggesting that they have much to hide.
This leads one to conclude that modern Britain has a distorted view of its relationship with multiculturalism. We are rightfully quick to highlight the many successes of it and how it has enriched our country, but far too often when multiculturalism failures are exposed, such as with rampant Islamophobia in our governing party, it is brushed aside and silenced.
Islamophobia isn’t about Muslims, it’s about equality. Until it is banished from the ranks of the Conservative Party, we cannot expect it to be altogether eliminated from other parts of society in which it finds vitality.
Boris Johnson should encourage and welcome an EHRC investigation into Islamophobia in his party, but given the conspiracy of silence that plagues the Tories and their ‘efforts’ to eliminate anti-Muslim discrimination, I fear there will be many more cases like that of Nusrat Ghani before Islamophobia is taken seriously within the Conservative Party.
Image via UK Parliament