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Tory Islamophobia row is ‘hysteria’, says Braverman

Suella Braverman called on Rishi Sunak to deal with extremism
Suella Braverman called on Rishi Sunak to deal with extremism - Paul Grover for the Telegraph

Suella Braverman has condemned the ongoing row over Islamophobia in the Tory party as “hysteria” and called on Rishi Sunak to urgently tackle Islamist extremism.

The former home secretary is understood to believe that it was an overreaction to strip Lee Anderson, the former Conservative deputy chairman, of the Tory whip over his claims that “Islamists” have “got control” of Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor.

On Monday night, Mrs Braverman urged Mr Sunak to shift his focus to the “big problem” of “Islamist extremism in the UK”.

The row over allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party erupted last week when Mrs Braverman used an article for The Telegraph to claim that “the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are in charge now”.

On Monday, Mr Sunak warned that British democracy was under threat and condemned aggressive efforts to shut down debate over the Israel-Hamas conflict, but refused to describe Mr Anderson’s remarks as Islamophobic or racist.

Mrs Braverman wrote on X, formerly Twitter:

On Monday, Mr Sunak faced calls from Labour and the Liberal Democrats to condemn Mr Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic.

However, his official spokesman said the Government preferred to use the phrase “anti-Muslim hatred”, arguing that the term Islamophobia as defined by Labour could undermine free speech.

Meanwhile, Mr Anderson issued a 300-word statement in which he again refused to apologise for his claims, arguing that rowing back on them would be “a sign of weakness”.

Mr Scully was among Tory MPs to criticise Mr Anderson’s comments, but called for a wider debate on the issue of Islamist extremism.

In an interview with BBC London, the former London minister made reference to parts of the capital and Birmingham with high Muslim populations.

He said: “The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets, for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to… because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying. That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

His comments were swiftly denounced as Islamaphobic by Ali Milani, the chairman of the Labour Muslim Network, who said that there are “no Muslim ‘no-go’ areas in this country”.

Andy Street, the Tory West Midlands mayor, urged “those in Westminster to stop the nonsense slurs”, while Labour’s Jess Phillips, whose Birmingham constituency includes part of the Sparkhill area, said she expected an apology for the comments.

The Islamophobia row has raised questions about how to navigate disagreements over Israel and the war in Gaza, with MPs under intense pressure.

In an interview with Channel 5 News, Mr Sunak addressed concerns that the impact of pro-Palestinian protests had contributed to the chaos in the Commons last week.

The Prime Minister said he understood fears about how intimidating behaviour is impacting politicians’ ability to stand up for what they believe in, calling aggressive tactics such as the targeting of MPs’ homes “incredibly” frustrating and un-British.

In a warning to hostile protesters attempting to frighten MPs into changing their vote, he said those who cross a line would face “the full force of the law”.

He said: “We don’t aggressively intimidate people, we don’t disrupt their private events, we don’t go and surround MP’s homes, and we don’t threaten what’s going on in Parliament to the extent that processes there have to be changed.

“None of that is right, none of that is British and I think everyone will feel, as I do, incredibly frustrated when they see those things happening.”

Asked whether a line had been crossed in recent weeks, Mr Sunak said: “Well, that’s exactly what we did see last week, and people should be able to freely disagree and debate things, and there is a line that people should not cross by behaving in an aggressive and intimidating manner.

“I don’t think that’s right and, where that happens, it should be met with the full force of the law.”