Conservative MPs accused of ‘eye-rolling’ during heated debate on Islamophobia

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·6-min read
mps split
MPs gathered in parliament to debate Islamophobia Awareness Month. (parliamentlive.tv)

Conservative MPs were accused of eye-rolling at a debate on Islamophobia as MPs shared their experiences of anti-Muslim bigotry on Wednesday.

The accusations were made at a Westminster Hall debate on Islamophobia Awareness Month, which seeks to both celebrate the contributions of the Muslim community to society but also draw attention to the discrimination Muslims face.  

Islamophobia in the UK is a growing problem, with Home Office data showing that nearly half of all hate crimes in England and Wales are towards Muslims, rising 9% to over 124,000.

The debate in parliament became particularly heated after Labour MPs accused the Conservative party of having a poor record on Islamophobia, with one citing the concerns of the Conservative peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi who has regularly criticised her party's record on the issue.

Read more: Labour MP Zarah Sultana recalls 'disgraceful' Islamophobic abuse 

Labour tells Tories to tackle Islamophobia in society and within own ranks 

Would You Know How To Spot And Stop Islamophobia?

Shadow deputy leader of the House of Commons, Afzal Khan, said: "The Singh review revealed institutional failings in how the Conservative party handled Islamophobia complaints.

"However, the review failed to engage with any Conservative Muslim parliamentarians and, once again, it did not even acknowledge or mention the term Islamophobia."

Opposition members were critical of the debate, with two MPs accusing them of "tone policing and eye-rolling". 

"I'm appalled by the behaviour and comments of Conservative MPs in @Afzal4Gorton's #IslamophobiaAwarenessMonth debate today," wrote Labour MP Nadia Whittome on Twitter. 

"There was constant tone policing and eye-rolling of Muslim MPs' contributions.

"They objected to people raising instances of Islamophobia by Tories."

Kirsten Oswald, the Scottish National Party's shadow equalities spokesperson, made similar accusations.

"The tone of some comments from government members today is regrettable," she told MPs. 

"That is not the way we should conduct ourselves in here. 

Afzal Khan
Labour MP and shadow deputy speaker Afzal Khan suggested the Conservative party were not tackling Islamophobia in the party effectively. (parliamentlive.tv)

"Some of the eye-rolling and the language used was most unfortunate."

And Liberal Democrat MP Wera Hobhouse claimed she was "disturbed" by the initial "aggression" of Tory MPs present.

A 2019 poll by Hope Not Hate found that 57% of Conservative members had negative views of Muslims, with 47% claiming they belief Islam is a “threat to the British way of life”.

However, Tory MPs repeatedly rebuffed criticism, instead accusing Labour of being hypocritical due to their issues with anti-Semitism over recent years.

"To hear the sanctimony of an organisation that was investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for prejudice and anti-Semitism in lecturing this party on prejudice is something," said James Daly, Conservative MP for Bury South.

The Catch-up sign up
The Catch-up sign up

Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch also came under fire at the meeting for raising the killing of Sir David Amess at an event which included MPs sharing how they had been called terrorists for being Muslims.

"I would like to use this occasion to remind colleagues about the tragic murder of our colleague and friend, Sir David Amess, whose funeral was yesterday," he said. "I attended it, as I think many others in this room did. 

"He died at the hands of someone seeking to divide us all; someone claiming to act on behalf of Islam."

But she sought to stress she believed the terrorist's actions were not representative of Muslim people. 

"However, if ever people needed reminding of the real values of Muslims in this country, they need look no further than the tributes paid by the Muslim community of Southend to the life of Sir David."

Kemi Badenoch
Conservative MP and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was criticised for raising that Sir David Amess was murdered by a Islamist extremist – however, she stressed the terrorist was not representative of Muslims. (parliamentlive.tv)

She also used her speech to defend William Shawcross after Labour MPs criticised the government for appointing him as head of the review of the government's counter-extremism programme, Prevent. 

Yasmin Qureshi, shadow minister for international development, condemned her comments about Shawcross and accused the equalities minister of using "a trope about Muslims and terrorism". 

"The minister has just said that Mr Shawcross is a great man and she started her speech by using a trope about Muslims and terrorism, yet she is meant to be talking about Islamophobia," said Qureshi. 

"Shawcross has said that the Muslim faith is a fascist faith. 

"How can she say that he is a person to lead a review that impacts on Muslims?"

Shawcross has been criticised for suggesting there was "a vast fifth column" of Muslims in Europe that "wish to destroy us", adding that it was "Islamic fascism".

The tense debate came as Muslim MPs spoke movingly of their experiences of discrimination of abuse for their faith. 

rosena allin-khan
Labour MP and shadow mental health secretary Rosena Allin-Khan described some of the violent Islamophobia she had experienced. (parliamentlive.tv)

Shadow secretary of state for mental health, Rosena Allin-Khan, said: "Like many other speakers today, I have my scars.

"From being attacked by a racist gang in the park with dogs, as me and my brother ran away, having our clothes ripped from us, scared; to the audible gasps of, 'Why the hell would you choose to be a Muslim?', my experiences are as real as they are painful."

Among the other experiences she disclosed was one of when she was studying medicine at Cambridge University. 

"When I was studying medicine at Cambridge, a senior surgeon spoke openly about terrorism and Islam - when I asked him kindly to stop, he was shocked," she said. 

"When I stated that I was a Muslim, he asked where I was from and proceeded to tell me that half my family were eastern European cleaners and the other half were terrorists, and that I should go and tell my family to stop killing people."

Labour MP Aspana Begum also shared her experiences of Islamophobia. 

Aspana Begum
Labour MP Aspana Begum shared that she had recieved messages calling for her hand to be chopped off and calls for her deportation. (parliamentlive.tv)

"Too often, we are cynically used as a focal point for people’s anxieties, as scapegoats for the failings of the political and economic system," she said. 

"It should therefore be no surprise to anyone that I constantly have to cope with a vicious torrent of abuse."

Begum provided multiple examples, including one message where she was told: "Muslims are the masters of lying, they are the bane of our Christian society, they do not belong and should be deported". 

Other messages included calls for her hand to be cut off and her deportation. 

"Those are not even, by any measure, the worst of what I receive," said Begum. 

Watch: Labour MP Zarah Sultana praised for powerful speech about Islamophobia in Britain

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting