Islamophobia Awareness Month is a time to reflect on how far we have come to tackle the scourge of Islamophobia in our society, and whether we are moving in the right direction. Worryingly, for many Muslims, it feels like we are moving backwards – thanks, in no small part, to the Conservative Party.
As The Independent reports, the Conservative government is failing to act on Islamophobia, both within its own ranks and in wider society.
Religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims rose by almost a third in the last year. Muslim adults are by far and away the most likely group to be victims of religiously-motivated hate crime.
What action has the government taken? Their mismanagement of our justice system, courts system, police, and local community assets has seen hate crimes of all categories soar since they took office and led to vast backlogs for those seeking justice. Violent hate crime has risen five-fold in that time. Cuts to police have left communities vulnerable.
In addition, the Conservatives have hardly set a shining example for the public. There have been two investigations into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party in recent years. The Singh Investigation into alleged discrimination in the party revealed institutional failures in the handling of complaints. But even that investigation did not consult a single Muslim member.
The Conservative Party is also the only political party in the UK to reject the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia. Three years ago, they promised to develop an alternative definition, but now ministers appear to have broken that promise. The person they hired to draw up the definition claims the process “didn’t really start”. Imam Qari Asim says that his letter went unanswered and there was a distinct lack of engagement from the government. A party that cannot even define Islamophobia can hardly be trusted to tackle it.
This catalogue of failures has real-world consequences. We can draw a direct line between the Conservatives’ own failures and the abuse faced by Muslims in the UK. After Boris Johnson referred to Muslim women wearing veils as looking like “letterboxes” or “bank robbers”, violent incidents against British Muslims rose by 375 per cent. Ministers should know that their words and actions, or lack thereof, are having a real impact on lives of British Muslims and potentially putting them in danger.
It’s time for the Conservatives to show some leadership and take some responsibility for this issue. Today Labour has written to Nadhim Zahawi, the Conservative Party Chairman, calling on him to take urgent action to tackle Islamophobia by implementing, in full, the recommendations of the Singh Review. I’ve also demanded that he confirm whether the government will adopt a working definition of Islamophobia, and engage with British Muslim communities.
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While the Conservatives look to sweep Islamophobia under the rug, the Labour Party has been determined to tackle all forms of prejudice. Whether that prejudice comes in the form of Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Afrophobia or other forms of racism, it must be rooted out.
We have therefore adopted the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia, introduced a new Code of Conduct on Islamophobia, and put a new and independent Complaints Process in place. In government, we would act decisively against Islamophobia and the pernicious inequalities associated with it.
We have committed to tackling structural racism with a new, landmark Race Equality Act; a New Deal for Working People; and a requirement for all larger companies to report on their ethnicity pay gaps. Only then will our country and its people – including British Muslims – see the fairer, greener future we all deserve.
Yasmin Qureshi MP is co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group and shadow minister for women and equalities