Conservative members suspended for online Islamophobia

Move comes as former Tory MEP accuses serving minister of anti-Muslim comments

A number of Conservative party members have been suspended for posting or endorsing Islamophobic content online.

The BBC was passed details of a number of incidents by an anonymous Twitter user, and it highlighted more than 20 new cases to the Conservative party after independently verifying them.

Incidents were said to have ranged from individuals “liking” Islamophobic pictures or statements on one or two occasions, to people who said they were Tory members regularly posting anti-Muslim content.

The government minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Friday that action had been taken when the members were suspended, but he did not directly respond to a question on whether he thought an independent inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative party was necessary.

“I think the party has enough structure and discipline and focus to try to deal with this problem in the first instance,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Obviously this is something that is ongoing.

“I don’t know exactly when we will be able to announce what structures we have in order to expel or maintain the suspension of these members, but there is no doubt that we took very summary action when we found out last night what had been going on.”

Announcements of the suspensions came as the former Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim said that senior Conservative party members, including a serving minister, had made Islamophobic remarks about him.

“I have experienced conversations taking place with Islamophobic content directly about me, being conducted by very senior members of the Conservative party – in fact parliamentarians, one of whom is in fact a serving minister at this moment in time,” he told the BBC.

“Ultimately, this is about values and if we allow Islamophobia, or any other form of discrimination, to go unchecked, what we are doing actually is undermining our own values.”

Karim did not reveal the name of the minister in question but said he would provide it to the Conservative party if it wanted to investigate the alleged incident.

In May, the Muslim Council of Britain urged the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative party after it was reported it was dealing with more than 100 alleged cases, including a host of previously unreported ones.

“We are not surprised by the latest revelations,” said Harun Khan, the secretary general of the MCB. “They are a manifestation of institutional Islamophobia within the Conservative party, and corroborate the polling done demonstrating the scale of the issue.

“An independent and specific inquiry into Islamophobia specifically is long overdue. Sadly the Conservative response has been woeful, from denial through to now a reluctant commitment to a broad and watered-down investigation that we fear will do nothing to address this problem.”

Khan said Islamophobia was “endemic” in the Conservative party. He added that Karim’s claim was “extremely serious and indicative of the scale of the problem” and the minister must be investigated immediately.

A Conservative party spokesperson said: “All those found to be party members have been suspended immediately, pending investigation.

“The Conservative party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind. That’s why we are already establishing the terms of an investigation to make sure that such instances are isolated and robust processes are in place to stamp them out as and when they occur.”

Party sources said not all the names provided were Tory members and the timings and details of any such investigation would be guided by the government’s review into a definition of Islamophobia.

The government announced in May it had begun the process for establishing a working definition of Islamophobia, after confirming it would not be adopting the wording proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims. The timeline for this work was unclear.

During a Tory leadership election debate in June, Sajid Javid, the chancellor of the exchequer, committed to holding an independent investigation into allegations of Islamophobia and asked the other candidates whether they would also commit to it. They all appeared to agree, including Boris Johnson, who said: “Hear, hear.”

However, Johnson later said he understood they had committed to a general investigation “into all types of prejudice and discrimination including antisemitism”, not Islamophobia specifically.


Mattha Busby

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Tory members' online comments deepen Islamophobia row
Exclusive: messages seen by the Guardian refer to Muslims as ‘cavemen’

Simon Murphy and Frances Perraudin

24, Mar, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Tories suspend 14 members over alleged Islamophobia
Conservative party responds to collection of abusive remarks found on social media

Dan Sabbagh

05, Mar, 2019 @5:01 PM

Article image
Tory Islamophobia row: 15 suspended councillors quietly reinstated
Guardian investigation finds suspensions lifted despite apparent Islamophobia or racism

Frances Perraudin and Simon Murphy

24, Mar, 2019 @6:00 PM

Article image
Government criticised for rejecting definition of Islamophobia
Working definition has already been adopted by Labour, Lib Dems and Scottish Tories

Jessica Elgot Chief political correspondent

15, May, 2019 @11:39 AM

Article image
Tories accused of ignoring Islamophobia after dropping inquiry
Muslim Council of Britain says party’s approach is ‘that of denial, dismissal and deceit’

Kevin Rawlinson

17, Dec, 2019 @11:20 PM

Article image
EHRC threatens to intervene over Tory Islamophobia claims
Watchdog under pressure to investigate party as Cabinet Office launches inquiry into Nusrat Ghani’s allegations

Aamna Mohdin and Aubrey Allegretti

24, Jan, 2022 @7:06 PM

Article image
Tory Islamophobia inquiry chair in row over Kashmir views
Swaran Singh’s neutrality in question over comments conflict is not Muslim-only tragedy

Simon Murphy

18, Dec, 2019 @11:14 AM

Article image
Islamophobia inquiry deliberately excluded Muslim Tories, claims ex-MEP
Sajjad Karim urges Boris Johnson not to pursue an ‘English nationalist agenda’

Aubrey Allegretti Political correspondent

03, Jun, 2021 @9:28 AM

Article image
Government sacks Roger Scruton after remarks about Soros and Islamophobia
Philosopher loses role as housing adviser following ‘unacceptable comments’

Matthew Weaver and Peter Walker

10, Apr, 2019 @2:29 PM

Article image
Watchdog urged to launch inquiry into Tory Islamophobia
Muslim Council of Britain submits complaint to Equality and Human Rights Commission

Rajeev Syal

28, May, 2019 @12:53 PM