Tories refuse to adopt definition of Islamophobia

Party accused of attempting to ‘sweep Islamophobia under the carpet’ after quietly reinstating 15 previously suspended councillors

Theresa May meets faith leaders at Finsbury Park Mosque following a vehicle attack on pedestrians in 2017
(Image credit: Stefan Rousseau/AFP/Getty Images)

The row over Islamophobia in the Tory party looks set to deepen after the prime minister refused to commit to adopting the recommended definition that has been accepted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.

Theresa May faced questions from MPs about why she had “failed to act” on the allegations of Islamophobia within her party and if the definition, recommended by the all-party group for British Muslims, would be adopted.

The Independent says the definition, which was produced after six months of consultations, “classifies discrimination against Muslims as a form of racism and has been described as a necessity to tackle the rise of far-right racism”.

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Addressing the issue on BBC's Politics Live, the party’s deputy chairman, James Cleverly, argued there was no agreed definition of Islamophobia and the Conservative party’s position has been “clear and consistent”.

“We do not accept racism, we do not accept anti-religious comments, we don’t accept abuse and whenever that has been presented and unfortunately that has happened in the Conservative party we have dealt with it swiftly and that has not been reliant on a definition of Islamophobia,” he said.

The furore has strong parallels with the row that raged within Labour last summer, after the party’s leadership refused to fully adopt the definition of anti-Semitism.

Several MPs eventually left the party in protest at its handling of anti-Semitism and, like Labour, the latest row about Tory Islamophobia feeds into a wider narrative that could have wide-reaching implications for the party politically.

The Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told The Observer that he had been repeatedly subjected to anti-Muslim abuse from the Tory party’s members and supporters.

Earlier this month, former party chairwomen accused Theresa May of “burying her head in the sand”, saying she had failed to “acknowledge” or “tackle” the problem and this was “symptomatic” of her wider leadership.

Shortly after the comments, the party said 14 members had been suspended for Islamophobic Facebook posts.

However, the Independent says the Conservative Party has since faced “a barrage of criticism” after being accused of attempting to “sweep Islamophobia under the carpet” after it reinstated 15 previously suspended councillors earlier this week.

The Guardian reported more than a dozen suspended conservative councillors had their membership “quietly reinstated” despite posting Islamophobic or racist content online – with some describing Saudis as “sand peasants” and sharing material comparing Asian people to dogs.

It comes as new figures reveal Islamophobic attacks in the UK have skyrocketed nearly 600% since the Christchurch terror attacks in New Zealand, where 50 people lost their lives when a white supremacist opened fire at two Mosques.

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