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Open letter: Tory Islamophobia has been ignored in this election

04 Dec 2019

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In the lead up to the general election on December 12, it is more crucial than ever that the Conservative Party address the concerns that people have raised regarding repeated incidents of racism and Islamophobia.

Many Muslims live in fear. Islamophobic hate crimes have been on the rise, even being levelled against children. Muslims are treated as suspects while going about our daily business, being interrogated at airports or being profiled by suspicious staff members at their places of education or work. This government needs to reassure Muslims that measures have been taken to combat the discrimination against our communities.

We should hold the Conservative Party, our government for the last decade, to a high standard. All serious and repeated allegations of Islamophobia, antisemitism and anti-black racism should be taken seriously. Yet, it was not asked during the ITV debate, and while Boris Johnson was challenged on Channel 4 it has not received a sustained and thorough level of criticism via broadcast news or the influential pages of our national newspapers. We cannot allow Boris Johnson to pull the rug on the inquiry into Islamophobia and racism within his party, and not be brought under public scrutiny. It is incredibly disingenuous to allow the Conservatives to masquerade as an anti-racist party without making any substantial commitments to minority communities to improve the current climate of racism.

“Following Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Muslim women to ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letterboxes’, there was a 375% surge in Islamophobic hate crimes”

All this sits alongside the shocking, hurtful, and inflammatory racism we have heard from the Prime Minister himself as well as other Conservative party representatives who have posted racist and Islamophobic content on social media. Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Muslim women who wear the niqab (face veil) to “bank robbers” and “letterboxes”, there was a 375% surge in Islamophobic hate crimes, with around two-thirds of those directed at women who wear a niqab. When challenged about his comments during the BBC Question Time Leaders Special, he refused to apologise. Elsewhere he is on record as having written that racism was as “natural as sewage”, that it was natural to be scared of Islam because “Islam is the problem,” adding, “when is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s medieval ass?”

Both former and current Tory councillors have been suspended after they were exposed for sharing extremely racist and Islamophobic content online. Some of this included a call to ban mosques, using terms such as “Islamist rape gangs” and “Somali scum” as well as expressing support for fringe far-right hate preachers like Tommy Robinson and Pamela Gellar. Yet the dozen or so Tory councillors suspended earlier this year were reinstated almost right away, and allegedly only had to attend a one-day “diversity training” session, issue an apology to a local Muslim leader, or simply do nothing.

This government has also proven to be institutionally Islamophobic in its approach to policy. Whether this is the mistreatment of British citizens of foreign descent was also exemplified during the Syrian crisis when British Muslim aid workers had their citizenship stripped and their names permanently associated with terrorism, simply for going to provide aid in a warzone. Or the draconian approach to groomed IS teenager Shamima Begum (now 20), who was denied the right to return home and face due process and consequently watched her newborn son (also a British citizen) die in an overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary refugee camp.

“Minority communities must not be drawn into sidelining or comparing each other’s fights for justice. To the contrary, we will mobilise together”

It has facilitated racist counter-terror programmes such as the Prevent strategy that profiled and criminalised Muslims. An eight-year-old was interrogated about his affiliation with ISIS based on a t-shirt design, a teenager was referred for wearing a “Free Palestine” badge and public employees like school teachers were encouraged to look out for “signs of radicalisation”. These so-called “signs” included things like young girls starting to wear the hijab, which essentially reinforces the idea that practising Islam is inherently a sign of extremism and that any religiously observant Muslim should be seen as a potential threat. But anti-radicalisation efforts by the Home Office and beyond also need to focus on the right-wing extremist threat has been given room to flourish and threaten our communities. Bigots feel emboldened and empowered by the way the government and press adopt Islamophobic rhetoric, as seen by the aforementioned rising hate crime statistics.

Allegations of antisemitism in the Labour party have been raised – and while the party has said it was too slow to respond, it has become the subject of both an internal investigation and a media spotlight that has ensured it was rightly brought into mainstream public discourse. We believe that the questioning of the Conservative party should be as persistent and thorough.

Minority communities must not be drawn into sidelining or comparing each other’s fights for justice. To the contrary, we will mobilise together. We are striving to treat these issues the same in all parties and realms of public life. We have witnessed the media play into racist and Islamophobic tropes time and time again, with the government failing to hold them to account or vice versa. The media and the current government appear to almost work hand-in-hand to foster a climate of hostility towards racial and religious minorities whilst absolving themselves of any responsibility for doing so.

We are regressing as a society under this government. This is concerning. The institutional disregard for racial and religious minorities in the Conservative Party requires a formal, transparent investigation and real action taken. We, the undersigned, demand this happens immediately without further delay.


Kemi Alemoru, gal-dem features editor

Alysha Ali, gal-dem project manager

Niellah Arboine, gal-dem lifestyle editor

Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, gal-dem head of editorial

Leah Cowan, gal-dem politics editor

Shanice Dover, gal-dem social media manager

Micha Frazer-Carroll, gal-dem opinions editor

Rosel Jackson Stern, gal-dem intern

Tara Joshi, gal-dem music editor

Liv Little, gal-dem founder

Mariel Richards, gal-dem head of strategy

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, poet

Ilyas Nagdee, writer and activist

Nafisa Bakkar, co-founder of

Selina Bakkar, co-founder of

Hareem Ghani, activist

Nikesh Shukla, writer

Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting

Shaista Aziz, Oxford Councillor for the Labour Party

Jews Against Boris, campaign group

Fck Boris, campaign group

Gary Younge, columnist

Afua Hirsch, columnist

Shahmir Sanni, activist and whistleblower

Ash Sarkar, media personality and journalist

Emma Dabiri, writer

Afia Ahmed, writer and researcher

Priyamvada Gopal, academic

Grime4Corbyn, campaign group

Nora Selmani, writer

Coco Khan, journalist

Alaa Alsaraji, project co-ordinator

Zeinab Saleh, artist

Sunny Singh, author

Dr Fatima Rajina, academic

Fatima Diriye, poet

Tahmina Begum, journalist

Leyya Sattar, co-founder of The Other Box

Halima Hassan

Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS president

Claire Sosienski Smith, NUS vice president for education

Fope Olaleye, NUS black students’ officer

Miraa May, musician

Hannah Delta

Aleesha Khaliq, writer

Travis Alabanza, performer

Kyla Mitchell

Jamie Windust, activist and influencer

Alexander Tiffin, journalist

Daniel Thomas

Sarah Lasoye, poet

Umber Ghauri, makeup artist

Samia Malik, musician

Shoaib M Khan, human rights lawyer

Farah Ahmed

Sana Noor Haq, journalist

Marie Young

Iqra Choudhry, researcher

Divya Osbon, organiser and writer

Hanisah Othman

Yassmin Abdel-Magied, writer and engineer

Hussein Kesvani, journalist

Sara Khan, Manchester SU liberation and access officer

Natasha Dhumma, campaigner

Sidrah, poet

Faima Bakar, journalist

Rebecca Cirine

Radhika Patel

Natalie Morris, journalist

Sonali Bhattacharyya, playwright

Akwaaba, Social Centre for Migrants

Lina-Sirine Zitout, journalist

Anya Aujla-Jones, researcher

Sofia Ali

Cerie Bullivant, filmmaker and human rights activist

Clara Hernanz, journalist

Shazia Hossen

Vanessa Hsieh, Dazed senior Instagram editor

Mared Gruffydd, journalist

Yomi Adegoke, journalist

Bolu Babalola, writer

Azeezat Johnson, academic

Aisha Mirza, DJ

Sirin Kale, journalist

Dominique Sisley, Huck digital editor

Amrou Al-Kadhi, writer, performer and filmmaker

Jessica Morgan, journalist

Yasmin Khan, writer and broadcaster

Sabeena Akhtar, writer

Coralie Datta, photographer and activist

Raifa Rafiq, Mostly Lit host, lawyer, and writer

Tashmia Owen, campaigner

Neelam Tailor, journalist

Lola Olufemi, writer

Faustina Yawson

Samayya Afzal

Layla Haidrani, writer

Salma Haidrani, writer

If you would like to read the entire list or add your name to this letter, you can do so here.