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Is there really ‘Islamophobia’ in the Conservative Party?


The Conservative Party has been accused of Islamophobia. Spearheaded by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and the Conservative Muslim Forum (CMF), the allegation is gaining traction. We must determine if it is credible.

The CMF has cited several examples of what it says is Islamophobia.

The incident quoted in which a Tory councillor allegedly told a Muslim member that he was not welcome in the party certainly would be inexcusable. For this the culprit should apologise.

In a letter to Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis, the MCB lists numerous claims of what it describes as Islamophobia and has called for an independent inquiry. Lack of evidence makes them difficult to verify. If taken at face value there are some examples which are indeed shocking and can be categorised as anti-Muslim hatred. But several come close to shutting down free speech.

The main complaint seems to be against Tory MP Bob Blackman. He is accused of inviting a Hindu extremist to Parliament, which he has now sufficiently explained. This is not an example of anti-Muslim hatred and by continually raising it the MCB and CMF risk looking churlish and undermine the legitimate complaints that they may have. The CMF has tarnished its credibility by quoting Labour MP Naz Shah, who seems to have learnt nothing from her ‘the Jews are rallying‘ days.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is also pushing the ‘Tories are Islamophobic’ myth. But both Shah and Warsi show an inability to think independently. Not only did Warsi flounce out of the party in 2014, protesting against Israel’s right to defend itself, but she also shamefully compared the Israel Defense Forces to Isis. Their inflammatory actions and remarks suggest that when it comes to Islamism their judgment is skewed and not to be trusted.

The word Islamophobia is a misnomer. It shuts down debate and stymies responses to the war that Islamism has declared on the West. The term anti-Muslim hatred is more useful.

The MCB is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood through their connections with the Palestinian Return Centre, a Brotherhood campaign group.

The Brotherhood ideology is to establish a worldwide caliphate based on sharia law. One of its leaders was responsible for founding Hamas. In 2009 the UK government stopped contact with the MCB owing to its support of Hamas. Sajid Javid is justified in refusing to enter into a dialogue with the MCB.

The MCB has also opposed the government’s anti-terrorist Prevent strategy and the appointment of anti-extremist tsar, Sara Khan.

So why are the CMF and Warsi pushing the government to address claims of anti-Muslim hatred from an organisation with extremist connections and ethos?

While determining if there is anti-Muslim hatred within the Conservative party a distinction must be made between Islamists and Muslims. There are millions of Muslims in the UK who are decent and loyal citizens. To demonise them all is grossly unfair. Fearing militant Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood is legitimate. Fearing Muslims who describe themselves as British and celebrate when England win at football is not. We cannot view Muslims as one homogeneous bloc because they are not.

Ignorant anti-Muslim hatred is a consequence of multi-cultural chickens coming home to roost. Societies create myths about themselves and others. The less knowledge we have about others the more we fear them. Multi-culturalism leads to ghettos and divisions. If we do not have contact with each other’s cultures and religions in an integrated way we risk abusing each other.

Realistically we are all guilty of othering. This natural human impulse stems from ancient tribal allegiances formed for survival. Not only do we create our identities through what we are but also through what we are not in relation to others. Humans crave boundaries and like to feel a sense of belonging to a group, be it a religion, a race, an ethnicity or a country.

Many need a sense of patriotism to provide a boundary between themselves and others, creating a feeling of safety and connectedness. Multi-culturalism has demolished this, resulting in fractious groups which view others with resentment and mistrust. Muslim communities which refuse to integrate exacerbate the dilemma.

The constant denigration of our Judeo-Christian heritage and our Enlightenment values feeds into this division. Why should Muslim immigrants want to integrate when the BBC and government accuse the British of being racists?

Othering becomes a problem when the unfamiliar, separated by multi-culturalism, are viewed with suspicion. Those from a different race, religion or nationality aren’t seen as individuals. There is a world of difference between a Muslim immigrant from the rural outlands of Pakistan, dressed in a burqa and unable to speak English, and a Muslim pharmacist from Iran, fluent in several languages and reluctant to don a hijab.

Suspicion against the Muslim community is made worse by the liberal elite’s disdain for Muslim reformers. The courting of Islamists by the mainstream media and the BBC drowns out these important voices. Consequently militant Islam is normalised while Muslim secularists and reformers are scorned. If Islamist groups like the MCB are given credibility, fear of Islam is understandably intensified.

Another problem of multi-culturalism is parallel legal systems. Islamism prefers to ignore democracy in favour of a caliphate. Democratic western states, although informed by a Judeo-Christian ethos, have secular laws. These must be followed by all who live within the nation state. Roger Scruton says the best democracies have a national rather than religious ‘we’.

Islam has not adapted to the territorial law of the nation state – unlike modern Christianity and Judaism – and the reliance on sharia courts suggests it doesn’t defer to it either. This is apparent in the proliferation of practices such as FGM, honour killings and child marriages, none of which should have any place in a country governed by secular law. It’s indefensible to have secular laws subjugated by sharia law.

There are hurtful incidents of anti-Muslim hatred among the Tories and these should be urgently dealt with. But distinctions must be made between what is hatred, ignorance and justified fear of Islamism. We should be able to question Muslim practices and ethos which are divisive and harmful. An intellectual debate on this is not Islamophobia, as much the MCB wants it to be. We have every right, coming from a place of truth and with no subversive intent, to criticise all religions, including Islam.

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Karen Harradine
Karen Harradine
Karen is an anthropologist and freelance journalist. She writes on anti-Semitism, Israel and spirituality. She is @KarenH777on Twitter.

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