An independent inquiry on Tuesday found that the UK’s ruling Conservative Party is insensitive to Muslim communities across the country following Islamophobic remarks by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other party members.
The Singh Investigation, launched in 2019 by Johnson, was set up following allegations of ant-Muslim discrimination by members of the party, including Johnson.
The Conservatives were also accused of failing to address the issue of Islamophobia, but the report failed to confirm the claim of institutional racism, saying instead that anti-Muslim views were seen at a local level.
“From 2015 to 2020, “the Party’s central database recorded 1,418 complaints concerning 727 incidents of alleged discrimination; i.e. an average of 237 complaints relating to 122 incidents per year in a party with 200,000 members,” said the report.
“Two-thirds of all incidents reported to the complaints team at party headquarters (“CCHQ”), related to allegations of anti-Muslim discrimination,” it added.
“High-profile incidents, such as remarks made during Lord Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign and Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s comments on Muslim women in burqas (prior to becoming him becoming Prime Minister), give the impression to many that the Party and its leadership are insensitive to Muslim communities,” the report said, referring to a notorious 2018 column by Johnson.
According to the inquiry, there is “clear evidence” that the party’s complaint system is in need of an “overhaul” as its process falls significantly short of recommendations by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Furthermore, although the party’s complaints team cooperated with the probe, they were found to be inadequately trained and under-resourced, with a weak data collection system and poor communications.
There is also a lack of transparency in the complaints process, with no structured system on how complaints should be processed and addressed in order to find a solution, it said. Additionally there are no specified timeframes for resolutions and no clear guidelines on which acts should warrant sanctions. The team lacks information on how to handle certain natures of complaints and is sometimes not privy to data relating to such matters, it added.
“Systems for analysing discrimination and complaints handling at local association level are weak to nonexistent, with no common understanding of the process. Association chairs expressed low confidence in the system,” said the report.
Investigation blasted as ‘whitewash’
The report has already been criticized and condemned as a “whitewash” by Muslim members of the Conservative Party, who argue it failed to acknowledge the existence of institutional racism within the party and specifically at the upper echelons of the leadership.
Senior party figures said the review was inadequate and failed to address the deep prejudices that exist within the organization, as evidenced by how Johnson in 2018, soon after his tenure as foreign minister, compared Muslim women wearing burqas and hijabs to “letter boxes” and “robbers” in a column in The Telegraph newspaper.
“The manner in which this inquiry has been conducted means it is nothing but an attempt to whitewash deep-rooted issues out of sight,” said Sajjad Karim, a former Tory member of the European Parliament and chair of the European Parliament’s working group on Islamophobia.
“It is difficult to identify any basis upon which this has been a serious attempt to address credible and serious matters or deliver on Boris Johnson’s leadership election pledge,” he added.
“If anything it acts as an illustration of an attitude inclined to view Islamophobia as an irritant best pushed to one side, when not being utilized in promoting culture wars rather than as a serious systemic issue which needs to be rooted out.”