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UK's Tories 'signal Islamophobia acceptable' by failing to tackle it within party: Report

Ruling Conservative Party in denial about issue, State of Hate 2019 report by group Hope Not Hate will say
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson was subject of internal inquiry after comparing Muslim women in burqas to letterboxes and bank robbers (AFP/file photo)

The UK’s ruling Conservative Party is “signalling Islamophobia is acceptable” by failing to act against anti-Muslim sentiment within its own ranks, a new report by a leading anti-racism charity is to warn, according to Independent.

Tories are in denial about the issue, the State of Hate 2019 report by the group Hope Not Hate will say, said the UK newspaper, which was able to read a copy of the report in advance.

The findings, which are due to be released on Monday, will accuse the party of not taking seriously complaints of Islamophobia about either local activists or high-profile politicians, including Boris Johnson, the Independent reported.

The former foreign secretary was made the subject of an internal inquiry in August after comparing Muslim women in burqas to letterboxes and bank robbers - but the Conservative panel found his words, used in “satire”, had been “respectful and tolerant”.

MEE reported in December that the Muslim Council of Britain had accused the Conservative Party of "giving license to bigotry" after it ruled that Johnson had not broken party rules when he made derogatory remarks in a newspaper column about Muslim women who cover their faces.

Other examples of apparent Islamophobia within the party highlighted by the report include Shaun Bailey, a one-time candidate for London mayor, retweeting a picture labelling Mayor Sadiq Khan the “mad mullah of Londonistan”, the Independent reported.

The London mayor is a Muslim.

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The paper also raises concerns about MPs - including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Andrew Rosindell - who were found to be members of a pro-Tory Facebook group littered with anti-Muslim comments, including ones demanding the religion be banned in the UK as a “threat" to the country.

Both Rees-Mogg and Rosindell denied knowledge of the group.

“There remains a stark political issue here for the Conservatives,” Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, told HuffPost UK.

“Unless the Conservatives have chosen to cynically abandon the Muslim vote in upcoming elections to solidify their hold on anti-Muslim supporters, they must stop signalling to voters they find Islamophobia acceptable within its ranks and visibly address the growing problem.”

A spokeswoman for the Conservatives rejected the report’s findings.

She said: “When cases have been reported centrally, the Conservative Party has consistently acted decisively, suspending or expelling those involved and launching an immediate investigation.

“The swift action we take on not just anti-Muslim discrimination, but discrimination of any kind is testament to the seriousness with which we take such issues.”