A high-ranking Tory has suggested demands for an inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within the party have a “political motive”, prompting a backlash from a Conservative peer.
Party vice chair and Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch, considered a rising star in the party, rejected the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) call for an independent probe into anti-Muslim prejudice within the Conservatives.
Earlier this year, the MCB said it had seen weekly incidents of Islamophobia from Conservative representatives and candidates as it urged Tory officials to take action.
However, asked whether such issues were a reason why the Conservatives have a relative lack of support among ethnic minorities, Ms Badenoch dismissed the MCB’s claims.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show: “We take every single allegation of Islamophobia seriously and where we do find party members or people who hold positions in local government doing things we suspend them, we investigate thoroughly.”
What is the point of diversity @Conservatives if it doesn’t understand or reflect the experiences of a large majority of the BAME communities that make up Britain?
Diversity isnt an individual “I’m alright Jack” moment its about representation that makes us collectively better. https://t.co/Hj2fiLlZ6e
— Sayeeda Warsi (@SayeedaWarsi) November 4, 2018
Ms Badenoch, whose party role means she has responsibility for the selection of Tory candidates for the 2022 general election, added: “I don’t think the Muslim Council of Britain is an organisation that would look very favourably on the Conservative Party anyway.
“So, I think there’s probably a political motive there. When I have looked at the cases we’ve talked about, I have seen strong investigations that have been done fairly.
“There are many people in the party who are Muslims who don’t recognise the allegations about Islamophobia.”
Ms Badenoch’s comments brought a rebuke from ex-Conservative chair Sayeeda Warsi, who has repeatedly accused her party of failing to act on a “simmering anti-Muslim underbelly of Islamophobia”.
Baroness Warsi, who was the first female Muslim to attend cabinet, posted on Twitter: “There was a time we denied racism existed within our party, there was a time we denied homophobia was deep rooted – we now deny Islamophobia
“A lot Conservatives get [it] right but sadly we always find ourselves on the wrong side of history when it comes to the right of minorities.”
Ms Badenoch’s comments echo those of Home Secretary Sajid Javid, who has also rejected the MCB’s call for an independent inquiry.
He claimed in June the MCB “does not represent Muslims in this country” and highlighted how the government refuses to engage with the group due their members’ “favourable comments on extremists”.
The MCB responded to Mr Javid at the time by accusing him of a “smear” attempt and of trying to “shoot the messenger” rather than address their “serious concerns”.
The national umbrella body for Muslim organisations has more than 500 mosques, educational and charitable associations affiliated to it, according to its website.
Harun Khan, MCB Secretary General, said: “Rather than deal with the increasing reality of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, we are now accustomed to seeing Conservative MPs and representatives refuse to deal with the issue and instead choose to shoot the messenger. This kind of treatment is not meted out to other faith communities.
“We are a non-partisan organisation representing the views of Muslim communities, who wants all our parties to be free of Islamophobia and racial prejudice.
“Many Muslims belonging to the Conservative Party have also highlighted Islamophobia in that party. All political parties must be serious in dealing with bigotry and hatred, including the Conservative Party.”