Islamophobia ‘Remains a Problem’ in Johnson’s U.K. Tory Party

Boris Johnson’s derogatory comments about women wearing the Islamic burqa have given an impression his ruling Conservatives are “insensitive to Muslim communities,” and Islamophobia “remains a problem” in the party, an independent review found.

Johnson’s comments have contributed directly to the problem in the Tory party, according to the final report of the inquiry published Tuesday. It also criticized Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 campaign for London Mayor, in which he accused Labour’s Muslim candidate Sadiq Khan of associating with extremists.

Judging by the extent of complaints and findings of misconduct, “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem” within the party, Swaran Singh, a professor of social and community psychiatry at Warwick University who led the inquiry, said in the report. Though the party structure means discrimination is often carried out at a local level, senior Tories “ought to set a good example for appropriate behaviors and language,” he wrote.

Johnson apologized for “any offense taken” over his 2018 Telegraph newspaper column, telling Singh’s investigation: “Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am prime minister, I would not.”

Johnson used the column to argue against a ban on the burqa, but said the garment made wearers look like “letter boxes.” The comments triggered a backlash including among senior Tories, coming with the party still facing criticism over the so-called Windrush affair, when it emerged immigrants with the right to live in the U.K. had been deprived of benefits or even deported.

The report also found:

  • From 2015 to 2020, the Conservative Party’s central database recorded 1,418 complaints concerning 727 incidents of alleged discrimination. The party has 200,000 members
  • Two-thirds of all incidents reported related to allegations of anti-Muslim discrimination
  • Three-quarters of the incidents involved social media activity

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