Amid a growing problem of anti-Islamic sentiment within the U.K.’s ruling party, the launch of an independent review by the Conservatives into discrimination against Muslims has received criticism over the party’s choice to lead the investigation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had previously promised an investigation specifically into Islamophobia in his party, but the remit was later broadened to include all forms of discrimination in a move derided by critics.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has previously accused the Conservative Party of "denial, dismissal and deceit" and having a "blind spot" over Islamophobia. Johnson denied the charges, but the Conservative Party has previously been forced to suspend local councilors for making anti-Muslim comments.
The figure appointed to lead the examination is Swaran Singh, a former commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the U.K. body that is currently investigating the opposition Labour Party for anti-Semitism. Former Conservative Party Chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi, however, is a vocal critic of anti-Muslim behavior within her party, and not only criticized the watering down of the investigation's remit, which she and other critics view as a way to divert focus from Islamophobia. Warsi and the Muslim body also have reservations over the choice of Singh to lead the investigation.
The U.K. has recorded a 375% increase in anti-Muslim attacks weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s racist remarks, which called veil-wearing women “letterboxes” and “bank robbers,” according to a report released in September by the civil society group Tell MAMA. Johnson himself was accused of Islamophobia on the campaign trail. The anti-hate monitor reported in the same month that 38 hate attacks against Muslims were recorded in the week after Johnson’s remarks were published in The Daily Telegraph in August, compared to eight incidents the week prior.
The MCB has repeatedly urged the Conservative Party leadership to tackle the issue of Islamophobia within the party and investigate Tories' accusations of Islamophobia. Racist comments by Tory party members and councilors have been found online, with some calling for the bombing of mosques and others making racist comments about London Mayor Sadiq Khan and former Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
According to the report, it was the second-largest spike in anti-Muslim attacks, with the first one taking place in March 2018 when a British man sent “Punish a Muslim Day” letters across the U.K., urging people to commit violence against Muslims, detailing a point system for each action and a reward. The letter called on people to attack Muslims in the form of verbal abuse or physical assaults, for example, by removing women's headscarves or throwing acid on them.