Boris Johnson’s comments on women wearing the burqa have created the impression that the Tories are “impervious to Muslim communities”. This was the result of an independent review of alleged Islamophobia and discrimination in the Conservative Party.
The investigation found that anti-Muslim sentiment was seen at the local and individual levels, but claims of “institutional racism” were not corroborated by evidence of the way complaints were handled.
In a targeted message to Mr Johnson, the review led by Professor Swaran Singh said that the Conservative Party leadership “should set a good example of appropriate behavior and language”.
The prime minister was elected by an independent majority over a complaint he violated the party’s code of conduct, according to a Daily Telegraph column in 2018 that described Muslim women wearing the burqa as “mailboxes” and ” Bank robbers ”described, acquitted.
Mr Johnson said he apologized for any crime he committed in relation to journalism and told Prof. Singh’s investigation, “Would I use some of the offensive language from my earlier writings today?” Now that I’m prime minister, I wouldn’t. “
The PA News Agency’s Singh investigative report said several respondents who spoke to the investigation considered Mr Johnson’s language “discriminatory and unacceptable”.
In response to Mr Johnson’s assertion that he would not make such remarks now, the report said: “Although this could be viewed as exemplary, the research wishes to emphasize that the use of measured and appropriate language is not just for the elderly should be required. but should be expected across the Conservative Party. “
The investigation also examined the controversial and unsuccessful mayoral campaign led by Zac Goldsmith – now Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park – against Sadiq Khan in London in 2016, during which he accused his Muslim Labor rival of associating with extremists.
The report states that Lord Goldsmith “accepts poor judgment in the way his campaign was carried out, but strongly denies harboring anti-Muslim sentiments or using such sentiments for political gain”.
The report says that high profile cases such as those of Mr Johnson and Lord Goldsmith “give many the impression that the party and its leadership are impervious to Muslim communities”.
Prof. Singh told PA: “I am not saying that the party leadership is insensitive to Muslim communities. I am saying that the perception is very strong.”
The investigation by Prof. Singh, a former commissioner of the Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission, was initiated by the party after a series of allegations of Islamophobic behavior in the party and was extended to all forms of discrimination.
From 2015 to 2020, the party’s central database recorded 1,418 complaints relating to 727 incidents of alleged discrimination – an average of 237 complaints relating to 122 incidents per year in a party with 200,000 members.
More than two-thirds of the incidents – 496 cases – were related to Islam, and 74% of all cases involved social media activity.
Around a third of the cases – 231 – resulted in a sanction, with 50% resulting in suspension and 29% resulting in expulsion from the party.
No action was taken in 418 cases on grounds including complaint about someone who was not a party member, insufficient evidence, or prior investigation.
There was no evidence that Islam-related complaints were treated differently from complaints related to other forms of discrimination, and the panel found no evidence of attempts to exert pressure or interfering with the handling of individual complaints.
But Prof. Singh told PA the complaints process was “clunky, cumbersome and slow and not transparent”.
Former Tory chairman Baroness Warsi has accused the party of “institutional racism” and brought a dossier of 30 cases into the investigation.
The report said it had “scrutinized” the cases submitted by Lady Warsi, but “we concluded that her allegation of” institutional racism “against the party was not supported by evidence relating to the investigation the way the party was available to the complaints procedure “.
However, the report recognized that “anti-Muslim sentiment within the Conservative Party remains a problem”.
“While the party leadership claims a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to all forms of discrimination, our results show that discriminatory behaviors occur, particularly with respect to people of Islamic faith.”
However, the investigation did not reveal any evidence of a party that “systematically discriminated against a particular group”.
The review process was viewed with skepticism by some critics, and the Muslim Council of Britain warned that it would be whitewash.
But Prof. Singh said: “I hope that fair people who read the report will see that we are not afraid to criticize the party.
“Indeed, this will be very uncomfortable for the party, I hope it makes them uncomfortable, I hope it makes the grassroots uncomfortable and it also spurs them to action.”
In a message to Mr Johnson, Prof. Singh said, “As the leader of the Conservative Party, I would say lead by example and unequivocally accept our recommendations. Accept them unconditionally. Implement it and have someone oversee the implementation. “
The report called on the Tories to make major changes to the complaints process and to publish an action plan outlining how it would respond within six weeks, followed by a six-month progress report and a one-year review by an appropriate agency.
The party should review its social media rules within six weeks and develop training on “acceptable” online behavior within six months.
Within a year, the report said, the party should develop and implement a single mandatory code of conduct for all membership in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.