• Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Unite to end race hatred, says Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan

By: Sarwar Alam

THE mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has told Eastern Eye he believes communities will come together to stand up against “politics of extremism, division and blame”.

His comments came amid an escalating row after Lee Anderson, the former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, last Saturday (24) claimed “Islamists had got control” of the London mayor.

Khan described Anderson’s remarks as “vile, racist, anti-Muslim and Islamophobic” and believed this type of rhetoric will have far-reaching consequences for all communities.

“Readers of Eastern Eye will know all too well that you don’t have to be Muslim to be the victim of anti-Muslim hate, racism or Islamophobia,” he said.

Nannette Youssef

“It’s a form of hatred and prejudice that extends to anyone perceived as being Muslim because of their dress, appearance or complexion – be they Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or any other faith.

“Often, it’s our most vulnerable who are targeted. That’s why it’s so important that with tensions running extremely high, we look out for one another, stand up against all forms of hate and work together to strengthen the bonds of trust between people of all faiths, races and backgrounds.

“There is no doubt that we are facing some very difficult times, with the politics of extremism, division and blame becoming more mainstream.

“But I remain hopeful – because I know that the decent majority in our city and country believe in the values of equality, openness and respect for one another, and these will always overcome the voices of fear, division and hatred.”

Conservative business minister Nus Ghani, senior backbencher Sajid Javid and Tory peer Gavin Barwell were among senior party members to condemn Anderson’s comments, with Lord Barwell calling them a “despicable slur”.

However, Khan, who became the first Muslim mayor of a Western capital when elected in London in 2016, lashed out at Rishi Sunak, saying he was “complicit in this sort of racism”, as the prime minister had failed to condemn Anderson’s remarks as Islamophobic or anti-Muslim.

Sunak refused to call Anderson’s comments Islamophobic, saying instead they were “wrong, ill-judged and unacceptable”.

Khan said on Monday (26), “Remarkably, Rishi Sunak released a statement yesterday (Sunday) on hatred in politics, but failed to mention anti-Muslim sentiment at all. Then his deputy, Oliver Dowden, repeatedly refused to accept that Anderson’s remarks were racist, anti-Muslim or Islamophobic. This speaks volumes.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi

“It shouldn’t be hard to call out comments that are so unambiguously ignorant, prejudiced and racist.

“Yet, those at the top of the Conservative government are stubbornly refusing to do so. It’s a tacit endorsement of anti-Muslim hatred and can only lead to the conclusion that anti-Muslim bigotry and racism are not taken seriously. Racism is racism and should always be called out, whichever minority it is targeted against. There can be no hierarchy,” the London mayor said.

“Depressingly, this is not a one-off incident, but another example of a pattern of behaviour that’s been increasingly infecting the Conservative party for years. We’ve seen many instances of blatant anti-Muslim hatred being promoted and tolerated from top to bottom of the party – from prime ministers and mayoral candidates to donors and those running to be MPs.”

Anderson’s comments come on the back of former home secretary Suella Braverman claiming that “the Islamists, the extremists and the anti-Semites are in charge now”.

Ex-prime minister Liz Truss said a “radical Islamic party” could win the Rochdale by-election, while former Conservative London mayoral candidate, Paul Scully, said there were “no-go areas” in Birmingham and east London because they had large Muslim populations.

A survey by Savanta in February showed that 29 per cent of Britons believed the Tories had a problem with Islamophobia, the most of any major British political party.

Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan told Eastern Eye he believes that the Conservative party is a “hotbed” for Islamophobia.

“Rishi Sunak may try to claim Islamophobia in the Conservative party is just the case of one bad apple by suspending Lee Anderson for his comments about the mayor of London, but there is reams and reams of evidence, including five examples from the last five days, that shows that the barrel is rotten to the core,” said Khan.

“Elected members of parliament propagating far-right tropes about Muslims being controlled by extremists and Muslims taking over the UK is shameful and brings the whole of parliament into disrepute.

“Words have consequences and the racism of senior members of the government’s party will have real world consequences for British Muslims in the coming weeks and months. After former prime minister Boris Johnson made racist remarks likening Muslim women to ‘bank robbers and letterboxes’, there was a 375 per cent increase in Islamophobic hate crime.

Rishi Sunak is facing criticism over his reaction to comments by former Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson

“The Conservative party has always been a hotbed of Islamophobia, but with the party set to lose the upcoming mayoral election in London and the next general election, it is clear they are scapegoating Muslims for their 14 years of failure.

“British Muslims deserve so much better from their government.”

Incidents of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have spiked dramatically across the UK amid increased polarisation since the outbreak of the war in Gaza last October.

Last Thursday (22), the charity Tell Mama reported that antiMuslim hate in the UK has gone up by 330 per cent in the four months up to February. There were 2,010 Islamophobic incidents between October 7 and February 7 – a steep rise from the 600 it recorded for the same period in the previous year. It is the largest number over four months since the charity began in 2011.

It recorded cases of physical assault, abusive behaviour, threats and acts of vandalism, with the largest proportion of incidents – 576 cases – taking place in London. Muslim women were targeted in two out of every three recorded incidents, it added.

Baroness Shaista Gohir, CEO of Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) said: “The escalating levels of anti-Muslim prejudice are creating an atmosphere of fear and anxiety within the Muslim community.

Afzal Khan

“In particular, many Muslim women feel less safe in their daily lives whether in public spaces, on public transport, at university or online. And negative attitudes towards them are sometimes extending into their workplaces or when accessing services.

“Despite Muslim women, particularly those who wear the headscarf, being possibly the most targeted group and consequently facing heightened risks, we feel the government is not sufficiently engaging with Muslim women’s groups in a proactive manner.”

Gohir added that the MWNUK had recently requested meetings with the home secretary and the minister for victims and safeguarding, Laura Farris MP, but were told that both have a “packed schedule of pre-existing diary commitments”.

Nannette Youssef, policy manager at the Runnymede Trust, said politicians needed to shoulder some of the blame for the rise in hate crime against Muslims.

“Rishi Sunak’s continued failure to acknowledge or apologise for the comments (of Lee Anderson and Suella Braverman) is systematic of politicians’ failing towards Muslim communities in the UK who will bear the brunt of this really unacceptable onslaught from public figures,” Youssef told Eastern Eye.

She criticised the prime minister for failing to mention the rise in Islamophobia in a statement he released last Sunday (25) when he stated “the explosion in prejudice and antisemitism since the Hamas attacks on the 7th of October are as unacceptable as they are un-British. Simply put anti-Semitism is racism”.

Rishi Sunak

“What Rishi is encouraging is a narrative that pits anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as competing interests. And that’s incredibly harmful. Both are forms of racism. Both rely on dangerous stereotypes and sow division, and both will result in direct violence and other structural discrimination against Muslim and Jewish communities,” she said.

“There’s no competition of interests here. Racism in all its forms is designed to fracture communities and throughout history has pitted one group against another, which is exactly what Rishi is doing.”

Former Conservative chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said her party sees Muslims as “fair game” and “convenient electoral campaign fodder”.

Warsi, who was a cabinet minister in David Cameron’s government, said Sunak needed to “find the language” to “call Islamophobia Islamophobia”.

She told the Guardian: “What is it about the prime minister that he can’t even call out anti-Muslim racism and anti-Muslim bigotry? Why can’t he just use those words?

“If you can’t call racism racism, if you can’t call anti-Semitism anti-Semitism, and if you can’t call Islamophobia Islamophobia, then how are we going to fix it?”

The first step for the government would be to define anti-Muslim prejudice, according to Sunder Katwala, director at the thinktank British Future

 

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