The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it will not investigate claims of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.
An EHRC spokesperson said on Tuesday that they took the decision because the Tories have already said they will investigate complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination.
“We have given very careful consideration to complaints raised about discrimination and Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. We have concluded, in the light of the decision by the Party to institute an independent investigation, that it would not be proportionate to initiate our own investigation at this stage.
“We will be monitoring the review and requiring the party to provide regular updates on progress. If we are not satisfied with progress or how the investigation is conducted we will review our decision and do not rule out the use of our legal powers.”
The decision immediately provoked a backlash from Muslim groups, especially in light of the EHRC investigating the Labour Party’s handling of alleged antisemitism within its ranks.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission said: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission has failed the Muslim community by deciding not to formally investigate the Conservative Party over widespread and persistent allegations of Islamophobia…
“IHRC notes the glaring discrepancy in the EHRC’s treatment of the Labour Party over allegations of anti-Semitism and its latest decision. Last year the EHRC launched a probe into Labour after receiving allegations that anti-Semitism was rife in the party.
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“As it is the party of government, Islamophobia in the Conservative Party affects stands to affect every single one of Britain’s three million Muslims. By leaving a party which has effectively fanned the flames of Islamophobia in Britain to police itself, the EHRC is effectively failing in its duty to protect Britain’s Muslims. Behaving selectively in its treatment of minorities makes the EHRC unfit for purpose and part of the problem of racism in our society, not a solution.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain branded the Conservative investigation into prejudice and discrimination “a facade” following the publication of the terms of reference into the inquiry.
The Tory inquiry was due to look specifically into the problem of Islamophobia in the party but now it has limited its focus into only looking at the way in which the party handles complaints of prejudice and discrimination, instead of the issue of racism itself.
Harun Khan, MCB Secretary General, said: “We have previously described the Conservative Party’s attitude to Islamophobia as one of denial, dismissal and deceit. The publication of the terms of reference for its inquiry reflects that regrettable attitude. They are a façade to hide the hundreds of incidences of Islamophobic bigotry we have identified in its ranks. In sum, it seems even today, the Conservative Party refuses to acknowledge that there can be bigotry and prejudice directed at Muslims.”
The MCB also took issue with the appointment of Professor Swaran Singh to chair the inquiry, as he has written for Spiked magazine despite it being well-known for its hostile views on Muslims, including downplaying the Srebrenica genocide, calling Islamophobia a myth and even undermining the fight against hate crime.
Harun Khan added: “This inquiry appears aimed at deceiving the public and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission that the problem is being looked into, when in reality the majority of the issue has already been dismissed, and the person tasked with doing the investigation is mired in controversy, making claims of true independence hard to justify.
“Whilst it is clear that Islamophobia is not treated equally to other forms of racism in the public domain including by many public bodies, we still hold out hope that many will see through this facade, and we can – sooner rather than later – have a true independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Party.”
The MCB previously submitted a dossier of 300 cases to the EHRC regarding alleged Islamophobia, including allegations against prominent MPs and special advisers.
And in an investigation by The Guardian, dozens of former and current Conservative councillors were found to have referred to Muslims as “barbarians” and “the enemy within”, and called for mosques to be banned.
The party suspended councillors who were still members and said it would open an investigation.