A new report has found huge levels of dissatisfaction and distrust in the Labour Party by its own Muslim members and supporters.
The report, commissioned by the Labour Muslim Network, found that 46% of Muslim members and supporters believe the Labour Party does not represent the Muslim community effectively, whereas only 29% feel that it does.
The survey also found that 59% of Muslim members and supporters do not feel “well represented by the leadership of the Labour Party.” And 55% said they do not “trust the leadership of the Labour Party to tackle Islamophobia effectively.”
Other key insights include:
- 29% of Muslim Labour members and supporters have directly experienced Islamophobia in the Party, and 37% have directly witnessed Islamophobia within the Party.
Common trends include accusations of “planned takeovers” when Muslims participate at a local level, stereotypes of “grooming gangs,” a disproportionate expectation on Muslim members to condemn violence and insults using terms such as “terrorist” and “foreigners.”
- 44% do not believe the Labour Party takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously.
The most consistent trend informing this position was the belief that there exists a hierarchy of racism in the Labour Party. There was considerable concern from many respondents that the Muslim experience with racism sat at the very bottom of Labour’s priorities.
- 48% of Muslim members and supporters do not have confidence in the Labour Party complaints procedure to deal with Islamophobia effectively.
Examples of comments from respondents:
“My complaint has not been dealt with to this day despite being submitted a year ago.”
“I have complained to the Labour Party complaints but have not heard back.”
“I didn’t bother to submit a complaint, at the time I was the BAME Officer in the CLP and the other office holders were un-supportive to say the least.”
“The complaints are still being investigated almost one year later.”
- 46% of Muslim members and supporters disagreed with the statement “I believe the Labour Party represents the Muslim community effectively.” Compared to 29% that agreed.
The adoption of particular policy positions affecting Muslims, decisions on foreign policy stances and a history going back to the War on Terror were all trends the study found that may help explain the feelings expressed.
The perceived change in policy relating to Kashmir early in 2020 is a particular example which caused considerable hurt and distress amongst Muslim members and supporters. Similarly, many members and supporters raised the ongoing political crisis in Palestine as an area of great hurt and anxiety.
Additionally, on matters of domestic policy, positions on counter-terrorism strategy – and particularly the Prevent program – were raised by members as causes of concern.
The LMN Islamophobia survey of 676 respondents was conducted over a two-month period (July and August 2020). Members were posed 12 questions ranging from personal experiences within the Labour Party to perceptions of the party priorities overall.
The report recommended that the Labour Party should:
- Make a commitment to equality for Muslims in the fight for anti-racism
- Develop a comprehensive Islamophobia training programme to be rolled out in conjunction with LMN, the Muslim Council of Britain and other Muslim organisations
- Adopt the APPG definition on Islamophobia
- Publish a handbook educating Labour members on Islamophobia
- Implement a new complaints procedure
Labour Muslim Netwiork chair Afzal Khan MP said: “It is at the core of our Labour Party values to promote equality, social justice and opportunity for all. Labour has a long history of championing the rights of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people across our country. But there’s still a long way to go — and we’ll only get there if all our voices are heard.
“Shockingly, the key findings from this report highlight the disconnect between Labour and its Muslim members, with 56% holding the view that the shadow cabinet team does not represent the Muslim community effectively and 55% do not trust the leadership to tackle Islamophobia effectively. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our Muslim membership is being well represented and we must take swift action to tackle Islamophobia within our own ranks.
“I find it deeply saddening to learn that 48% of Muslim members do not have confidence in the Labour Party complaints procedure to deal with Islamophobia effectively. Whilst the Labour Party has enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Muslim community for decades, we cannot take their support for granted. The Labour Party must commit to a zero tolerance of Islamophobia and rebuild confidence with its Muslim members.”
Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner said in a joint statement: “We thank Labour Muslim Network for this important report, as well as their work to ensure our Muslim members are represented, included and heard. Islamophobia has no place in our party or society and we are committed to rooting it out. We look forward to working with LMN to implement their recommendations and will be meeting with them to discuss the next steps in tackling the scourge of Islamophobia.”