UK's Conservative party suspends 14 for Islamophobic comments

Racist and Islamophobic comments on social media prompt suspension of Conservative members pending an investigation.

    Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has been urging the prime minister to hold an independent inquiry on Islamophobia in the Conservative Party [Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency]
    Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has been urging the prime minister to hold an independent inquiry on Islamophobia in the Conservative Party [Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency]

    Fourteen members of Britain's Conservative Party are suspended after racist and anti-Islamic statements were posted on social media, UK newspapers reported.

    A list of comments made by those claiming to be Conservative Party members were compiled in a Twitter feed, included one that for Muslims to be "turfed out of public office", one for the UK government to "get rid of all mosques", and one with a photograph of a bulldozer with "free mosque removal service" written on it. 

    The dismissals came after Twitter user @MatesJacob called for retweets of the compilation, hoping they would be noticed by Conservative Party Chairman Brandon Lewis. 

    Former chair of the party, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said Islamophobia is an institutional problem for the Conservatives. She spoke following the reinstatement of a Conservative candidate after making "vile" Islamophobic comments.

    Candidate Peter Lamb, who was seeking election to Harlow District Council for the Conservatives during the local elections in May apologised on Twitter on Saturday after his social media posts about Muslims from a few years ago surfaced.

    Among them was a Twitter post from 2015 which read, "Islam like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem".

    The same year he tweeted, "Turkey buys oil from ISIS. Muslims sticking together!"

    A Conservative Party spokesperson told the PoliticsHome news website on Monday that Lamb had apologised for the remarks and was suspended from the party before later being reinstated.

    But following continued backlash, Lamb announced on Tuesday he had quit the party.

    "I deeply regret my remarks on social media. At no point did I intend to cause any offence to the Muslim community," Lamb wrote on Twitter.

    "I have reflected on my comments and decided that I should step down as a local election candidate and resign the Conservative party with immediate effect."

    Warsi responded on Twitter that the way the case was dealt with demonstrates that Islamophobia is an institutional problem.

    "The Party continued to support him and felt him an appropriate candidate to represent us in Harlow and that is why the problem is not just individuals, it's institutional Islamophobia," Warsi wrote.

    She had told PoliticsHome on Monday that "giving him what his local party chair calls a 'slap on the wrist' shows again this is not an issue confined to individuals but one that has gripped in the institution."

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    "I have been raising these issues for over three years and yet still the Party fails to act. We now have daily examples of the most vile racist and Islamophobic comments from both elected representatives and members and still the Party remains in denial."

    "And whilst the comments and actions of individuals are disturbing what's even more hurtful and worrying is my Party's complete lack of political will to even acknowledge the extent of the challenge we face. This rot is institutional," Warsi said, adding that she's been urging the prime minister and others to hold an independent Inquiry.

    She has since written to the party's chief executive Mick Davis urging him to "show leadership" as leader Theresa May and Chairman of the Conservatives Brandon Lewis have failed.

    Warsi was the first Muslim woman to become a member of the UK's cabinet and frequently speaks out about Islamophobia within the Tory Party.

    In an op-ed published on Saturday, Miqadaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, detailed the litany of unpunished bigotry from MPs over the years which is "no surprise from a party which seems to attract anti-Muslim racists".

    According to the latest report from advocacy group HOPE not hate, 49 percent of Conservative voters see Islam as a threat to the British way of life, and 47 percent believe the false conspiracy theory that there are no-go areas in the UK where Islamic law dominates.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News