Muslim council accuses Tories of 'denial and deceit' as party launches review into discrimination

PUBLISHED: 09:25 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:28 18 December 2019

Boris Johnson during the swearing in of Parliament. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire

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Boris Johnson during the swearing in of Parliament. Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA Wire .

HOC/JESSICA TAYLOR

The Tories have appointed a former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to head the party's promised review into its handling of complaints of discrimination and prejudice, including Islamophobia.

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The party said Professor Swaran Singh would look at how it could improve its procedures and ensure "any instances are isolated and that there are robust processes in place to stamp them out".

The Muslim Council of Britain has criticised the appointment and reiterated its calls to hold an inquiry specifically into Islamophobia within the party.

While Labour came under pressure during the election over its failure to deal with anti-Semitism, the Tories were accused by the Muslim Council of Britain of "denial, dismissal and deceit" when it came to Islamophobia.

The prime minister has been widely criticised for past remarks likening Muslim women who wear the veil to "bank robbers" and "letter boxes".

Johnson originally promised an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party when he was campaigning to be Tory leader last summer.

The commitment was later widened to cover all forms of discrimination and prejudice.

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Announcing the appointment of Prof Singh - currently the Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry at Warwick University - party chairman James Cleverly said they were committed to stamping out "unacceptable abuse".

"The Conservative Party has always worked to act swiftly when allegations have been put to us and there are a wide range of sanctions to challenge and change behaviour," he said.

"The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind and it is right to hold an independent review, so we can stamp out unacceptable abuse that is not fit for public life."

Muslim Council of Britain secretary general Harun Khan said: "This appointment is at risk of being seen in the same light as the Conservative Party's customary approach to Islamophobia, that of denial, dismissal and deceit.

"We were promised an independent inquiry into Islamophobia specifically. Now we have a review that aims to broaden the scope to examine discrimination more generally.

"A laudable aim if it were not for the fact that the Conservative Party is afflicted with a particular type of bigotry which it refuses to countenance.

"The appointment of Professor Singh does not instil huge confidence in the process."

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