Exclusive: Over 100 Mosques Sign Letter Demanding U.K. Watchdog Investigate Conservative Party for Islamophobia

Over a hundred mosques and 40 high profile Muslim organizations have signed a letter demanding that the U.K.'s equalities watchdog investigate the Conservative Party over allegations of Islamophobia, accusing it of a "dereliction of responsibilities" to British Muslims.

In the letter, the mosques and organizations criticize the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), an independent body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of equality and non-discrimination laws in England, for "exposing an already vulnerable British Muslim community to greater discrimination" and of "failing to fulfill its remit".

Signed by 106 mosques in England and Scotland, including Glasgow Central Mosque, Waltham Forest Council of Mosques and Finsbury Park Mosque, as well as organizations including the Halal Monitoring Committee, it tells the EHRC that they are "greatly concerned at the failure of EHRC to fulfill its remit and carry out an investigation of Islamophobia allegations within the Conservative Party."

A dossier of more than 300 allegations of Islamophobia by Tory party members was submitted to the equality watchdog in March by the Muslim Council of Britain, including some made against Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Conservative Party is currently undertaking its own investigation into "all forms of prejudice".

The letter goes on to accuse the equalities watchdog of a conflict of interest.

EHRC chairman David Isaac works for legal firm Pinsent Masons, a company that does some work on behalf of the government. The EHRC says that "strict professional rules governing conflicts of interest" are followed and he is not involved in, nor paid for, government projects.

Yunus Dudhwala, an Imam at Quwwatul Islam Masjid, said he had added his name to the letter because he "wanted all communities to be treated equally."

Boris Johnson, Islamophoia allegations
The EHRC has been criticized for not launching an investigation into allegations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party Getty

He told Newsweek: "There have been a catalog of incidents one after the other. I remember very clearly the campaign against [Mayor of London and a Muslim] Sadiq Khan, then you've got MPs who are tweeting or retweeting Islamophobic messages, you've got the prime minister who mentioned about letterboxes [when talking about how some Muslim women look], so there are so many incidents that there has to be some accountability.

"It's the accountability that's key.

"I think it's important for all communities to feel that they are being treated the same and being treated fairly, nobody is asking for favors, every community should be treated the same and if there were a catalog of anti-Semitic messages that were sent from Labour party members then the EHRC rightly investigated them and the same should happen to the Conservative Party.

"At the moment it's one rule for one and another rule for the other."

The EHRC is investigating Labour, the opposition party, for allegations of antisemitism, the first time it had investigated a mainstream political party since its inception in 2006.

The difference, according to the EHRC, is because the Conservatives announced its own investigation but Labour did not.

The Conservative Party has been dogged by allegations of Islamophobia, especially since the run-up to the 2019 general election.

A report compiled by the campaign group Hope Not Hate, an anti-racism advocacy group in the U.K., showed anti-Muslim online comments made by Tory members, including six councilors.

The Tories suspended all of those who were party members.

In April 2019, Buzzfeed News published a list of 20 party members who had made comments calling Muslims "muzz rats" and "subhuman scum".

A poll of Conservative Party members in June 2019, carried out by polling organization YouGov for Hope Not Hate, found that nearly half would prefer not to have a Muslim prime minister and more than two-thirds of members believe that parts of the UK are under sharia law.

It had a total sample size of 864 adults, carried out online, was weighted and representative of all GB adults.

During the Conservative Party leadership campaign in 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, committed to holding a specific inquiry into Islamophobia among party members.

He instead decided to launch an investigation into all forms of prejudice, a move criticized by the MCB, who accused the party of "refusing to acknowledge that there can be bigotry and prejudice directed at Muslims."

Since then, the party has set out its scope of an independent investigation, with Amanda Milling MP, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, saying: "The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind. It is why we are committed to this investigation, to ensure that any abuse that is not fit for public life is stamped out."

The EHRC has said that it would not be launching its own investigation into the Conservative Party at this stage.

It said: "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 Conservative Party investigation has been criticized by the MCB.

"By restricting the terms to an inquiry merely into the complaints received, the [Conservative] party is choosing to summarily dismiss all the issues of the toxic culture of racism that have been raised by the Muslim Council of Britain and many others," MCB Secretary-General Harun Khan said at the time.

The current letter signed by the imams also accuses the EHRC of a conflict of interest.

It states: "Some of the EHRC's board members' external posts are raising concerns of conflict of interest. Suzanne Baxter, a board member of EHRC has taken up a position at Pinsent Masons, a corporate law firm that represents the Conservative government."

It also goes on to claim that David Isaac, chairman of the EHRC, also benefits from Pinsent Masons, with a salary of "£620,000 a year", claims that the EHRC categorically denies.

A spokesperson for the EHRC said: "We are an independent regulator and take our impartiality very seriously. We have robust procedures and policies in place to manage conflicts of interests or perceived conflicts of interests.

"Since taking up his role as Chair, David Isaac has not been involved in or profited from any work for government departments or political parties. As a non-executive board member, Suzanne Baxter is not involved in the day-to-day activity of Pinsent Masons' work and she does not receive profit or bonuses for any client work."

The law firm Pinset Masons also rejected claims of a conflict of interest and echoed the comments of the EHRC.

A spokesperson at Pinsent Masons said: "We operate in accordance with strict professional rules governing conflicts of interest and take appropriate measures to identify any potential legal conflicts at all times.

"We can confirm that no legal conflict of interest arises by reason of David Isaac's Chairmanship of the EHRC with other members of the firm carrying out work on behalf of the UK Government."

The legal firm did not respond to questions about Isaac's pay.

The letter signed by the mosques has been organized by Friends of Al Aqsa, which describes itself as a U.K. based non-profit NGO concerned with defending the human rights of Palestinians and protecting the sacred al-Aqsa Sanctuary in Jerusalem.

Its founding chairman, Ismail Patel has previously been criticized for claiming that Hamas was not a terrorist organization.

In 2009 during the bombing of Gaza by Israel, Patel told a rally: "Hamas is no terrorist organization. The reason they hate Hamas is because they refuse to be subjugated, occupied by the Israeli state, and we salute Hamas for standing up to Israel."

However, he has rejected claims he has links to the group and told the Jewish Chronicle that Hamas had been guilty of "terrible stuff" throughout its history.

He told the news site: "To paraphrase my speech, I argued Hamas was defending the people of Gaza and without them Israel would have destroyed them. You will not find me talking about Hamas either before or after that speech."

The Conservative party, Nadine Dorries, Bob Blackman and Dan Hannan have been contacted separately for comment.

What does the letter say in full?


David Isaac and the Board of Equality Human Rights Commission:

We the undersigned Imams and organisations are greatly concerned at the failure of EHRC to fulfil its remit and carry out an investigation of Islamophobia allegation within the Conservative Party.

It is unacceptable for an independent statutory body whose responsibility [1] encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination" to opt out from investigating allegation. It is further unsatisfactory for the EHRC to remain on the side line and simply monitor [2] the Conservative party carry out its own internal and self-appointed investigation.

The allegations against the Conservative Party members are extremely serious, with Muslim Council of Britain indicating 300 cases that were submitted to you in March. The media [3] has also reported numerous cases of Conservative politicians expressing Islamophobic views that require an independent investigation. This includes Nadine Dorries MP [4], Bob Blackman MP [5], former MEP Daniel Hannan [6] and racist posts on social media by more than 30 [7] current and former councillors.

Further, some of the EHRC's board members' external posts are raising concerns of conflict of interest. Since Suzanne Baxter, a board member of EHRC has taken up a position at Pinsent Masons, a corporate law firm that represents the Conservative government. It is also alleged you, Mr David Isaac benefit from Pinset Masons with a salary of £620,000 a year [8].

The Islamophobia allegations are in the backdrop of 47% of all religious hate crime in 2018/19 [9] being targeted against Muslims.

For the EHRC to deny investigating Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, with the general rising rate of Islamophobia is a dereliction of responsibilities that is exposing an already vulnerability British Muslim community to greater discrimination.

We therefore call upon EHRC to immediately review its position and call for an investigation into the allegations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party. We also require assurances of impartiality for such an investigation.