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UK Politics

Is the Right-Wing Media Wilfully Ignoring Tory Islamophobia?

 4 min read / 

The media landscape of Britain has decided its political focus is on the antisemitism that is rife in the Labour party, which has wreaked havoc on Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead. The row between Labour and the Jewish communities has dominated headlines across the mainstream newspapers, putting Corbyn into a corner. The national newspapers are predominantly right-wing, with the Guardian and the Daily Mirror being the exception. It is, therefore, no surprise that the media’s position that it is an independent messenger of the news has been questioned. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has pushed for an urgent inquiry into increasing Islamophobia within the Conservative party. This has not been talked about as much as the left’s mishandlings, but it further proves the media’s biased scope on news.

Conservative Islamophobia

Last week, Conservative peer Baroness Warsi supported the MCB’s call for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the governing party. The MCB also had the support of approximately 250 mosques, with the anti-Muslim sentiment within the Conservative party finally being noticed. The 2016 London mayoral election between Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith was a period where attacks on Islam were prevalent. Goldsmith’s combative approach saw him accuse Khan of being a pawn for religious extremists. He wrote in the Mail on Sunday that Khan’s candidacy ‘repeatedly legitimised those with extremist views’. The language and personal insults against Khan’s ethnic and religious identity were incendiary. Although obvious, it is shameful that it did not receive the infamy it deserved, particularly when the right-wing press chose to ignore it. The racial rhetoric in the 2016 campaign has surfaced once more under the MCB, along with other attacks by Conservatives on the country’s Muslim communities.

At the beginning of June, two Conservative councillors were suspended for anti-Muslim speech. Linda Freedman, a Conservative councillor for Barnet, came under fire for tweeting in response to a Washington Post article by voicing her support for the detention of Muslims. The constituency of Barnet is a Jewish heartland that Labour failed to take from the Tories in the last local elections. Although antisemitism is endemic in the internal goings-on of the party, there should be no place for Islamophobia in a council that is part of an ethnically-diverse international city. The Jewish population of Barnet chose, through their democratic right, not to support Corbyn. That does not mean the Conservatives should come off lightly for their own part in hate speech.

Left-Wing Antisemitism and Right-Wing Islamophobia

Furthermore, former Mayor of Lowestoft and member of Waveney District Council, Stephen Ardley, has faced hostility for his racism. He is believed to have said he finds it ‘unbelievable’ that London elected a Muslim mayor, then goes on to say all voters who supported Khan were ‘blind’. He, like Freedman, has been suspended in the Conservatives’ recent quest for zero tolerance against hate speech. However, these stories have not made headline news. The media’s condemnation of Labour’s antisemitism does not equate with their criticism of Tory Islamophobia. The Rupert Murdoch conglomerate that runs most of the newspapers is chaired by a vociferous supporter of conservative values. It is fair to suggest their biased reporting is becoming more prominent in times of political unrest.

As the inquiry gets under way, the media need to take notice and expose the attacks on a community already vilified by far-right groups. Attacks on Muslims are inherently dangerous to a country that prides itself on multiculturalism and democracy. What is even more dangerous is the media’s decision to turn a blind eye to the problem. All racism is wrong and any form of it should be lambasted. The press has a duty to report stories for the general public’s interest. Political tribalism flourishes under an unfair media landscape and makes polarisation the norm.

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