- The Conservative party “absolutely” does not have an Islamophobia problem, according to Nicky Morgan.
- The ex-Cabinet minister told Business Insider: “I have a significant Bangladeshi, Muslim population in my local constituency, and never have they said to me they don’t feel like the Conservative party is a party they can support…”
- The Tories suspended 14 members on Tuesday for discriminatory comments about Muslims posted on Facebook.
- The party’s former co-chair, Baroness Warsi, accused Theresa May of ignoring “institutional” Islamophobia.
- Morgan dismissed suggestions that the party is being taken over by extremists, telling BI: “It’s just not right.”
LONDON – Senior Conservative MP Nicky Morgan has rejected claims that her party has an Islamophobia problem, telling Business Insider: “I absolutely do not recognise it.”
Theresa May’s Conservatives have been beset by a race row this week after BuzzFeed reported that 14 party members were suspended on Tuesday for comments posted in a Facebook group dedicated to supporting MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
In the page – which is not officially affiliated to the party or Rees-Mogg – one of the suspended members said they did not want Home Secretary Sajid Javid to be prime minister as they would “not be voting for Islam to lead this country.”
Another described Muslims as “mussies” and said they would like to “get rid of all mosques,” while other comments posted in the group included “Islam must be banned from Europe” and “No Muslim PM for me.”
The former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was also embroiled in a race row last year after suggesting that Muslim women who wear the burqa look like “letter boxes” and “bank-robbers.”
Johnson refused to apologise and was investigated by party officials, but no action was taken against him. Two other current Conservative MPs, Bob Blackman and Nadine Dorries, were also accused last year of sharing Islamophobic messages online.
The party’s former co-chair, Baronessi Warsi, on Tuesday repeated her claim that the Conservatives have an “institutional” Islamophobia problem, after telling BI last year that the issue went “right up to the top” of the party.
“This rot is institutional and it’s why I have been urging the Prime Minister and others to hold an Independent Inquiry,” Warsi told Politics Home this week.
However, former Cabinet minister Morgan launched a stern defence of her party on Tuesday, dismissing claims that it has a problem with members being discriminatory towards Muslims.
“No. Not at all. I absolutely do not recognise it,” the ex-Education Secretary said.
“I understand that Sayeeda [Baroness Warsi] feels very passionately about this, and maybe it’s that her experiences are different from mine.
“But I have a significant Bangladeshi, Muslim population in my local constituency, and never have they said to me they don’t feel like the Conservative party is a party they can support because of people’s views on Islam or because they are Muslims.”
Morgan added: “It’s not something I recognise at all.”
Warsi has this week accused the prime minister of ignoring the issue.
“She doesn’t listen, she fails to acknowledge when there is a problem. It’s probably symptomatic of the way in which her leadership has dealt with other matters,” Warsi, who served in David Cameron’s government, told the BBC.
“Burying your head in the sand is not going to make problems go away.”
Party chairman Brandon Lewis responded to a tweet by Warsi defending the party’s handling of cases of alleged Islamophobia,posting: “…We have a clear process, we deal with all cases & have taken swift action.”
Rees-Mogg MP on Tuesday echoed Lewis, tweeting that his party had acted “swiftly” to suspend members who had posted discriminatory comments about Muslims.
A Conservative candidate quit the party this week after Politics Home unearthed comments he made about Muslims.
Peter Lamb, who was due to stand in the upcoming local elections, in 2015 said “Islam like alcoholism… The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem” and “Turkey buys oil from ISIS. Muslims sticking together.”
In her full interview with BI, which will be published on Thursday, Morgan dismissed suggestions that the Conservative party was being taken over by its far-right fringes and former supporters of UKIP.
“I don’t subscribe to this view that the far-right is somehow in control of the Conservative party from top to toe,” she said.
“It’s just not right,” she said.
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