Wednesday Dec 18 2019

UK govt appoints Islamophobia denier to probe Islamophobia

LONDON: 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.

The ruling 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".

It emerged that Profesor Swaran Singh himself has been expressing Islamophobic and anti-Kashmir Muslim views publicly.

In posts related to Kashmir, Professor Singh accused Kashmiri Muslims of driving other communities out of the area.

He wrote: “Indian Kashmir has now almost been cleansed of its non-Muslim population; my clan....has been without a home. Kashmiris, once famous for their pacifism, have turned against each other, and one community (Muslims) has driven the other two out of the land.”

In another post, he wrote: “It is expedient to focus on the tragedy as one only of Kashmiri Muslims, since for many, Kashmiri Sikhs & Pandits dont meet the criteria of victimhood

Kashmiri Hindus can’t be considered victims because they are, well, Hindus. Moreover, the Sikhs won’t claim victimhood.”

Writing for the Spiked recently, Professor Singh denied that Islamophobia is a reality. “You cannot seriously compare anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred and has killed millions of people. Islamophobia is a recent invented term that is mainly designed to shut down critical discussions about Islam.”

He further wrote: “Since India is SUPPOSEDLY in the grip of Hindu nationalists, any suffering Hindu group can be ignored, akin to the idea that Jews can only be oppressors because of the plight of Palestinians. The victimhood of Palestinians automatically places Jews in the oppressor box.”

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.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson 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.

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."

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) criticised the appointment of Professor Swaran Singh to lead a review into prejudice within the Tory party.

MCB secretary general Harun Khan said the appointment of the former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission "does not instill huge confidence" in the process.

"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," Mr Khan added.

"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."

On Wednesday, the former Tory Party Chairman and Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said her party's review into its handling of complaints of discrimination and prejudice does not look at how badly the problem has been dealt with.

The former co-chairwoman of the Conservative Party also said the appointment of Professor Swaran Singh to lead the review does not "bode well".

Baroness Warsi told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "So there's no look at what has actually gone on, there's no look at the extent of the cases, there's no detail of how bad the problem has been and how badly it's been dealt with.

"It's almost a sense of 'What's happened has happened, let's kind of move on from that, and let's just make sure we get it right in the future'."

She added: "Having read Swaran Singh's views, and I wasn't aware of him before yesterday's announcement, I'm afraid that it doesn't bode well."

Professor Swaran Singh said: “I am privileged to have been appointed to chair the independent review into improving handling of complaints of prejudice and discrimination in the Conservative Party.”