At last, the Tory Party has announced its inquiry into all forms of prejudice, which, we are assured, will include Islamophobia. It will be chaired by Professor Sarwan Singh, a former commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. But what on the face of it looks like a neat appointment - the Tories can’t be accused of being too White here - has already brought a backlash, due not least to Prof Singh’s back catalogue.
Out of the blocks almost as soon as the appointment had been made, Sayeeda Warsi made sure the world knew that she was not happy with Prof Singh as inquiry chair. “Ladies and Gentlemen I give you some views of the newly appointed Chairman of the ‘Independent review into all forms of discrimination and prejudice including Islamophobia’ [Conservatives] I will let you make your own mind up”.
Kashmir was one subject on which he had pontificated. “It is expedient to focus on the tragedy as one only of Kashmiri Muslims, since for many, Kashmiri Sikhs and Pandits don’t meet the criteria of victimhood … Kashmiri Hindus can’t be considered victims because they are, well, Hindus … Moreover, the Sikhs won’t claim victimhood”. There was more.
Sayeeda Warsi - called out sham inquiry
“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”. One can understand why Muslims might be concerned about his appointment.
And it got worse. “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”. Conflating “Jews” and “Israel”? Ri-i-i-ight.
Also highlighted by Sayeeda Warsi - given that Prof Singh has been given a platform by Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago, is this gem from Brendan O’Neill: “You cannot seriously compare anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Anti-Semitism is the oldest hatred and has killed millions of people. Islamophobia is a recently invented term that is mainly designed to shut down critical discussion about Islam”.
The same right-wing received wisdom about Islamophobia that Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips was spouting recently. In the article that caused the Board of Deputies of British Jews to censure the Jewish Chronicle.
Alleged Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson might think it was a jolly clever wheeze to have one of those brown people chair his inquiry into prejudice. But pandering to the alt-right by having a Spiked contributor as that chair has already backfired.
Small wonder that Harun Khan of the Muslim Council of Britain has concluded “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 … The appointment of Professor Singh does not instil huge confidence in the process”.
The Tories appear to be shaping their inquiry in order to get the result they want: to tell all those Scary Muslims™ that it’s their own fault. No surprise there, then.
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