Sunak ignores Islamophobia appeal, criticised for Prevent plan

Rishi Sunak has not responded to letters from a parliamentary group demanding action to combat Islamophobia, while his rival Liz Truss says she will take ‘a zero tolerance approach to Islamophobia,’ the Independent reports.

The former chancellor has already been criticised for downplaying far-right extremism and for wanting to refer people who “vilify” Britain to the government’s controversial Prevent programme as “extremists.”

Sunak and Truss were sent letters by Afzal Khan, the vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims.

The letter, sent last week and seen by the Independent, called on the leadership contenders to act on Islamophobia and commit to publishing the investigation into Tory MP Nus Ghani’s claims that she was sacked as a minister because of her “Muslimness.”

Last week, Boris Johnson said the investigation will be delayed until his successor is appointed.  

READ: ‘No, the Conservative Party leadership contest is not a victory for diversity’

Letter from Afzal Khan

“When a Muslim woman raises a direct experience of Islamophobic discrimination at the heart of government and her party, those allegations should be treated with the seriousness it deserves,” Khan wrote in the letter to the two leadership hopefuls.

“It is a depressing reality that Islamophobia has permeated into mainstream politics.

“Islamophobia has real-life implications for the Muslim community here in the UK, and as political representatives it is our responsibility to safeguard all of our communities, no matter their race, religion or background.

“I hope, should you become prime minister, you will take tangible steps in rooting out this insidious hatred which threatens our British values.”

Khan also warned that a separate review published by the Conservative Party was a “damning indictment of the prevalence of Islamophobia” and urged the pair to work on an official definition of Islamophobia that the Tories promised back in 2019.

The government said it will come up with its own definition having so far rejected the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia, which has been accepted by over 800 organisations and most major political parties

According to the Independent, neither Truss nor Sunak have responded to the letters, and Sunak’s representatives did not give the paper a comment.

A Liz for Leader campaign source told the paper: “As prime minister, Liz Truss will take a zero tolerance approach to Islamophobia.”

Criminalising people who ‘vilify’ Britain

Earlier in the week, in a bid to turn around his failing leadership campaign by appealing to right-wing members of his party, Sunak said he would extend the definition of ‘extremism’ to include people who ‘vilify’ Britain.

“There is no more important duty for a prime minister than keeping our country and our people safe. Whether redoubling our efforts to tackle Islamist extremism or rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country, I will do whatever it takes to fulfil that duty,” he said.

Sunak was widely criticised for the comments, seen as something that would target minorities and Muslims, especially given that he failed to mention anything about the far-right threat.  

During the Welsh leadership hustings, Sunak doubled down on his plans for Prevent and continued to downplay the far-right threat.

“Of course, far-right extremism is important and we should tackle it, but it is just nowhere near as pervasive as the threat from Islamist extremism,” said Sunak.

His comments come as a report in the Guardian highlights the concerns teachers have about far-right radicalisation in UK schools.

The paper says some pupils actively seek out far-right material online, while others are stumbling across it while researching for homework.

Figures released by the Home Office last year showed that twice as many white people had been arrested for terror offences in Britain compared to Asians, raising further concerns about the increasing threat of far-right extremism.

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