Newport Mosque
Newport Mosque

Westminster Hall Debate on Muslim Community in Wales

Wednesday 23rd February 2022

I want to first congratulate the honourable member for Newport West for securing this important debate.

I also want to recognise the invaluable work and contributions made by the Muslim community in Wales, and indeed all our faith communities across the UK.

The APPG on British Muslims most recent report showcased the incredible and selfless contributions made by Muslims during the pandemic.

The Muslim Council of Wales carried out excellent work with local mosques in Wales, providing essential supplies in their districts. A great illustration of Islamic teachings in practise.

As a Muslim I lean toward my faith in times of hardship, for spiritual guidance and most importantly it teaches me core principles and values such as empathy, stewardship, equality and fairness, which I strive to implement in my work as an MP.

But it is with great sadness and regret to know that Islamophobia is rampant in our society and beyond. It manifests in violent hate crimes, targeted discrimination, and loss of opportunity for many Muslims.

The Government’s own figures reveal, once again, that Muslims have been victim to the highest proportion of all hate crimes committed this past year in England and Wales.

It is no surprise then that our major political parties are not immune from the stain of Islamophobia.

The Labour Muslim Network into Islamophobia report was a difficult and sobering read. It outlined that 1 in 4 have directly experienced Islamophobia in the Labour Party.

As Chair of the Labour Muslim Network, I had encouraging meetings with the General Secretary, the leadership, and the Chair of the Party to take swift action. All recommendations from the report were agreed to be implemented, and last year the Labour Party introduced a new Code of Conduct in the handling of internal complaints on Islamophobia. By approving the new independent complaints process, the Labour Party acted decisively and showed that Labour is – and always will be – the party of equality.

We were also one of the first to adopt the APPG on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia, which has the confidence of more than 800 organisations and has also been adopted by the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, the Green party and even the Scottish Conservatives, as well as the Mayors of London and Greater Manchester and hundreds of councils across the country. I applaud the aforementioned for taking this positive step.

Defining and naming a problem is the first step in rooting it out.

All that stands in stark contrast to the Conservative party which has repeatedly shown it is in denial about Islamophobia through its failure to accept the definition proposed by the APPG, its failure to conduct a truly independent investigation, its failure to implement the recommendations of the Singh review and its failure to appoint Government advisers on the issue. What concerns me is that the Tory party has an institutional problem.

In light of the shocking account that the honourable member for Wealden gave about her own experiences of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party, these institutional failings are clear for all to see.

When a Muslim woman raises a direct experience of Islamophobic discrimination at the heart of Government and her party, those allegations must be treated with the utmost seriousness and investigated immediately. This is by no means an isolated incident. Former Conservative MEP, Sajjad Karim detailed his own experiences of Islamophobia and despite raising it with the Party, he’s still waiting for a response 2 years later. This is hardly a “zero-tolerance” approach.

The Singh Review published last year revealed the extent of institutional failings within the Conservative Party in its handling of Islamophobia complaints. The Review was also a damning indictment of the prevalence of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party.

The terms of reference were widely criticised for being too narrow and the review itself failed to engage with any Conservative Muslim Parliamentarians.

Will the Minister commit to implementing the recommendations of the Singh investigation in full?

Will the Minister also now follow in the footsteps of the Labour Party and take tangible steps to tackle Islamophobia in Wales and the rest of the UK?

Adopting the APPG definition is a good starting place.

And can the Minister finally deliver his Party’s promise to conduct a truly independent investigation into the Conservative Party, demonstrating that the Government takes the issue of Islamophobia seriously?

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