The theory of zero-tolerance

Safya Khan-Ruf - 29 11 19

Conservative MP Bob Blackman has a history of Islamophobic posts and of stoking division between Muslims and Hindus. He is one of the many members of the party that the Conservatives have failed to expel. 

 The twitter feed of Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East, is unremarkable for an election season, widely sprinkled with smiling campaigning images and anti-Labour messaging.

What’s more surprising is that Blackman was kept by the Conservative party at all, considering Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim this week that the Tories have a “zero-tolerance” approach to Islamophobia (despite his own comments referring to Muslim women as “letter boxes”).

Blackman has a long history of anti-Muslim comments and postings. Last year he shared a story titled “Muslim Somali sex gang say raping white British children ‘part of their culture’. In the same year, VICE revealed he was part of several far-right and Islamophobic Facebook groups: “Britain for the British”, “For Britain Political Party” and “Pendragons Fight Back”. The first is administered by British National Party supporter, Steven Devlin, and includes comments praising Hitler and wishing violence on the Muslim Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is described as a “traitor” and “Islamofascist”.

“I was completely unaware I had been added to these groups, I never participated in them and immediately removed myself from them when I became aware I had been added without my knowledge or permission. I would never have knowingly joined such groups and I condemn their views,” Blackman told VICE.

He said he also made an error when he retweeted an article by notorious Islamophobe Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) in February 2016, about Muslim violence against Hindus. According to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) spokesperson Miqdaad Versi, Blackman failed to undo this retweet for three weeks after the Times reported on it. 

A Jewish Chronicle article in 2015, ironically titled “Standing firm for the surburban minorities”, has Blackman describing himself as a “Chrinjew – a Christian with Jewish roots, and an honorary Hindu”.

Two years later, Blackman, whose Twitter banner is the image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, twice hosted Indian Hindu nationalist Tapan Ghosh in the Houses of Parliament. Ghosh, a far-right figure who has called all Muslims “jihadis” and defended the genocide of the Rohingya community in Burma, was given star billing at a ‘Tolerating The Intolerant’ event in the House of Commons, organised by the National Council of Hindu Temples. Ghosh has appeared on Tommy Robinson’s YouTube channel, called for the UN to control Muslim birthrates and claimed on Twitter that “1 million white English children may have been the victims of Muslim rape gangs”. Ghosh earlier on, had rubbed shoulders with several Cabinet members at a Diwali event, including Priti Patel, Damian Green, Sajid Javid, and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. HOPE not hate condemned the invitation.

Blackman isn’t, by far, the only Conservative member to have been linked to Islamophobia. In March, the Guardian revealed how 15 Conservative councillors who were suspended over posting Islamophobic or racist content online had their membership quietly reinstated. Some had described Saudis as “sand peasants” or shared material comparing Asian people to dogs. In April, the Guardian again exposed how two Conservative local election candidates and a woman honoured with an MBE were among 40 new self-professed Tory members who shared or endorsed racist and inflammatory Facebook posts, including Islamophobic material. This time, Muslims had been described as “bin-bag-wearing individuals”, there had been calls for the “cult” of Islam to be banned and the Qur’an had been branded an “evil book”. 

Johnson has been criticised after he rowed back on a commitment he made during the Tory leadership contest to hold an investigation into anti-Muslim sentiment in his party, instead broadening the inquiry out to consider “all types of prejudice”. With the Conservative failing to adequately tackle Islamophobia within their ranks, this election season is creating a potent hate mix that certain politicians appear to be exploiting for political gain.


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