UK leadership candidates commit to anti-Islam inquiry into Conservatives

There have been extensive accusations of Islamophobia in the ruling party

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart appear on BBC TV's debate with candidates vying to replace British PM Theresa May, in London, Britain June 18, 2019. Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. NOT FOR USE MORE THAN 21 DAYS AFTER ISSUE.
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The five candidates to become UK prime minster have committed to an external inquiry into Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative Party.

They were asked to do so during a live debate on TV by Muslim-born home secretary Sajid Javid.

"Do you all agree, guys? Shall we have an external investigation into the Conservative Party on Islamophobia? Excellent, they agree,” he said.

There have been extensive accusations of anti-Islam abuse in the party with Boris Johnson, favourite to become the new prime minister, comparing niqab wearing women to letterboxes and bank robbers.

The pledge by the candidates came following a question from a Bristol-based Imam who asked if “words have consequences?”

"Insofar as my words have given offence over the last 20 or 30 years and people have taken those words out of my articles and escalated them, then of course I'm sorry for the offence that they have caused,” said Mr Johnson, previously foreign secretary and mayor of London.

He was keen to emphasise that his great-grandfather, Ali Kemal, was a Muslim.

“When my Muslim great-grandfather came to this country in fear of his life in 1912, he did so because he knew it was a place that was a beacon of hope and of generosity and openness, and a willingness to welcome people from around the world,” he said.

In a newspaper column last year he wrote “it is absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.”

“We warmly welcome the call from Sajid Javid of an inquiry into anti-Muslim prejudice or Islamophobia into the Conservatives. He also ensured that all of the candidates agreed to this," said Iman Atta, director of TellMAMA, an organisation working to counter anti-Islam sentiment.

"Now is the time to be open and the show the public that the Conservatives have nothing to be scared of, and if there are issues, they can be resolved and problems fixed," she added.

Mr Javid said there was concern over growing “anti-Muslim hatred in our country, certainly over the last few years, in all parts of society. And, wherever that is, including in political parties, it must be absolutely rooted out.”

"We are, today, one of the most successful multiracial democracies in the world – whatever your race, whatever your religious background. And that is what we have got to remain," he added during the debate on the BBC.

It emerged on Wednesday that the Imam who asked the initial question, Abdullah Patel, had allegedly made anti-Semitic comments online, which he denies. He has been suspended from his role as a deputy head of a primary school.