Alex Forsyt, BBC News, September 20, 2019
A number of Conservative Party members have been suspended for posting or endorsing Islamophobic material online.
The BBC highlighted over 20 new cases to the party, who said all those found to be members who shared or supported anti-Muslim posts on Twitter and Facebook were suspended immediately.
However, the officials would not reveal the exact number of members suspended.
A Conservative spokesman said the party was now “establishing the terms” of an investigation into the wider issue.
But Baroness Warsi, the former Tory chairwoman who was the UK’s first female Muslim cabinet minister, accused her party of “backsliding”.
There have been repeated calls for the party to hold an independent inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia among members, due to previous incidents that have been highlighted to the party and in the media.
The BBC was alerted to details of the new cases by an anonymous Twitter user, and independently verified each one before passing details to the Conservative Party.
The incidents ranged from individuals “liking” anti-Muslim pictures or statements on one or two occasions, to regular Islamophobic posts by people who said they were members of the Tory party.
Among the content that has been shared on social media, a Conservative councillor responded to a tweet in March, writing: “Islam and slavery are partners in crime.”
When contacted, he said the BBC was misrepresenting his views and he did not judge people by their race or religion.
He said out of 10,000 to 15,000 of his posts, three had been taken out of context as part of an effort by the BBC to “besmirch the Conservative Party”.
An independent parish councillor, who stated he had worked on Boris Johnson’s 2012 Mayoral campaign, posted: “Islam is THE religion of hate (sic)” and “Muslims hate = free speech (sic).”
When contacted, he told the BBC he was an atheist who was equally critical of Christianity and all other religions, and he found it annoying Islam was held aloft and critics of it were branded racist.
Other incidents included individuals posting comments such as “Muslim scum” and “I don’t want Muslims in this country”.
Party sources said not all of the cases highlighted had involved members of the Conservative Party.
A spokesperson said: “All those found to be party members have been suspended immediately, pending investigation.
“The Conservative Party will never stand by when it comes to prejudice and discrimination of any kind.
“That’s why we are already establishing the terms of an investigation to make sure that such instances are isolated and robust processes are in place to stamp them out as and when they occur.”
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told BBC Radio 4’s Today that he believed an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party was under way, but he was not able to provide details of it.
He said the party was “trying to get to grips with this problem” and it had taken “decisive action” when shown the cases by the BBC.
Since 2018, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has been calling for the Conservatives to launch an independent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia, and in May, the council formally asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to hold one.
The MCB has listed a series of complaints against figures in the party, including Boris Johnson for comments he made about Muslim women before becoming prime minister.
During the Conservative leadership race, then-Home Secretary Sajid Javid challenged the other candidates to commit to an external investigation and the others appeared to agree to it.
Later, though, Mr Johnson claimed he understood they had committed to an inquiry “into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-Semitism”, not Islamophobia specifically.
Baroness Warsi told BBC Radio 4’s World at One the party was acting too slowly on the issue.
“You said you didn’t need an inquiry; now acknowledge it,” she said. “You said you needed a definition; you now have it. What new nonsense excuse are you now going to come up with simply to avoid dealing with this issue?”
Sajjad Karim, a Conservative Party member and former MEP, said there should be no “rowing back” on the pledges made.
He told the BBC: “I have experienced conversations taking place with Islamophobic content directly about me, being conducted by very senior members of the Conservative Party – in fact parliamentarians, one of whom is in fact a serving minister at this moment in time.
“Ultimately, this is about values and if we allow Islamophobia, or any other form of discrimination, to go unchecked, what we are doing actually is undermining our own values.
“That is going to lead to a very different sort of society developing in the coming decades, and that is not something I think most Brits aspire to.”
Mr Karim has not revealed the name of the minister in question, but said he would give it to Conservative Party headquarters if they wanted to investigate the incident.