UK premier Rishi Sunak accused of ‘harboring extremists’ as Islamophobia row escalates

  • Sunak has ‘responsibility to stop this slide into ever more toxic rhetoric,’ says Labour leader Keir Starmer

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused of “being complicit” in a shocking wave of Islamophobic racism in the wake of a blatant attack on the London mayor from Conservative Party’s former deputy chairman Lee Anderson.

In an article he penned for The Observer, labour leader Keir Starmer accused Sunak of harboring “extremists in his party” and other senior Conservatives were condemned for “toxic” rhetoric.

Starmer’s accusation came after the suspension of Anderson, who had claimed London Mayor Sadiq Khan was under the control of “Islamists” and following an article by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman who said in an article that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge” in the UK.

The Islamophobic attacks followed a decision last week by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, in which he broke a tradition by permitting an amendment by the Labour Party to a Scottish National Party (SNP) motion that called an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Hoyle later on apologized and said he “regretted” the decision, which he contented he only made in the name of protecting some MPs who were under great pressure from his constituents to call a cease-fire. But the SNP motion passed the House of Commons with that amendment to demand an “immediate humanitarian cease-fire,” losing somewhat its intended effect.

The Islamophobic politics went further last week in British politics as former Prime Minister Liz Truss remained silent at a US event where a staunch Islamophobic and xenophobic figure Tommy Robinson — former leader of the racist English Defence League (EDL) group and a founder of PEGIDA UK — was hailed as a hero.

-‘Sunak’s weakness’

Starmer wrote that Anderson’s suspension was right after “this appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst.”

“But what does it say about the prime minister’s judgment that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?” he asked. “Whether it is Liz Truss staying silent on Tommy Robinson or Suella Braverman’s extreme rhetoric, Rishi Sunak’s weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity. This isn’t just embarrassing for the Conservative party, it emboldens the worst forces in our politics.”

Starmer said Sunak “needs to get a grip and take on the extremists in his party, the Tories,” and added that the Tories may become more desperate as the general election approaches but Sunak has a “responsibility to stop this slide into ever more toxic rhetoric.”

-‘Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist’

Khan reacted to the silence from Sunak against the latest Islamophobia within his Conservative Party.

On Saturday he described Anderson’s comments as “Islamophobic, anti-Muslim and racist,” adding that they “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred.”

“I’m afraid the deafening silence from Rishi Sunak and from the Cabinet is condoning this racism and confirms to many people across the country there is a hierarchy when it comes to racism in this country,” Khan added.

“I am unclear why Rishi Sunak, why members of his cabinet aren’t calling this out and aren’t condemning this,” he said. “It’s like they are complicit in this sort of racism. The message it sends is Muslims are fair game when it comes to racism and anti-Muslim hatred.”

-Rising Islamophobia

Islamophobic incidents more than tripled in the four months since Oct. 7, according to Tell MAMA, an organization monitoring anti-Muslim sentiment and abuse in the UK.

Tell Mama said last week that there were 2,010 cases between Oct. 7 and Feb. 7, a massive rise from the 600 cases reported for the same four-month period the previous year.

The steep rise was caused by various far-right remarks in the past four months, especially following Braverman’s attack on pro-Palestinian protesters who demanded a cease-fire in Gaza.

Braverman, before she was replaced as home secretary, had come under fire due to her stance against protesters who have been taking to British streets since the start of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

She had described them as anti-Semitic “hate marchers.”

She also attacked the Metropolitan Police for their tolerance toward the protesters.

“The hate marchers need to understand that decent British people have had enough of these displays of thuggish intimidation and extremism,” she wrote on X.

She was accused of fueling far-right rhetoric on pro-Palestine marchers and criticizing police for not banning protests.

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