Calls for Labour to act after Islamophobic briefing

7/23/2021 11:01 AM
Keir Starmer is losing votes amongst Muslims

Labour has been urged to act after a 'senior Labour official' made a sweeping Islamophobic comment in an article for the Mail on Sunday.

The right-wing newspaper quoted an anonymous Labour strategist saying: “We’re haemorrhaging votes among Muslim voters... And the reason for that is what Keir has been doing on antisemitism. Nobody really wants to talk about it, but that’s the main factor. He challenged Corbyn on it, and there’s been a backlash among certain sections of the community.”

The comment came in relation to the upcoming by-election in Batley and Spen, which polls suggest Labour is on course to lose. The constituency has a high Asian population and there are suggestions Labour’s Muslim support has been eroded.

“A patently vile, Islamophobic briefing”

The racist insinuation that Muslims are less concerned about anti-Jewish racism was met with fierce criticism from the Labour Muslim Network.

“This is a patently vile, Islamophobic briefing by a 'senior Labour official' to the Daily Mail, it tweeted. “This racism needs to be challenged urgently and publicly by the Labour leadership & the party as a whole.”

The group, which last weekend warned Labour not take the Muslim vote for granted, said it had written to the Labour leadership demanding immediate action.  “Islamophobia from 'senior Labour strategists' cannot be tolerated,” it added.

It prompted Deputy Leader Angela Raynor to distance the party from the comment. “As Deputy Leader, I want to make clear publicly that these comments that are being attributed to a member of Labour Party staff in a newspaper today are not a Labour Party response or statement, are completely unacceptable & are not condoned or sanctioned in any way by the Party,” she said in a tweet.

“I will be ensuring that the Party investigates this reported comment in line with our Party’s rules and processes. Anybody who has made these comments should and will be dealt with in line with our independent disciplinary procedures, which I have no role in as Deputy Leader,” she added.

Racist stereotypes

Social media commentators were staggered that a Labour official would make such a racist stereotype — a sweeping generalisation that would be difficult to utter or print for any other group.

“Loathe as I am to dignify these comments with a serious response, Labour could rely on Muslim support when the party had a Jewish leader. It's an argument that doesn't stand up to even 10 seconds of scrutiny. It's just racism,” tweeted Ellie Mae O'Hagan, a Guardian columnist and director of the think tank Centre for Labour & Social Studies.

Miqdaad Versi, the media spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This is astonishing. Any senior Labour official who tells media that Muslims are not voting Labour because Muslims support antisemitism, should be sacked.”

“Not *only* because they are propagating false racist stereotypes (although that is sufficient), but also because it shows they can't be bothered to actually listen to what Muslims in the area are saying,” he added.

Batley and Spen by-election

A poll by Survation over the weekend showed Labour is set to lose Batley and Spen to the Tories. Former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway is also standing and is expected to sweep up a lot of the Labour vote.

Activists and commentators say Labour’s normally loyal support Muslim is waning due to several reasons, including Labour’s recent position on issues like Palestine and Kashmir and lack of pushback against Islamophobia in the party.