This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of June, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 19 June 2019
Media Outlet: The Telegraph, national daily British broadsheet newspaper
Author: Nick Timothy
Headline: “Conservatives must not empower the hardliners with a needless inquiry into Islamophobia”
Description of the anti-Muslim and xenophobic content: Nick Timothy’s article is based on news about a proposed independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party. According to Timothy this inquiry is unnecessary and compliance would mean the Party is playing the “Islamophobia game”. He also states that “opponents are trying to create a false equivalence with Labour’s endemic anti-Semitism.” This is referring to many allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party, which has been investigated in the past and is being investigated again currently. Timothy concludes his article by stating: “The Islamophobia game is a sinister attempt to limit free speech, marginalise moderate Muslims, and boost Islamism. We must not fall for it.” Nick Timothy is a political adviser and served as Joint Downing Street Chief of Staff to Theresa May up until 2017.
Myth debunked: The definition of Islamophobia is a highly contested one in the UK, and a resolution has not yet been reached. Debate around this topic has been ongoing and has stimulated many discussion. Nick Timothy, just like anyone else, has every right to discuss and debate this definition. In his own words: “No religion – Islam included – is above criticism, debate, satire and scrutiny.” Yes: every religion must be open to scrutiny; however, this should not result in dismissing Muslims who have suffered at the hands of anti-Muslim sentiments and violence. 2018 saw a 26% increase on the previous year in anti-Muslim attacks and in the week following the Christchurch terrorist attack there was a 593% increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes. The evidence is clear: anti-Muslim hatred and violence is present and rising in the UK, and it is therefore only understandable and right that people are looking for ways to combat this. If a political party is showing signs of such sentiments, it must be investigated. To downplay these worries by referring to it as a ‘game’ is not only disrespectful but also dangerous, as it dismisses the violence experienced by victims. Moreover, Timothy seems to equate those fighting for a definition of Islamophobia to those who was to boost Islamism, which is a sweeping judgment and generalisation.
It is also worrying to see Timothy compare the problem of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party to antisemitism in the Labour Party, and concluding that concerns about the former are less valid than the latter. Is one form of religious hate speech less important than another? Narratives like this seek to pit the two communities against each other, something which member from both communities have repeatedly spoken out against.
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