I predicted that the impact of Boris Johnson‘s words would fuel a significant rise of attacks on Muslim women. And monitoring group Tell Mama confirmed as much in September 2019. Islamophobic incidents rose by 375 per cent in the week after Johnson compared veiled Muslim women to “letterboxes” in August 2018; hardly surprising, given the fact that he garners support from right-wing commentators such as Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins. But it didn’t stop there.
Just last month we saw a 14-year-old Muslim schoolgirl being violently attacked on her way home from school. Her perpetrators received only a caution.
In addition, the overall number of Islamophobic attacks against Muslims in the UK have increased since Johnson came into power, which has left many Muslims fearing for the future of this country.
As a British Muslim hijab-wearing woman who has experienced Islamophobia in the past, I have no faith that Johnson will put it higher up on his agenda. The prospect of a (now-abandoned) Conservative Party inquiry into anti-Muslim hate was almost laughable considering the prime minister's previous remarks about Muslims over the years. He has even gone as far as to say that “Islam is the problem”.
As long as Johnson continues to remain in power, I believe that hate against minority groups will continue to rise. As far as I’m concerned, Johnson and some Tory MPs’ anti-Muslim comments helped to secure his Tory leadership, while satisfying potential far-right votes. According to recent polls by Hope Not Hate, 60 per cent of Tory members believe Islam “is generally a threat to western civilisation”, 40 per cent want to limit Britain’s Muslim population and 42 per cent believe “having people from a wide variety of racial and cultural backgrounds” has damaged British society.
The December election saw the Conservatives win 363 seats – a staggering result compared to previous years. Tellingly, the seeds of division sowed by the Tories and others had sprouted. For many of those who had chosen not to vote for the party, it caused real concern about the future of our country. Under the Tories, we have had to deal with issues such as rising levels of hate, Islamophobia, racism and austerity, with child poverty reaching record highs. Yet, those important issues have been sadly overlooked.
Johnson vowed to “unite Britain” but his continued inaction in dealing with hate against minorities is just one of his many empty promises – empty promises he continues to make.
In addition to dropping the Islamophobia inquiry, Sajid Javid, then home secretary, has even gone on record denying that the Conservatives have a problem with Islamophobia.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a repeated critic of her party’s record on Islamophobia, responded furiously to health secretary Matt Hancock’s comments that “there are others who take a more balanced approach” to the issue. I don’t blame her. The Tories fail to realise that a lack of effort in tackling the problem can give the green light for other ignorant members of society to spur hate.
Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi quite rightly argued in the House of Commons that Johnson should apologise for his racist and derogatory remarks which I am sure has led to a spike in hate crimes against minorities. Yet, despite the prime minister being repeatedly called out for Islamophobia, he still failed to acknowledge that he had personally done anything wrong, instead apologising on behalf of the party itself, before promising to deliver the now axed Islamophobia inquiry.
Accountability must be sought from Johnson over his comments that have resulted in many Muslim women – including myself – being victimised through anti-Muslim hate.
It’s chilling to live under a prime minister who seems to me not only complicit in spurring hate against Muslims, minority groups and people of colour, but may also be on the brink of bringing political unrest to the country through his hardline stance on Brexit.
Now that the Britons have chosen a Tory government to lead the country, I have no doubt that Islamophobia and racism will continue to rise, especially if political parties continue to evade accountability for the impact of their words.