Tory group leader rejects calls for party inquiry into Islamophobia
Wakefield's Conservative group leader has said an inquiry into alleged Islamophobia within the national Tory party would be unnecessary.
The Muslim Council of Britain publicly demanded an independent investigation into the issue on Wednesday. They cited nine examples of Conservative party members and council candidates across the UK, who they claimed had been involved in Islamophobic incidents since the beginning of April.
The organisation said it wanted a full audit of party members “to ensure racists and bigots have no place in the party”.
But Councillor Nadeem Ahmed, a practising Muslim and leader of Wakefield’s Tory group since 2015, did not endorse the calls.
He said: “To be honest I don’t understand why they have called for an inquiry.
“I don’t think there’s a problem with Islamophobia within the party. If you look back, the days of Enoch Powell are a long time ago.
“I think the Muslim Council of Britain should have remained non-political on this.”
Coun Ahmed, who represents Wakefield South, has spoken in the past of being a victim of racial abuse, but said he had never experienced discrimination within the ranks of the Conservative Party.
And he said the success of senior politicians with Muslim heritage, Sayeeda Warsi and Home Secretary Sajid Javid, demonstrated that the party was inclusive.
Dewsbury-born Baroness Warsi has backed calls for an inquiry however, accusing her party of “burying their heads in the sand” over the issue.
Coun Ahmed said: “If I’d seen or heard Islamophobia within the party in Wakefield I’d have reported it straight away. It’s not something I’ve come across here.”
However, Coun Ahmed said he wanted the political makeup of Wakefield Council to become more diverse. He suggested local parties needed to attract more younger people and those from ethnic minorities.
He added: “I think in terms of both Labour and Conservative councillors in Wakefield we’re not as diverse as say, Kirklees or Leeds.
“In terms of age group and having a real mix of councillors I don’t think we’re as far foward as they are.
“I think part of the problem is that the job of a councillor doesn’t attract young working people because a lot of the meetings are held during the day.”
David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service