24 April, 2024
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UK: Conservative MP sparks backlash after ‘no-go area’ claims about London and Birmingham


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UK: Conservative MP sparks backlash after ‘no-go area’ claims about London and Birmingham

Paul Scully references popular conspiracy theory that certain areas of UK are off-limits to non-Muslims

MEE staff

A customer wearing PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks with a punnet of tangerines after buying them from a market stall at Whitechapel Market in east London on April 17, 2020 (Isabel Infantes/AFP)

An MP’s claim that parts of the UK have become “no-go areas” is the latest incident in an ongoing row about Islamophobia in the ruling Conservative Party.

Paul Scully, a former London minister, made the comments on BBC London while being interviewed about previous comments by former Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson.

Anderson had the Conservative whip suspended over the weekend after claiming that Islamists had “control” of London and the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

Scully, while discussing Anderson’s comments, cited the long-running conspiracy theory that parts of the UK – specifically in Birmingham and London – were “no-go areas” for non-Muslims.

“The point I am trying to make is if you look at parts of Tower Hamlets [in London], for example, where there are no-go areas, parts of Birmingham Sparkhill, where there are no-go areas, mainly because of doctrine, mainly because of people using, abusing in many ways, their religion to … because it is not the doctrine of Islam, to espouse what some of these people are saying,” he said.

“That, I think, is the concern that needs to be addressed.”

The idea that parts of the UK – particularly areas like Luton, London and Birmingham that have large Muslim minorities – have certain areas run under Islamic law that exclude or intimidate non-Muslims is a popular conspiracy theory.

Steve Emerson, an American self-described “terrorism” expert responsible for the influential 1994 documentary Terrorists Among Us: Jihad in America, was an early proponent of the idea.

“In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in,” he told Fox News in 2015.

“And, parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to religious Muslim attire.”

His comments at the time provoked outcry, with then Conservative prime minister David Cameron, now foreign secretary, branding Emerson a “complete idiot”.

‘False and Islamophobic’

Scully and Anderson are not the only senior Conservative figures to have faced criticism for anti-Muslim comments in recent days.

Former prime minister Liz Truss spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in the US at the weekend, telling far-right campaigner Steve Bannon that the upcoming by-election in Rochdale could see a “radical jihadist party” taking a seat in parliament.

Her comments were condemned even by members of her own party.

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid said he hoped “every MP would confront such a statement head on. Liz should really know better.”

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In a letter to Tory Party chairman Richard Holden, the Muslim Council of Britain said there was “no radical Islamic party – this is false and Islamophobic to play to this trope of Muslims taking over.”

They also took issue with Truss’s failure to pushback against Bannon’s characterisation of far-right anti-Muslim campaigner Tommy Robinson as a “hero” during the discussion.

Much of the current controversy around Islamophobia has been sparked by the ongoing war in Gaza.

Since 7 October, rates of both antisemitism and Islamophobia have spiked across the UK, according to various monitoring groups.

According to anti-Muslim hate monitor Tell Mama, there were 2,010 Islamophobic incidents documented between 7 October and 7 February, compared to the 600 it recorded for the same period the previous year.

Last week, former Home Secretary Suella Braverman sparked further outrage after claiming that “Islamists” were now in control of the UK.

Writing in the Telegraph, Braverman claimed that politicians were “burying their heads in the sand” over the spread of “extremism” throughout the country’s institutions.

She specifically referenced pro-Palestine demonstrations as proof, as well as claiming that university campuses were not safe for Jewish people.

“The truth is that the Islamists, the extremists, and the antisemites are in charge now,” she wrote.

“They have bullied the Labour Party, they have bullied our institutions, and now they have bullied our country into submission.”

Conservative UK MP sparks backlash after ‘no-go area’ claims about London and Birmingham

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