In the United Kingdom, the war in Gaza fuels Islamophobic excesses in the Conservative Party

Israel’s war in Gaza is aggravating tensions within British political parties, whose debates are sometimes becoming toxic. In mid-February, the leader of the Labor Party, Keir Starmer, was heavily criticized for having delayed in separating from Azhar Ali, a Labor candidate in a by-election in Rochdale (north-west England) who had peddled conspiracy theories about Israel’s role during the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023. Keir Starmer ended up dismissing this embarrassing candidate in the name of the fight against anti-Semitism within the British left.

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But, in recent days, it has been the turn of the Conservative Party to face accusations of Islamophobia. On February 23, MP Lee Anderson, former Tory vice-president, declared on the GB News channel that the “Islamists took control of Sadiq Khan [le maire de Londres] » and that the latter “delivered our capital to his friends [islamistes] », referring without nuance to the religion of the councilor. Mr Khan, a prominent Labor member, is Muslim and British of Pakistani origin. Mr. Anderson echoed the criticisms made by other radical colleagues, who stigmatize the largely pacifist pro-Palestinian demonstrations which have been held regularly in London since October.

Suella Braverman, another figure on the Tory right, had already described these demonstrations in the fall as “marches of hatred”. She was then interior minister and this partly led to her being dismissed from her portfolio by the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, in November. In a forum at Daily Telegraph, published on February 23, the now MP took up Mr. Anderson’s words word for word, considering that “Islamists, extremists and anti-Semites have taken power” UK. Sadiq Khan, a mayor very attached to cohesion between communities, deplored comments “Islamophobes” And “racist” and regretted that Rishi Sunak had not condemned them more strongly.

Relative indulgence

The leader only came out of his reserve on Monday, judging “incorrect” the words of Lee Anderson, without going so far as to point out racism or Islamophobia. Rishi Sunak seems to fear provoking a revolt on the right of his party, which considers Mr. Anderson as a trump card to retain the vote of the working classes in the north of England. He fears that this former miner will be recruited by the far-right Reform UK party, now credited with 13% of voting intentions (in a YouGov poll dating from February 22).

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