Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan
Words by ITV News Deputy News Editor Mahatir Pasha and ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan
More than one third of the Labour Party’s Muslim members and supporters have witnessed Islamophobia within the party, according to a new report.
The report, conducted by the Labour Muslim Network (LMN), is set to be published this weekend and has been seen exclusively by ITV News.
It surveyed Muslim members and supporters of the party and found that 37% had witnessed Islamophobia within the party and 44% don’t believe the party takes the issue seriously.
Only a fortnight ago, the Equalities and Humans Rights Commission (EHRC) found the party had conducted unlawful acts of discrimination and harassment after an investigation into antisemitism but there are now fresh claims about the behaviour of members.
Ali Milani stood against the prime minister in Uxbridge and South Ruislip at the last General Election and claims a fellow Labour Party member told him that Muslims could not be MPs because of "their propensity to violence" and asked if he was a terrorist.
Mr Milani says he reported the issue to the party to find out almost a year later that the details of his complaint had been lost and no action taken.
"It hurts to feel like that I experienced that sort of abuse from a party member and it not only took a year for them to get back to me but the complaint was lost. It’s just hurtful," he told ITV News.
In total 48% of respondents to the survey said they did not have faith in the party’s complaints structures, something Mr Milani says he is not surprised about.
One anonymous respondent to the survey claimed that at a local party branch meeting they were accused of "weaponising" their religion after asking for a break so they could eat as they had been fasting all day during the month of Ramadan.
"I have complained to the Labour Party but have not heard back," the respondent claimed.
Although the Labour Party currently has 14 Muslim MPs, the most of any party in the UK, 59% of respondents said they do not feel well represented.
Labour MP Apsana Begum, who was elected to the House of Commons in the last General Election, said she has faced similar issues, adding that the party "has been in denial" about the problem.
"It’s quite regular to be asked questions and to constantly be asked to reaffirm my commitment towards British society as if in some way my identity and politics are not compatible," Ms Begum told ITV News.
The parliamentary chair of the Labour Muslim Network, Afzal Khan, the MP for Manchester Gorton, said Islamophobia within the party had gone "unnoticed" and "deserved immediate attention".
"Whilst the Labour Party has enjoyed the overwhelming support of the Muslim community for decades, we cannot take their support for granted," Mr Khan wrote.
"The Labour Party must commit to a zero tolerance of Islamophobia and rebuild confidence with its Muslim members."
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) described the report as shocking and urged the party to act immediately.
A spokesperson for the MCB said: "Now that the problem has been clearly exposed, we hope to see the leadership demonstrating no tolerance for any form of racism by listening to the Party's members, and acting immediately, decisively and effectively, starting by adopting the report's recommendations."
In a response to the report, a spokesperson for the Labour Party said: "We thank Labour Muslim Network for this important report, as well as their work to ensure our Muslim members are represented, included and heard.
"Islamophobia has no place in our Party or society and we are committed to rooting it out.
"We look forward to working with LMN to implement their recommendations and will be meeting with them to discuss the next steps in tackling the scourge of Islamophobia."
ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan on the test this report presents to Sir Keir Starmer
In response to the report Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer and Deputy Leader and Party Chair Angela Rayner said: “We thank Labour Muslim Network for this important report, as well as their work to ensure our Muslim members are represented, included and heard.
“Islamophobia has no place in our Party or society and we are committed to rooting it out.
“We look forward to working with LMN to implement their recommendations and will be meeting with them to discuss the next steps in tackling the scourge of Islamophobia.”