On Monday 18 July, in the midst of the Tory leadership election, the Daily Mail ran a story on its front page that sought to attack Conservative Party leadership hopeful Penny Mordaunt, one of the candidates, who “flouted No 10 ban to meet boycotted group” last year.
The meeting was held with Zara Mohammed, who has publicly addressed how she as the first female secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, was subject to direct hate by the Daily Mail reinforcing negative tropes about Muslims, as she appeared on their front page.
The story was reporting on their supposedly “controversial” meeting which took place last year and was known to the public.
The Muslim Council of Britain is the country’s largest Muslim umbrella body, with over 500 mosques and educational and charitable associations affiliated with it.
Speaking on the matter, the Secretary General of the religious organisation said:
“Even though various members of the government have talked to members of the MCB over the years, the Daily Mail is referring to this ‘boycott’ that has been relentlessly pursued by unnamed figures at the heart of government.
“They are suggesting that I be ‘boycotted’ and be held responsible for things that occurred when I was a teenager and bear no relevance to British Muslim communities today”.
Mohammed adds “Sadly, this is part of the ongoing delegitimisation of Muslims in the public space, and of Muslim women who overcome so much to have their voices heard.
“Muslims in the Conservative party have long faced Islamophobia. And key figures are advocating discrimination against a faith community by doubling down on non-engagement with the MCB”.
She says “It is sad to see how this Islamophobia is now weaponised in the Conservative Party leadership contest by unnamed sources and their friends in the British print media.
“I remain hopeful, however. I was pleased to see diversity reflected among the Tory leadership contenders. Yet you cannot be a party of government for all Britons by engaging in the politics of exclusion, in this case by ‘boycotting’ some British Muslims based on narrow ideology rather than the common good,” concluded Zara Mohammed.
The Labour MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah addressed the issue in parliament today saying:
“Last night when I saw the front page of the Daily Mail and heard about the so-called dodgy judgement used by the Minister for Trade, to meet a ‘controversial Muslim group’, I was not expecting this meeting to be with a Muslim organisation that members across this House meet with on a regular basis”.
In the House of Commons Shah spoke directly to the Madame deputy speaker and said “The Muslim Council of Britain is a mainstream Muslim organisation backed by mainstream British Muslim Mosques, organisations and institutions.
“Yesterday this long-held “secret” boycott of a mainstream Muslim group by number ten was finally admitted on the front page of a tabloid press”.
The Bradford MP raised the issue of rising Islamophobia “The record of this government is that the Prime Minister’s comments led to a 375% increase in attacks on Muslim women.
“Previous Conservative governments refused to form a working definition of Islamophobia and refused to adopt the APPG definition of Islamophobia, then they promised they would make one of their own, then appointed and un-appointed their advisor. And almost a decade later hate crimes against Muslims are rising”.
Shah further adds “I’m sorry to tell this Conservative government, but the days have gone when they could prop up Muslim organisations based on one or two people and have them funded and supported for the purposes of their policy agenda. Those days are over.
“Mainstream British Muslims sit within parliament, and represent our nation in sport, we are the doctors, the nurses in our hospitals, the teachers that teach our children, and our future leaders. We are equally British and must equally be heard”.
She concluded, “The record of this government is nothing to be celebrated and those that vote for a confidence motion in this government are equally responsible for their actions and they are endorsing it”.