The Conservative party suspended 14 of its members on Tuesday and said it would launch an investigation after a series of anti-Muslim comments were posted on a pro-Tory Facebook page.
In the most damaging day for the party during its brewing anti-Muslim crisis, the Conservative headquarters acted after BuzzFeed News passed it details of the comments made by members of the "Jacob Rees-Mogg Supporters Group".
The page is not affiliated to the Conservatives or Rees-Mogg, but it is used by Tory party members. The comments were highlighted by the @MatesJacob Twitter account.
One man claiming to be a Tory member said he would not vote for Sajid Javid for party leader. “I am a member and will not be voting for Islam to lead this country." A woman member said Javid was a “trojan horse”.
Another self-proclaimed member wrote: “A practicing Muslim should not be allowed to work in any of the emergency professions."
One person also claiming to be a party member described Muslims as “Mussies”, another said she wanted to “get rid of all mosques”, and another man, who posted a photo of his Conservative membership card, agreed with a comment saying “no Pakistani” should become prime minister.
Other comments made by people who said they were Tory party members included "Islam must be banned from Europe", "they are here to destroy us", and "No Muslim PM for me". Another member called for praying Muslims to be thrown off a bridge.
The Conservative party said it could not name the 14 members it has suspended, as its complaints process is confidential. A further three people with lapsed memberships were found to have made anti-Muslim comments.
A Conservative party spokesperson said: “This Facebook group is in no way affiliated with the Conservative Party and many of the people identified on it are not party members.
“However we have identified some people who are party members and they have been immediately suspended, pending further investigation.
“When we find evidence of members making offensive or inappropriate comments, we consistently take decisive action. Discrimination or abuse of any kind is wrong and will not be tolerated.”
A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain told BuzzFeed News: "The scale of Islamophobia at all levels of the Party is astonishing. We've seen MPs, councillors and members engage in bigotry that should have no place in a modern Conservative Party.
"Yet the constructive call by Muslim communities for an independent inquiry into the issue has been ignored again and again. Instead we hear excuses, denials and the responses we would expect when there is an institutional problem. We call again for an independent inquiry, and hope the call will now be heeded."
Earlier on Tuesday, Peter Lamb, a Conservative council candidate in Harlow, resigned from the party over his past tweets — including one from 2015 in which he said “Islam like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem” — were uncovered by Politics Home.
Lamb had been reinstated by the party after apologising for the comments. But he quit today following calls by former Tory party chair Sayeeda Warsi for him to go.
Last Friday, the Tories suspended Martyn York after a Facebook group he runs was found to contain a string of anti-Muslim comments.
In a blistering attack on her own party’s handling of complaints, Warsi, the first Muslim woman to serve in the Cabinet, accused the Tories of “institutional” anti-Muslim behavior and “turning a blind eye” to the prejudice.
She said prime minister Theresa May “doesn’t listen” and claimed current party chair Brandon Lewis had failed to show leadership on the issue.
Following publication of this story, Fiyaz Mughal, the founder of the Tell MAMA, a monitoring centre for anti-Muslim incidents, told BuzzFeed News: “I met with the Chair of the Conservatives some 7 months ago. He was personable and genuinely committed to tackle hate.
"However, I had made clear that unless affected associations were not supported, provided with training and their systems and processes of weeding out people with hateful views strengthened, then these problems would continue.
"I impressed on him that some of us within Tell MAMA would even volunteer our time on a personal basis and this was never taken up. This problem is not going away unless there is transparency in the process of addressing anti-Muslim hate and where an independent group of people can conduct the activities mentioned on an urgent basis.”
Alex Wickham is a senior reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alex Wickham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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