The Conservatives are scapegoating Muslims, ethnic minorities and migrants to justify their unpopular policies
It was only a year ago that we witnessed the Tories unleash one of the most vitriolic and overtly Islamophobic campaigns for London Mayor. Orchestrated by Lynton Crosby, who has since been knighted and is now running their general election campaign, the Tories tried to convince people that Sadiq Khan is a terrorist sympathiser – simply because he is Muslim.
But it’s nothing new for the Tories. They have actively propagated racism and Islamophobia since they came to power in 2010. Wedded to a foreign policy of continuing conflict and committed to new wars in Muslim countries, the Tories have further established the de facto suspect status of the Muslim community as potential terrorists as a justification. Under the Tories, the infamous Prevent agenda and Theresa May’s Snoopers Charter have been put into law and anti-terrorism laws extended – all targeting the Muslim community but attacking the civil liberties of everyone.
Not only have their austerity policies disproportionately affected BAME communities and migrants, but the Tories have scapegoated those very same people to justify their wildly unpopular policies. Despite the very direct and immediate impact of Tory cuts on people’s wages, access to essential public services and basic living standards, we’re told it’s migrants overstretching resources and illegally claiming benefits that are responsible.
The Red Cross earlier this year declared a humanitarian crisis in the NHS and had to step in, but in response the Tories ordered NHS staff to check passports before treating patients. Ninety-eight per cent of schools are affected by the cuts to education and the number of schools with class sizes of over 36 with minimal resources has shot up. But schools are told they need to collect data on children’s countries of origin because that’s the problem.
Theresa May, as Home Secretary, sent vans around the country with billboards telling migrants to “go home”. She supported David Cameron in backing out of search and rescue operations at sea, because saving drowning refugees would only encourage more to come. That same logic and the implication that vulnerable refugee children were benefit scroungers trying to get to the UK by choice fuelled her refusal to accept any refugees from Calais – where we are now building a wall to keep refugees out.
And speaking of walls, Theresa May wasted no time in rushing over the Atlantic to hold hands with Donald Trump. Trump’s outright racism and attack on Muslim, Mexican, black and other ethnic minority communities sparked international protest (including in the UK, where hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country) when he was inaugurated. Among his first actions as President was to ban Muslims from seven countries entering the US. But to Theresa May, these are acceptable values on which to base a “special relationship”.
The result of the racist and xenophobic rhetoric of the Tories has been a huge increase in hate crimes against BAME people, Muslims and refugees and has fuelled the far right. Our fight against the Tories is a fight against racism and we have to fight on anti-racist lines to get the Tories out on 8 June.
Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.
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