From U.S. President Donald Trump's discriminatory policies to state-sponsored oppression in China, Muslims around the world can't seem to catch a break. For Muslims in the United Kingdom, last week's general election had sparked some hope for a more tolerant environment in their country, but disappointment struck hard.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party secured a crushing win in the highly anticipated election on Thursday. Out of the 650 parliamentary seats, Conservatives scored 365 seats while the centre-left Labour Party won 203 seats.
In light of the deep-rooted anti-Muslim sentiments within the Conservative Party, Muslims in the UK have voiced their concerns over their future under the group's rule. Here's a rundown of the party's relationship with Islam:
Conservative voters share negative sentiments towards Muslims
A recent poll organized by campaign group Avaaz and published on Buzzfeed found that Conservative voters were much more likely to agree with the following statement: "Islam threatens the British way of life." Sixty-two percent of the Conservative voters surveyed in the study said they agreed with the statement, in comparison with 45 percent of the general public and 35 percent of Labour voters.
Plus, 55 percent of Conservative supporters said there should be a reduction in the number of Muslims entering Britain, compared to 41 percent of the wider public and 33 percent of Labour voters.
Not to forget PM Boris Johnson's history with Islamophobia
Johnson has been widely accused of downplaying the impact of Islamophobia in the UK and even justifying it at times.
Back in 2005, he wrote that Islamophobia "seems a natural reaction" to Islamic scripture and claimed that Islam "is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers."
"The problem is Islam. Islam is the problem," he argued.
He maintained this controversial stance over the years. In 2018, Johnson came under fire following a series of Islamophobic comments towards Muslim women. The British politician expressed his views in a column titled "Denmark has got it wrong. Yes, the burka is oppressive and ridiculous - but that's still no reason to ban it," in reference to Denmark's ban on face veils. In it, Johnson said Muslim women who wear full-face veils "look like letterboxes" and "bank robbers". He also called the "burka" oppressive. Following an intense backlash, then-Prime Minister Theresa May asked Johnson to apologize, which he refused to do.
According to watchdog Tell Mama, Islamophobic incidents rose by 375 percent in the week after Johnson's controversial column.
The problem extends beyond PM Johnson
Islamophobia within the UK's Conservative Party is a problem that has previously been addressed on multiple occasions. Members of the party have long been accused of inciting xenophobic and anti-immigration attitudes to gain momentum and further their political agendas.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, a Muslim member of the House of Lords and the former co-Chair of the Conservative Party, has confirmed the existing Islamophobic stance within the party. "I know within my own party there are almost now weekly occurrences of Islamophobic incidents and rhetoric," she said in April 2018, describing her experience as a Muslim in the party as an "abusive relationship."
Islamophobia has been widely regarded as an essential component for the Conservative Party's strategy:
"A party without a brutally xenophobic attitude towards foreigners, that does not exploit and condemn bigotry in accordance with its own needs; a party that doesn't surveil and incite suspicion towards Muslims is almost unimaginable for today's Conservative party. You cannot take the Islamophobia out of the Tory party," Ruqaya Izzidien wrote for Alaraby in 2018.
The party's anti-Muslim rhetoric has been linked to a rise in attacks against Muslims in the country. According to Anas Altikriti, founder and CEO of the Cordoba Foundation, Islamophobia has spiked since the Tories came into power in 2010. "Islamophobia has been almost multiplied in some circumstances and I believe that the statistics show that in London alone in 2017, those attacks - physical, verbal and such - rose up by about 400% in one single year," he told Anadolu Agency.
Muslims blame the media for downplaying the party's Islamophobia
International media has been accused of failing to adequately cover the Conservative Party's anti-Islam attitude, and thus leaving the public unaware of the gravity of the situation.
Last week, UK's leading Muslim representative body, Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), criticized the BBC for biased coverage during the general election. In an open letter addressing BBC Director-General Tony Hall, the group accused the media outlet of undermining the true scope of the Conservative Party's Islamophobia, while disproportionately focusing on the anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party.
"Not only has the BBC not covered the full extent of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party that many in society feel should be being discussed this election, it has given platform to individuals who have used far-right Islamophobic hate," MCB Secretary General Harun Khan wrote.
Back in July, a study published by MCB confirmed that media coverage concerning Muslims is causing a rise in Islamophobia, with most British news outlets disproportionately sharing "negative and misleading" reports.
Muslims fear for their future in the Conservative-led UK
Following the announcement of the general election results, Muslims took to social media to express their disappointment in the outcome and their fear for members of their community. Many noted the importance of addressing anti-Muslim bias in the country. "If Islamophobia was taken seriously in this country, we wouldn't be where we are," said British stand-up comedian of Pakistani descent Tez Ilyas.
Speaking to Metro, several Muslims in the UK said they were considering leaving the country in the wake of the elections. Manzoor Ali, who heads a Muslim charity in Manchester, said "I'm scared for my personal safety, I worry about my children's future."
Muslim social media users also expressed solidarity with members of their community and with other minorities in the country, emphasizing the importance of unity and cooperation amid the challenging political atmosphere.