The Conservatives have been accused of ignoring institutional Islamophobia in their ranks after the party’s candidate for London mayor was shown campaigning alongside a local activist under investigation for Islamophobic comments.
A photograph posted to Twitter in January shows Shaun Bailey campaigning with Sushil Dokwal, who stood as a Conservative councillor in the London constituency of Brent North in 2018, and two other men.
In November 2019, Sky News revealed that Mr Dokwal had posted a message in the Brent North Conservative Association WhatsApp group saying, “Sadiq and Corbin [sic] are against Jews, Hindus and following hidden agenda of jihadis.”
Mr Dokwal also used WhatsApp’s “forward” function to send the Brent North group a video of Katie Hopkins in the midst of a pro-Pakistan demonstration, where the far-right commentator claimed to be being attacked and harassed by Muslim demonstrators.
The Muslim Council of Britain said the presence of Mr Dokwal, who is wearing a Conservative Party badge, showed the party was not taking Islamophobia within its ranks seriously.
“What is particularly problematic, over and above the appalling comments by Mr Dokwal, is that rather than suspending the individual, the Conservative Party allows him to continue campaigning, making a mockery of the Party’s claims of swift action and ‘zero tolerance’ to racism,” its spokesperson said.
At the time, both the local and national Conservative parties said they were investigating the matter.
After its election victory in December, the Conservative Party launched an inquiry into Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice within the party, following repeated calls for such an action.
Asked what action had been taken as a result of the original investigation into Mr Dokwal, a Conservative spokesman told Sky News: “We cannot comment on ongoing investigations.”
Jayanti Patel, chairman of the Brent North Conservatives Association, said: “We can’t comment on ongoing investigation by the Conservative Party.”
The Muslim Council of Britain, which had criticised the decision to expand the scope of the inquiry to include all forms of prejudice, said this latest news showed the party’s review needed to be completely independent.
“The Party faces an institutional problem that it must acknowledge and tackle – and anything less than an external independent inquiry into Islamophobia, will not be enough,” its spokesperson said.
The Muslim Council of Britain also expressed concern about the record of Shaun Bailey, who is standing to be London mayor in the election in May 2020.
“Shaun Bailey has, in the past, been mired in numerous scandals of Islamophobia, from sharing a tweet labelling Sadiq Khan “the mad mullah of Londonistan” to being accused of telling a Muslim Conservative candidate to “suck it up” when he raised the issue of discrimination,” its spokesperson said.
“It is unfortunately not surprising that he is campaigning with an individual who links Khan to jihadis because of his religion.”
A spokesperson for Mr Bailey told Sky News: “Shaun Bailey does not know this individual and was completely unaware of these comments or any investigations.
“Shaun cannot personally vet everyone who turns up to volunteer sessions across London. He in no way whatsoever condones the comments highlighted by Sky News.”
Mr Dokwal did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
At the time of his previous comments, he responded on WhatsApp, saying: “This was posted to me and I posted to my colleague to know what is happening. If true then study it and may be to learn from it.”
On Monday, the Conservative Party suspended a number of its members following allegations by the campaign group Hope Not Hate, which had compiled a dossier of anti-Muslim comments online.
During the general election, numerous messages accusing Labour of being “anti-India and anti-Hindu” and “a mouthpiece for Pakistan” went viral on WhatsApp, prompting Labour candidates to warn that the chat app was playing a role in stoking division.
During last year’s Indian election, WhatsApp was used as a vehicle for misinformation and propaganda, with polarising political news and rumours spreading rapidly thanks to forwarding to groups.
The Facebook-owned app responded by limiting how often messages can be forwarded – to only five groups instead of 20. It later extended this restriction worldwide.
A WhatsApp spokesperson told Sky News: “WhatsApp is absolutely committed to helping to tackle the problem of viral misinformation… we will continue to prioritise the development of new ways to help to address this issue in the future.”