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Party's Over: Divorce of the ‘New Right’ and Conservative Muslims

The furore over Lee Anderson’s comments towards London Mayor Sadiq Khan, in which the newly revealed ReformUK MP claimed that “Islamists had got control of Mr Khan and he had given our capital away to extremists”. His subsequent suspension from the Tory party caused a huge stir amongst Far-right commentators and circles across social media. Many were quick to defend Mr Anderson for ‘saying the quiet part out loud’ - and unsurprisingly, freedom of speech.

Let me make it crystal clear to anyone with any doubts about these comments and the severity of the language used; they were Islamophobic comments, used with no evidence or regard to the truth whatsoever. For one, Sadiq Khan is one of the most moderate Muslims you will find in public life, with a strong track-record of building bridges between London’s diverse communities. You only have to substitute the word ‘Islamist’ with ‘Zionist’, for it to be rightly called out as Anti-Semitic — which I’m sure those who defended Mr Anderson would’ve been quick to do.

For one to simply say that the Mayor of London is at the mercy and control of ‘Islamists’, or that there are ‘no-go zones’ in London is simply not true and speaks to wider conspiracy theories against Muslims in Britain and anti-Muslim bigotry. 

But what the comments also signalled was that the common ground that Right-wing Conservative commentators and Conservative Muslim commentators had previously found, was practically over. The roots of this unlikeliest of ‘political marriages’ speaks to when our parents traversed Eurasia on the Hippie trail, as they sought to escape the West and its economic decay during the turbulent 70s and seek a more traditional way of life in Afghanistan and Thailand. But where this particular phenomenon starts is a little harder to pinpoint.

I first observed this marriage to be happening around the late summer – autumn of 2022, when I noticed that many far-right users were starting to praise Islam, for its ‘traditional values’ and how it ‘rejects modernity.’ Indeed, the two strands of people had found common ground over the teaching of a pro-LGBTQ curriculum in schools in the UK and the US, in a battle against ‘wokeism’ and ‘cultural Marxism’. Even Canadian commentator Jordan Peterson was trending throughout the Middle East as far back as 2018. 

It had become the newest extension to the ongoing ‘culture wars’, where people from all across the political spectrum were weighing in on how they believed our Western society should be run and how it could be ‘disinfected’ from the other side. 

What followed was a slew of online personalities and professional grifters’ revertions to Islam – most notably Andrew Tate’s – who garnered the attention of their adoring fans and skyrocketed their status in the eyes of Conservative and even young Muslims to rockstar level.

Even Tommy Robinson, the founder of the EDL, praised Islam as “an attraction for so many, because people are looking for something strong in principle that can stand its ground”. 

And while most of these online personalities’ admiration for Islam and Muslims was exhibited through their love of Dubai, it was a far cry from only a couple years before when one would find open and expressive hate toward Muslims across social media.

Being born just 5 months after the terrorist attacks on September 11th and thus firmly in the post 9/11 world, I found it remarkable that there would ever be common ground between commentators from both the Far-right and Christian Right, with Conservative Muslims.

But this is the consensus of a ‘New Right’, away from the traditional Right wing, who expressed negative opinions on the hijab and niqab and opposing regimes like the Taliban and Iran’s Islamic Republic. In the sphere of the ‘New Right’, the Taliban regime is praised for its commitment to strong family values and the nuclear family and upholding the headscarf as a symbol of women embracing a modest and traditional being.

The idea that Muslims have always been a ‘left-wing monolith’ that consistently votes for Left wing parties is simply not true. Take an example from an election campaign involving an earlier acquaintance, Sadiq Khan. 

Back in 2016, when Mr Khan was first running for Mayor of London, the Conservative Party decided to run a campaign for their candidate Zac Goldsmith with what can only be described as having messages akin to ‘dog-whistle’ Islamophobia. In one instance, the prime minister David Cameron lambasted Mr Khan for standing on a platform with ‘ISIS sympathisers’. During a session of PMQ’s, Mr Cameron named Suliman Gani, an ex-imam, as just one of these supporters of an Islamic State, that Sadiq Khan had shared a platform with. Not only was Mr Gani’s support for ISIS untrue, but a picture was later discovered to be of Mr Gani with none other than Zac Goldsmith and with Dan Watkins, the Conservative candidate for the seat of Tooting who was challenging Sadiq Khan at the 2015 general election, with a fat seal of approval for him by Suliman Gani.

With the attacks by Hamas on October 7th, it would seem that this marriage between the ‘New Right’ and Conservative Muslims is effectively dead. Many of the Christian Right zealots who were full of praise for Islam only a year ago, will never default on their support for their friends in Israel. Similarly, for the vast majority of Conservative Muslims and Muslims in general, their support for Palestinian statehood is a political redline.

It would seem that this brief moment of non-partisanship between two opposing forces never had much time to materialise. Instead, we are left with a divided world and a fractured society. Instances of Islamophobia have seen a 365% increase in the UK since October 7th, alongside instances of anti-semitism. As the Israel-Gaza war rages on, I wonder whether the two sides will ever find common ground again.

Image: Shutterstock/via Euractiv

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