Four out of ten members of the ruling Conservative Party would not want a Muslim citizen to be prime minister of the U.K., a new poll has revealed on Tuesday.
The poll was carried out by YouGov and the anti-racism group Hope Not Hate as part of a survey that is measuring the scale of Islamophobia in the governing party and found that a similar number of Tories was in favor of putting limits on the number of Muslims entering the country.
According to the poll, more than two-thirds of party members believe the conspiracy theory that certain regions of the U.K. are being governed by Sharia law.
“From the grassroots to the great offices of state, Conservative members buy into racist myths, with almost half unwilling to have a Muslim prime minister -- and only 8% [saying they would be] proud to have one -- and most denying there’s even an issue to confront,” Mathew McGregor, the campaign director at Hope Not Hate, said in a statement.
"The Conservatives have paid lip service by saying they have zero tolerance to Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice, but this new poll confirms they face a real crisis. No mainstream political party should accept racism and racists within its ranks,” McGregor added.
The online survey of 864 Tory members also found that 45% of party members think certain areas of the country are no-go areas for non-Muslims, with 40% arguing that there should be a reduction in the number of Muslims entering the U.K. Some 39 percent also believe that “Islamist terrorists” reflect widespread hostility to Britain.
The Conservative membership, which numbers 160,000 strong, will vote in the final round of the Tory leadership ballot and will choose the next prime minister of the U.K.
Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, the two finalists, repeatedly committed to holding an inquiry into Islamophobia within the party should they become prime minister.
However, the new poll suggests that members believe such an inquiry is unnecessary and although half of the party believe that Islamophobia is a big issue, only 8% believe that it is a problem, with 76% arguing that the party is doing all it can to combat the issue.
“The first step to challenge this crisis should be a show of leadership from Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson. They must both confront the racism of some party members and the complacency of others, state clearly that they accept there is a problem, and confirm their commitment at last week’s TV debate to a full and independent investigation,” the campaign director said.
There has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK for the last three years, with 2017 having a record number of attacks against Muslims.
In 2018, there were over 1,200 reports of Islamophobic attacks, a 26% surge from the previous year.
Islamophobic incidents have risen significantly due to a number of factors such as Brexit and the proliferation of far-right groups manipulating peoples’ misconceptions on immigration and faith.
Last month, the Muslim Council of Britain compiled 20 pages of evidence showing the large extent of Islamophobia in the ruling party and submitted the report to the Equality and Human Rights Commission urging an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party.