Rishi Sunak has not responded to an appeal from MPs to combat Islamophobia, amid a row over his proposals on extremism.
The former chancellor said he wanted to “refocus” the Prevent counter-terrorism scheme on Islamists, after years of anti-Muslim discrimination allegations, and “add vilification of the UK to the definition of extremism”.
Mr Sunak also vowed to “redouble efforts to tackle Islamist extremism” but made no mention of the rising far-right terror threat in his announcement.
It came a week after he and Tory leadership rival Liz Truss were sent letters by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims.
Seen exclusively by The Independent, they call for action after a series of delays and broken promises under Boris Johnson’s government.
APPG vice-chair Afzal Khan called for the potential prime ministers to commit to completing and publishing the investigation into allegations that Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani had been sacked as a minister because of her “Muslimness”.
Mr Johnson admitted last week that the probe had not been completed by standards adviser Lord Geidt before he resigned in June, and said that it would have to be finished by a not-yet-appointed successor.
“When a Muslim woman raises a direct experience of Islamophobic discrimination at the heart of government and her party, those allegations should be treated with the seriousness it deserves,” Mr Khan wrote to Mr Sunak and Ms Truss.
“It is a depressing reality that Islamophobia has permeated into mainstream politics.
“Islamophobia has real-life implications for the Muslim community here in the UK, and as political representatives it is our responsibility to safeguard all of our communities, no matter their race, religion or background.
“I hope, should you become prime minister, you will take tangible steps in rooting out this insidious hatred which threatens our British values.”
Mr Khan urged the candidates to commit to publishing the results of the investigation if they become prime minister, and to kicking Mark Spencer out of the parliamentary party if wrongdoing is found.
The former chief whip was made Leader of the House of Commons in February despite the ongoing investigation.
Boris Johnson apologises for ‘hurt and offence’ caused by Islamophobia in Tory Party
Mr Khan warned that a separate review published by the Conservative Party was a “damning indictment of the prevalence of Islamophobia” and questioned what steps Ms Truss and Mr Sunak would take “to reassure British Muslims of your commitment to tackling hatred and racism”.
He called for them to re-start work on an official definition of Islamophobia that was promised by the government in 2019, after it rejected a definition drawn up by the APPG on British Muslims.
Ministers pledged to appoint two advisers to come up with a new one, but only announced one and then fired him in disputed circumstances in June after allegedly failing to give him resources, answer letters or have any “meaningful engagement” in three years.
The government also set up a Commission for Countering Extremism five years ago, but then ignored a flagship report that set out a definition of hateful extremism aiming to tackle all harmful ideologies in October 2019.
Mr Sunak and Ms Truss have not yet replied to the letters, and representatives of the former chancelleor have not responded to repeated requests for comment by The Independent.
A Liz for Leader campaign source said: “As prime minister, Liz Truss will take a zero tolerance approach to Islamophobia.”
The most recent statistics on hate crime in England and Wales show that Muslims are the most targeted religious group.
In the year ending March 2021, 45 per cent of all religiously-motivated offences recorded by police were against Muslims, followed by 22 per cent targeting Jewish people.
A report into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, published last year, found that two thirds of discriminatory incidents reported to its headquarters over six years related to anti-Muslim discrimination.
The review considered cases including a 2018 newspaper column written by Mr Johnson comparing Muslim women who wear full-face veils to “letter boxes”, saying such incidents “give an impression to some of a party and leadership insensitive to Muslim communities”.