AS the Holy month of Ramadan draws to a close this week, and fasting comes to an end with colourful and happy Eid celebrations, it’s worth remembering that, for many Muslims across the country, the UK is a hostile place.

Islamophobia is on the rise in the UK. In London alone, anti-Muslim hate crimes have soared by a whopping 40% since 2017, with London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledging a “zero tolerance” approach to the perpetrators. Earlier this year, a disgusting underground campaign to “Punish a Muslim” circulated round the UK, encouraging acts of violence towards the Muslim community on a certain date in April. It’s not surprising then that feelings of tension and insecurity are on the rise in Muslim communities, with many individuals and families receiving daily abuse for their beliefs.

On a personal level, I have been in fear of my family’s and my own life through religious abuse both online and in person, particularly while I was an MP although it has continued since then. Islamophobia has wormed its way into the fabric of our society and our public discourse, institutionalised in the very structures built to support and protect our citizens.

One such structure is the UK Government. In the past two months, an incredible 19 members of the Conservative party have been expelled or suspended for Islamophobic comments, resulting in Tory peer and Muslim Lord Sheikh calling on his party to address this “matter of grave concern”. So far, the Conservatives have refused to accept that there is any problem with anti-Muslim sentiment in their party, even when the evidence of these 19 members points to very real and widespread bigotry, from ministers right through to grassroots support.

The extent of the UK Government’s problem with Islamophobia is such that, last month, the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling for an urgent independent inquiry into these allegations. Javid in turn has rejected any attempt to investigate this matter further through impartial and independent means, instead deciding to cast aspersions on the MCB with smears and suggestions of their organisation’s support for terrorism. Such clichéd characterisations of a recognised Muslim organisation rather answers the question of whether Islamophobia in the Conservative party truly exists.

Rather than dealing with the problem and taking the lead on this serious issue, the Conservative party has abdicated responsibility, rejecting any admission of guilt. It’s been left to prominent Muslims within the party like Lord Sheikh and former Tory chair Baroness Warsi to break rank on the matter. Warsi has even suggested that Muslims within the party are too scared to speak out through fear of retribution. She alleges that the problem reaches right to the top of the party, and points the finger at Rupert Murdoch’s right-hand man Michael Gove, whose anti-Muslim agenda allegedly reared its ugly head during David Cameron’s term as Prime Minister and seems to have continued on unchallenged. Baroness Warsi describes Gove’s “Ukipification” of the Conservative party, reaching out to a less enlightened voter demographic, demonising Muslims and working with certain elements of the mainstream press to further compound their racist message. If religious bigotry has gone unchallenged in order to secure votes and win elections, then this is a very serious and shocking development at the heart of government.

Theresa May may not be directly implicated in this Islamophobic problem, but she herself has argued that her party tackles discrimination and racism head-on. It’s difficult to take this at face value from the former Home Secretary who designed the hostile environment for immigrants in this country and has overseen the shocking Windrush scandal while Prime Minister.

Meanwhile the Scottish Conservatives continue to disgrace themselves with a catalogue of racist and religiously bigoted opinion, so much so it’s surprising that there are any places left on diversity workshops in our small country, let alone Tory Councillors or members for parliament still standing. But this is no small matter – such grossly uneducated and prejudiced views have no place in a modern, progressive and inclusive Scotland and they certainly have no place at Holyrood or in councils that should be representing our nation in all its wonderful diversity.

Parallels between this unsavoury Islamophobia in the Conservatives and their abject denial of the issue must be drawn with the Labour party’s failure to adequately address anti-Semitism in their own ranks. There’s no difference between these positions.

To discriminate because of a person’s religion, race, colour, sexual orientation or background is wrong. It’s that simple. And these parties should be doing everything in their power to right this wrong and cast aside ignorance and intolerance at every level and in every position in their party.

Labour in Scotland are also under the microscope. My friend and former colleague SNP MSP Humza Yousaf, together with Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, have called for an investigation into anti-Muslim attitudes in Scottish Labour, with their leader Richard Leonard pledging to take action to drive racism out of his party. It remains to be seen how he plans to do this.

In truth, no party is immune to issues with racism, discrimination or religious bigotry. But the big question is, when faced with these allegations, how do political parties react? If they are willing to accept an independent inquiry, if they are willing to recognise the problem, address the issues and look for solutions, then this kind of damaging and dangerous prejudice can be tackled and overcome.

For democracy to work, governments need to be transparent and accountable, they need to be answerable to voters across the racial and religious spectrum in Britain. Otherwise, they are rotten to the core and unworthy of office. Over to you Theresa.