The Conservative Party will order an independent inquiry into allegations of Islamophobia within its ranks, the chairman has confirmed.
But James Cleverly was criticised for saying the party must agree a definition of Islamophobia first.
Earlier this year, the Tories rejected a definition created by a cross-party group of MPs and backed by several other parties, including Labour.
Tory peer Baroness Warsi accused her party of “political hypocrisy”.
She said Labour had used exactly the same argument around a definition when it was accused of failing to tackle anti-Semitism, and her Tory colleagues had “rightly criticised” them for that.
“And yet we are now adopting exactly the approach we condemned,” the party’s first female Muslim cabinet member tweeted.
Since 2018, the Muslim Council of Britain has been calling for the Tories to launch an independent inquiry into alleged Islamophobia, and in May, the council formally asked the UK’s human rights watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to hold one.
The MCB has listed a series of complaints against figures in the party, including Boris Johnson for comments he made about Muslim women before becoming prime minister.
Asked on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday whether there would be an independent inquiry into the issue, Mr Cleverly replied: “Yes there will be.”
Pressed on whether it would look specifically at Islamophobia or more broadly at all forms of prejudice, he continued: “One of the things we need to get is the definition of that, so specifically on that point we will be guided by a formal definition of Islamophobia.
“But the point is we do, and will always, take firm action on anyone who steps outside the boundaries of appropriate behaviour.”
During the Conservative leadership race, then Home Secretary Sajid Javid challenged the other candidates to commit to an external investigation and the others appeared to agree to it.
Later though, Mr Johnson claimed he understood they had committed to an inquiry “into all types of prejudice and discrimination including anti-Semitism”, not Islamophobia specifically.
The EHRC is already investigating Labour over allegations of anti-Semitism.
‘Rooted in racism’
The MCB said the definition of Islamophobia must reflect the lived experiences of Muslims.
“An inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party has been long-awaited and will be welcomed if it is sufficiently independent and robust. Words must be followed by action.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims came up with its definition earlier this year and it was endorsed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Conservatives and several Muslim groups.
It states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
A government spokesman said the wording needed “further careful consideration” and had “not been broadly accepted”.
Concerns were raised, including by the chairman of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, that the definition was too vague and could undermine efforts to tackle extremism.