Keir Starmer has been urged to return donations to Labour made by a property developer whose tweets have been condemned by Muslim groups as Islamophobic.
Muslim communal groups and a Labour NEC member challenged Starmer to take action over the “abhorrent and Islamophobic” posts by David Abrahams, a businessman and philanthropist.
Abrahams is the latest Blair-era donor drawn back to Labour by Starmer. He confirmed last month that he had set up a direct debit to the Labour party, having ceased donations in 2016.
However, Muslim groups, pointing to online comments by Abrahams, have raised the alarm over his renewed links to the Labour leadership. Abrahams’ tweets included suggestions that Muslims have “mixed loyalties”, that conservative Muslim culture is inherently violent, and that Muslim youth have a propensity for suicide.
“Don’t think I know how to divide political Islam from moderates and fundamentalists,” Abrahams posted in 2013. “It is the very nature of the beast!”
As recently as this January, he tweeted the claim that while Israel was a “brand new hi-tech state with new inventions to benefit mankind” its “close neighbours chose terrorism and invented suicide bombers”.
Mish Rahman, an NEC member, called on Labour to give Abrahams back his money. “These comments are deeply disturbing,” Rahman said. “Donating huge amounts of money to Labour should not mean someone can make racist remarks and get away with it. The party should immediately return Abrahams’ donations.
“We now know that the majority of Muslim members do not trust the leadership to deal with Islamophobia effectively. Failing to act on these outrageous comments will deepen these concerns and provide further evidence that there is a hierarchy of racism within the party.”
Responding to Abrahams’ tweets, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said: “Abrahams’ abhorrent and deeply Islamophobic views that he has felt emboldened to publish in the past is yet more evidence of how prevalent and seemingly acceptable Islamophobia in British society is.
“Just last week, the Labour Muslim Network (LMN) published a report exposing a culture of Islamophobia and discrimination within parts of the Labour party which echo the unacceptable views Abrahams has voiced.
“The Labour party, in its work to address other forms of racism from within its ranks, must also stand firm against Islamophobia and take decisive action against this kind of hate.”
LMN’s report, published this month, said that one in three Muslim Labour members had experienced Islamophobia within the party. A poll of Muslim Labour members and supporters, cited in the report, found less than half had confidence in the leadership’s ability to tackle Islamophobia or to represent their interests.
A spokesperson for LMN said: “Days after the Labour Muslim Network released a report detailing the scale of Islamophobia within the Labour party, it is extremely distressing and concerning to see such abhorrent and Islamophobic comments from an alleged Labour party donor.
“Letting this go unchallenged will add insult to injury for Muslim communities who have time and again supported Labour.”
A Labour party spokesperson said: “The Labour party takes all complaints of Islamophobia extremely seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”
Abrahams did not respond to a request for comment.
Abrahams has a long history with the Labour party, holding office as a councillor in the 80s and unsuccessfully running as Labour candidate for Richmond, North Yorkshire, in the 1992 general election.
Previously associated with Tony Blair, Abrahams reportedly gave hundreds of thousands to Labour. He ceased his donations in 2016 after remarks made by Naz Shah, the Labour MP, and the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, which were condemned as antisemitic.
“When Keir came in I knew I was supporting somebody who was decent,” Abrahams was quoted as saying by the Times, which first reported his donations, adding that he was “happy to donate more” if Labour committed to “the right policies”.