Lack of respect behind Government’s rejection of Islamophobia

31st May 2019

It should come as no surprise that the Government has rejected a working definition of Islamophobia proposed by the All-Party Group on British Muslims (APPG). The definition, drawn up in consultation with legal experts, is after all supported by more than 750 British Muslim organisations. It has already been formally endorsed by the Labour Party, the Lib Dems and even the Scottish Conservatives, though not the Tories.

The Conservative Government has rarely been very respectful towards Muslims, shunning mainstream organisations, while preferring to deal with groups it has selected itself or even set up and funded.

For the past three years, the ruling party has been in denial about the extent of institutional Islamophobia within its own ranks. This month there were more reports that the Tories were dealing with more than 100 alleged cases, including a host of previously unreported ones.

According to ITV News, there are lists of accusations in a leaked dossier. They include allegations that Tory members have called Islam a “cult” which is being allowed to “take over our country”, as well as calling the Muslim population an “infestation” whose members cause “mayhem wherever they decide to invade.”

Other quotes in the dossier referred to Muslims as “aliens” and “radicals”, with one saying: “Their plan is to turn this country into an Islamic state.”
A spokesperson for the Government told The Muslim News that the APPG’s definition had not been “broadly accepted” in the way the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism had.

Yet the wording was accepted by all the main political parties, including Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservatives, though not the Conservative Party, and adopted by the Mayor of London and backed by 750 Muslim organisations and institutions.

In the case of anti-Semitism, the Government had no reservations when adopting the definition last year nor felt any apparent need to bring in its own advisers to rewrite it.

What is difficult to understand is why the definition from the APPG was rejected when it is not even legally binding.

Surprisingly Martin Hewitt, Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council has joined in the opposition to misleadingly claim that it was “too broad as currently drafted, could cause confusion for officers enforcing it and could be used to challenge legitimate free speech on the historical or theological actions of Islamic states.”

The definition in full simply states: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.’ Nothing more, nothing less.

The Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, went as far as insisting that accepting the definition had “potential consequences for freedom of speech” and stated that they would institute their own process –As if they know more than Muslim communities themselves. The Government position went further, by even restricting definitions that do not pass his pre-conditions – conditions that go against the academic consensus and the views of Muslim communities.

Such an approach not only underlines the Government’s unwillingness to address the huge rise in prejudice in society but is a real kick in the teeth for Muslim communities suffering three times more religious-based hate crimes than any other community.

It gives the Tories a further excuse to delay its own investigation of the extent of Islamophobia within its ranks. Even worse, the refusal is giving licence for all the hatred and offences to continue unabated. The Tories need to get their house in order and can start by being more respectful to others, including Muslims.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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