The government has rejected the definition of Islamophobia.
Ahead of today’s debate in Parliament, the Tories have stated they do support the definition of ‘Islamaphobia’ created by a cross-party group of MPs.
As we detailed in our recent article, those who are for and against the new guidelines that define what Islamaphobia is, plus the issues that it may cause;
It has come to light that more concerns have been raised, just this week police commissioner Neil Basu, who is head of Counter-Terrorism Policing and NPCC lead for Counter-Terrorism,
I have every sympathy with those people trying to protect British Muslims against a rising tide of prejudice and hatred, indeed, I count myself amongst their number and I strongly believe that anyone who directs hatred or violence towards another human being – regardless of their motivation – deserves to be investigated. but the definition of Islamophobia proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims is simply too broad to be effective and it risks creating confusion, representing what some might see as legitimate criticism of the tenets of Islam – a religion – as a racist hate crime, which cannot be right for a liberal democracy in which free speech is also a core value.
Free speech cannot be an absolute right or freedom to harm, but as it stands this definition risks shutting down debate about any interpretation of the tenets of Islam which are at odds with our laws and customs, which in turn would place our police officers and members of the judicial system in an untenable position.
Despite the fact it would be non-legally binding, it would potentially allow those investigated by police and the security services for promoting extremism, hate and terrorism to legally challenge any investigation and potentially undermine many elements of counter-terrorism powers and policies on the basis that they are ‘Islamophobic’. That cannot be allowed to happen.
While a representative of the NPCC Hate Crime Portfolio did give evidence to the APPG when invited to do so, the NPCC was not consulted on the wording of the definition and would have raised these concerns had we been.
I would be happy to consult on this now and to seek a definition that both satisfies all and absolutely protects those who are subjected to hate crime on the grounds of race and religion.
The Governments stance hasn’t gone down well with the All-Party Parliamentary Group, Who state it must be defined as such to tackle what it called a “social evil”.
The wording has the support of a number of political parties – including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives – and several Muslim groups.
But a government spokesman said the wording needed “further careful consideration” and had “not been broadly accepted”.
The secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Khan, called the decision “truly extraordinary”.
But concerns have been raised that the definition is too vague and could undermine efforts to tackle extremism.
In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May – seen by the Times – Martin Hewitt, who chairs the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said it could cause confusion among officers and hamper the fight against terrorism. (letter can be found in the above article)
Former Conservative chair Baroness Warsi – who became the first Muslim woman to attend cabinet, in 2010 – said the letter was “irresponsible scaremongering”.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that
“a non-legally binding working definition” would not affect the work of the police and urged the government to back it.
Critics have questioned whether the definition could lead to issues with freedom of speech.
An open letter signed by over 40 academics, writers and campaigners said it was
“unfit for purpose”, an uncritical and hasty adoption”, would “aggravate community tensions” and “inhibit free speech about matters of fundamental importance”.
But the MCB’s Mr Khan said the conclusion was;
This is deeply disingenuous and the government appeared to be willfully misreading of the definition and aligned to a number of bad faith actors whose views – rather than those of Muslim communities – appear to be influencing this decision”.
“Being critical of Islam or any religion does not make you an Islamophobe,” he added. “You are only an Islamophobe if you use the language of racism targeting expressions of Muslimness.”
Ms Shah, Labour’s shadow minister for Women and Equalities, backs the definition and accused the government of being “in denial”.
“The Conservative Party is in denial about Islamophobia and other forms of racism in its ranks and that denial flows from the very top.
“If Theresa May to adopt the definition of Islamophobia, the message she sends to the Muslim community will be heard loud and clear.”
We agree with the government (first time for everything!) and also believe the security of this country is first and foremost the main priority, we know what racism, discrimination and persecution is when it rears its ugly head and should be dealt with accordingly, but this definition of ‘Islamaphobia’ is open to abuse and could lead to many far other issues.