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Defining Islamophobia: what is the Government so afraid of?

22 DECEMBER 2021

There is no acceptable reason for there to still not be an official definition for Islamophobia.


On Monday 15th November, the Prime Minister acknowledged the Liverpool terrorist attack with the words “our freedoms and our way of life will always prevail”. I am horrified that there has been another terrorist attack in our country, and one that apparently targeted a women’s hospital. Nevertheless, it struck me as an interesting juxtaposition that, on the same day, there was a debate in the House of Lords about why the Government is still yet to adopt an official definition of Islamophobia.


Over two years have passed since the definition was first proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims and still no action has been taken. Even if we accept the argument that time needs to be taken to ensure the definition is correct and effective, it is unacceptable that this process has apparently produced no results after such a long period of time. If there really were a problem with the proposed definition, I am sure it would not have been adopted by numerous local authorities, charities, and political parties — an extremely diverse group of organisations among which the Conservative Party is glaringly absent. 


The debate itself struck me as extremely patronising and paternalistic in parts. As much as opponents to the APPG definition come from all backgrounds, it seemed very jarring to have White men with few to no connections with the Muslim community debating potential flaws in the definition — flaws which have allegedly prevented a one-sentence definition from being adopted for more than two years. 


Furthermore, anyone who has paid any attention to media discourse and abuse levelled against Muslims in the last two decades will know that there is a heavy racial element to Islamophobia. The fact that Islamophobia may sometimes be exclusively targeted towards the religion does not negate the existence of a racial element in many expressions of hatred against Muslims. Racial profiling and racial abuse unfortunately comprise a significant amount of the discrimination faced by Muslims — I would know. 


It would not be that difficult to actively seek the input of Muslim communities and grassroot organisations with those connections to see what they think instead of debating the issue from a distance and as an outside observer.


What are Conservative leaders and their allies so afraid of?


What could one sentence, that has been widely accepted elsewhere, possibly do to harm them?


If the Government adopts a definition of Islamophobia, it must, by default, accept responsibility for policing any claims of Islamophobia — including from within the Conservative Party — and accept the possibility of having to address previous instances of misconduct. As we know, many within the Conservative Party are not fond of acknowledging past mistakes. 


The last thing the Government or the Conservative Party need at this point in time is to expose themselves to more allegations of discrimination and misconduct. Nevertheless, by not doing so, those in charge are revealing their disregard for long-suffering members of the Muslim community for the world to see. 


What are these people truly afraid of? Themselves.

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