EXCLUSIVE: Tories pause work on their own definition of Islamophobia two years after pledging to come up with one

The Conservatives first pledged to set out the process for establishing a working definition of Islamophobia in May 2019.

The government is yet to come up with its own definition of Islamophobia, two years after pledging to do so and after it rejected a definition formulated by the APPG on British Muslims which other major political parties have adopted.

In May 2019, communities secretary James Brokenshire said that the government would come up with its own ‘working definition of Islamophobia’ after claiming that the definition proposed by the APPG is not in line with the Equality Act 2010 and would have ‘severe consequences for freedom of speech’. This is despite the fact that the definition is not legally binding and the report into the definition repeatedly makes references to guaranteeing free speech.

Brokenshire admitted at the time that a formal definition of Islamophobia was needed. It comes after the party’s independent investigation into Islamophobia and other forms of prejudice among party members found that anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the Conservative Party, adding that “this is damaging to the party, and alienates a significant section of society.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told LFF that work on a definition had been paused.

They also added that: “We have always been clear that this Government does not, and will not, tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form and will continue to combat such discrimination and intolerance wherever it occurs.”

Incidents of Islamophobia among Conservative Party members have included calls for Muslims to be thrown off bridges, sterilized and mosques to be banned. MPs have also retweeted Tommy Robinson.

A Hope not Hate report last year found that 57% of Conservative Party members had a negative attitude towards Muslims with almost half of Conservative Party members (47%) believing that Islam is “a threat to the British way of life”.

Around 58% believed that “there are no go areas in Britain where Sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter”.

A Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson told LFF: In 2019, the Government refused to adopt the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia, the most widely endorsed definition across Muslim communities and wider society to date.

“Instead of working with Muslim groups on this matter, the governing Party said they would carry out their own process to define Islamophobia.

“Over two years later, it is shocking that the Government is no closer to establishing a definition of Islamophobia it deems suitable.

“Given this total lack of progress, it is imperative that the Government reconsiders its stance on the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia and commits to working alongside Muslim communities to begin actively tackling both the institutional issue of Islamophobia across politics and wider society.”

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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