“This Government doesn't care!”
The government has been criticized for not caring about islamophobia and bigotry targeted towards Muslims following a debate on the definition of Islamophobia yesterday in Parliament.
While Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP have accepted the APPG definition of Islamophobia, the government has previously rejected the definition, claiming that it was not in line with the Equality Act 2010 and could “undermine free speech”. This, despite the fact that the definition is not legally binding, and the report into the definition repeatedly references guaranteeing free speech.
Even senior police chiefs who had initially expressed scepticism – over fears the definition could undermine efforts to combat extremism – later urged prime minister Boris Johnson to adopt it, saying they had been reassured it would not hinder their work.
It’s now more than two years since then communities secretary James Brokenshire pledged to come up with its own ‘working definition of Islamophobia’, yet none has been forthcoming.
It comes at a time when Islamophobia has become the driving force behind the rise of far-right.
During yesterday’s debate, Labour MP Zarah Sultana delivered a powerful and emotional speech on the impacts and consequences of Islamophobia in which she highlighted some of the vile abuse she had received as an MP.
She said: “I have discovered that to be a Muslim woman, to be outspoken and to be left-wing, is to be subject to this barrage of racism and hate.”
Following the conclusion of the debate, the government was criticized once more for its lack of response or care over the issue.
Shadow Minister for community cohesion Naz Shah MP tweeted: “845 days on from promising a definition of Islamophobia, the government has not even started work on one!
“The excuse that the @APPGBritMuslims non-legally binding working definition would impede free speech is silly.
“This Government doesn’t care!”
Miqdaad Versi wrote: “The government’s callous attitude on Islamophobia is only possible because very few hold it to account. Naz Shah has been one of those few. Thank you for leading a debate on the definition today!”
A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain told LFF: “Islamophobia is a pervasive and pernicious form of racism. The first step to tackling it is to acknowledge it exists and defining it. On both those counts, the government has failed miserably and shown a complete disregard for Muslim communities and the discrimination they face.
“In March this year the MCB published a landmark report showing the scale of Islamophobia in the UK and the need for a definition.
“The MCB has consistently called for the government to adopt the APPG on British Muslims’ definition, which has broad support across civil society and from leading academics on the subject.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said the government will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred.
They said: “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.
“We’re working to agree a robust definition of Islamophobia and it’s important to take the time to get this right – the one proposed by the APPG is not acceptable as it would have severe consequences for freedom of speech.”
Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward
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