THE government has rejected a definition of Islamophobia created by a group of MPs, saying the wording needed “further careful consideration” and had “not been broadly accepted.”
The definition has already been adopted by parties including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives. It states, “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, on Tuesday (14) issued a statement expressing concern about the definition.
He said 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”.
Sayeeda Warsi, the former Conservative chair, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Hewitt’s letter was “irresponsible scaremongering.”
She said “a non-legally binding working definition” would not interfere with policing work.
Reacting to the government’s stand, the Muslim Council of Britain said it was “truly astonishing the government thinks it knows better than Muslim communities.”
“If this free speech rationale is true, it would mean that the government believes that defining the racism that targets Muslims or expressions of Muslimness somehow impinges on free speech. Defining antisemitism does not do so, but defining Islamophobia does,” the organisation was quoted as saying.
The APPG announced its definition of Islamophobia in December.
In its report, the group said: “More than 20 years since the term Islamophobia entered our political and policy lexicon, and almost a decade since its ‘passing the dinner table test’ was raised, this is a good time to stop and survey the progress that has been made in challenging this social evil.
“It is with this intent, and to deter a further 20 years before substantive progress is made in tackling its blight on our British Muslim citizens, that the APPG on British Muslims opened its inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia.
“No amount of documentation of the evidence of discriminatory outcomes faced by Muslims… can satisfy our desire to reverse these results if we cannot begin from the point of an agreed definition.”