Days after the British government rejected its preferred official definition of Islamophobia, the Muslim Council of Britain, the biggest Islamic organization in Britain, called for the ruling Conservative Party to be officially investigated for Islamophobia.
The dispute revolves around an effort by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, a cross-party formation of around two-dozen MPs in the British Parliament, to institutionalize the definition of Islamophobia in racial rather than religious terms.
The APPG, in a November 2018 report titled, “Islamophobia Defined,” proposed the following one-sentence definition of Islamophobia:
“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
The definition, the result of six months of consultations, was endorsed by hundreds of Muslim organizations, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as several political parties, including Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives.
Proponents of the definition say that while it is true that Islam is not a race but a religion — a set of beliefs and ideas — and that Muslims are a set of believers from different races, ethnicities and nationalities, many Muslims experience prejudice, discrimination and a form of racism, which, they say, is structural. The director of the anti-racism think tank Runnymede Trust, Omar Khan, explained:
“Defining Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism properly locates the issue as one in which groups of people are ascribed negative cultural and racial attributes which can lead to a wide range of experiences, either as an unconscious bias, prejudice, direct or indirect discrimination, structural inequality or hate incidents.”
During a parliamentary debate at the House of Commons on May 16, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire rejected the APPG’s definition — described as a “backdoor blasphemy law” — on the grounds that it is too vague and has “potential consequences for freedom of speech.” He said that the definition is not in conformity with the Equality Act 2010, which defines “race” as comprising color, nationality and national or ethnic origins — not religious practice.
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