After years of contesting the need for any definition of Islamophobia, the government has been brow-beaten into commissioning its own review
The Independent Voices
When the Labour Party rejected, and attempted to redefine, the IHRA definition of antisemitism, it was not only patronising and lacking in self-awareness, but also sent out an awful message that the Labour party was not ready to listen or trust British Jews with defining their experiences of antisemitism.
If we simply change the words Labour to Conservative, IHRA definition of antisemitism to APPG on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia and British Jews to British Muslims, it feels like we are experiencing groundhog day.
Last weekend, I welcomed James Cleverley’s announcement as the new Conservative Party Chairman that his party had finally accepted the need for an independent inquiry on Islamophobia as it was long overdue.
Given the catalogue of evidence – example after example of misconduct by members of the Conservative Party, they simply could not continue to bury their heads in the sand. But his assertion that the Conservative Party is waiting for a definition is ringing alarm bells with those looking for leadership and action.
The definition of Islamophobia put forward by our cross-party group of MPs and peers offers the Conservative Party – or any other organisation for that matter – a framework to understand, recognise and tackle conscious and unconscious bias, discrimination and prejudice aimed at Muslims.
More than 750 British Muslims organisations and Institutions support the APPG definition, over 70 academics have penned endorsements to it, 17 councils have passed it as a motion, including cities such as London, Birmingham and Manchester. Every political party in Scotland – including the Scottish Conservatives – have supported it, as have most parties in Westminster with the notable exception of the Conservative Party.
Criticisms of the definition haven’t stood up to scrutiny. Some took two sentences from the definition – that Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness – and then criticised the definition for lacking clarity. That strangely overlooked the examples and case studies that form an integral part of the definition, just as the IHRA definition of antisemitism is underpinned by its own examples.