Vince Cable and myself (as President) and other Liberal Democrat parliamentarians have been asked by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (Co-Chairs Anna Soubry and Wes Streeting), and also by Baroness Sayeda Warsi, to endorse the APPG on British Muslims Definition of Islamaphobia:
"We recommend the adoption of the following definition following widespread consultation with academics, lawyers, local and nationally elected officials, Muslim organisations, activists, campaigners, and local Muslim communities:
Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness."
This recommendation arises from their inquiry into Islamaphobia and the difficulties that many British Muslims face in the UK today. The full report is linked in the footnote below, and the letter from the APPG is attached as Appendix 1.
It may be helpful for the Board to see this extract from the Executive summary of the Report (page 11):
“The APPG considered the recent history of definitions of Islamophobia (chapter 3) in line with the written and oral evidence presented to the group. In analysing the quantitative and, mostly, qualitative data, a thread of three key factors emerged: the process of Islamophobia, the actions that qualify as Islamophobic, and the impact of Islamophobia. As a result, the APPG concluded that any definition must include the aforementioned three factors (process, action(s) and impact).
Let us be clear, the aim of establishing a working definition of Islamophobia has neither been motivated by, nor is intended to curtail, free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion. Evidence read and heard by the group clearly delineated between the desirability of criticism, debate and free discussion of Islam as a religion - by Muslims and non-Muslim participants in the inquiry - and the victimisation of Muslims through the targeting of expressions of Muslimness to deny or impair their fundamental freedoms and human rights.
Criticism of religion is a fundamental right in an open society and is enshrined in our commitment to freedom of speech. We also received theological opinion which outlined the long Islamic history and classical tradition of debate, discussion, and dissenting opinions within Islam. No open society can place religion above criticism and we do not subscribe to the view that a working definition of Islamophobia can or should be formulated with the purpose of protecting Islam from free and fair criticism or debate. On the question of what we might understand from fair criticism, we refer in the report to a series of useful tests proposed by Professor Tariq Modood of Bristol University, when it comes to assessing whether what we are dealing with is ‘reasonable criticism’ of Islam and Muslims or a veiled attempt at Islamophobic speech.
The ‘harm principle’ has guided our deliberations on the appropriate limits to free speech in arriving at our working definition of Islamophobia. The definition proposed here has been developed through conscientious deliberation that has sought to negotiate the tensions arising between freedom of speech and freedom of religion in full recognition that in a democratic society these negotiations are not just possible, as evidenced by the adoption of definitions relating to other forms of group-based hostility such as anti-Semitism, but necessary at a time when Muslim communities in the UK are experiencing heightened levels of Islamophobia.
We recommend the adoption of the following definition following widespread consultation with academics, lawyers, local and nationally elected officials, Muslim organisations, activists, campaigners, and local Muslim communities:
Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
Vince Cable sought advice from Meral Ece, from Tell MAMA, the organisation that logs and campaigns against anti-muslim attacks, founded by Fiyaz Mughal (a Lib Dem councillor and activist) and discussed the report and definition. Ed Davey went to the launch of the report, and along with Vince and myself has supported the definition.
In addition to the open islamophobia demonstrated by the new Leader of UKIP, anti muslim sentiment in politics is being increasingly articulated, including, I am ashamed to say, in the House of Lords, with two peers regularly asking deeply offensive islamaphobic questions of Ministers, using parliamentary privilege.
Given that the Federal Board has supported a definition of antisemitism, the Federal Board is now asked to consider also adopting this definition of Islamaphobia.
Recommendation: That the Federal Board adopt the following definition of Islamaphobia: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
21 January 2019