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Defining Islamophobia: Comprehensive report amplifies what it is, what it isn’t and why it matters

PRESS RELEASE

2 March 2021

A new report by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) provides the most comprehensive analysis yet of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

 

First put forward in 2019, the proposed definition has since become the preeminent reference point for Islamophobia in the UK today.

 

The Muslim Council of Britain report, entitled ‘Defining Islamophobia: A Contemporary Understanding of How Expressions of Muslimness are Targeted’, gives a detailed account of how the definition has since been embraced by Muslim communities around the country. The report proposes pathways for this most preeminent definition of Islamophobia to be taken up, bolstering efforts to tackle this pervasive form of racism that exists in our midst.

 

The APPG definition of Islamophobia has also been adopted by a cross section of political parties, local government, civil society and activists all motivated by the desire to challenge hatred and discrimination against Muslims. The glaring omission to this alliance is the government itself and influential sections of the Conservative Party who seem to be motivated by divisive ideologues that are hostile to Muslims. The report amplifies the need for all civil society leaders to take a proactive approach to identifying and addressing Islamophobia.

 

What Islamophobia is
In 2019, the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims proposed the following definition: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.’ Drawing on analysis published since 2019, the Muslim of Council of Britain’s report sets out core conceptual components in accessible terms, establishes a framework of reference that helps determine what does – and does not – constitute Islamophobia. Types of intervention that will be Islamophobic include: ‘causing, calling for, aiding or justifying acts of aggression against Muslims’; ‘dehumanising, demonising or making stereotypical allegations about Muslims’ and ‘prescribing to/ propagating conspiracy theories about Muslims.’

 

What Islamophobia is not
While the definition from the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims has been broadly taken up, there is a small but influential group of commentators and ideologues who have vociferously opposed the definition, with some opting to misrepresent the examples set out in the definition.

 

The Muslim Council of Britain’s report addresses commonly raised objections. Context is key when Islamophobia is considered; examples where interventions may not be Islamophobic include: ‘being critical of Islam or religions in general, which would not automatically make you an Islamophobe unless you were using the language of racism and Islamophobic; and calling out and campaigning against criminality where Muslims may happen to be involved without impugning all Muslims.’ The report emphasises how the APPG definition of Islamophobia is in fact in favour of free speech: ‘Naming a prejudice is not an act of censorship. Giving considered definitions to racism, antisemitism or Islamophobia, for example, allows us to express ourselves in a more informed and considerate manner.’

 

Why this definition of Islamophobia matters
The report highlights the real cost of Islamophobia, having an impact on the everyday lives of Muslims and fueling divisions within society. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has highlighted how 70% of Muslims have experienced religious based prejudice within the last 12 months. Muslims face some of the worst outcomes in employment, health and education, and, as per Home Office data, have been the targets in over half of all religious based hate crime on record (2017-2019).

 

What we can do to tackle Islamophobia
Islamophobia is far too pervasive and it essential that we be able to identify it, and refocus our efforts in tackling it. The report details how Islamophobia is structural in nature, requiring redress at an institutional level, on a cross-sectoral basis: from the media, to higher education, in the workplace, and in politics. Key recommendations pertain to Media organisations creating opportunities for young Muslims interested in media centric careers and provide viable routes into work, guidelines on how to establish faith friendly work environments for employers, and how to address Islamophobia at local and party level politics, for example.

 

The report includes interventions from several subject matter experts. Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Treasurer of the APPG on British Muslims, who has contributed a foreword to the report, has said:

“This landmark report recognises the fact we cannot wait for a party of government mired in accusations of Islamophobia to lead on this crucial issue. Instead, the report pushes this conversation forwards, bringing together all the different aspects of this definition and providing a solid evidence base to assist in the integration and embedding of this across British society.”

 

Ahead of the report’s release, Zara Mohammed, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said:

“We need a robust way of understanding the nature and scale of Islamophobia. This report demonstrates how the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia can equip us with the starting point to better understand the issues and facilitate a means to tackle the everyday issues Muslims face. We must move this conversation forward and create pathways to action with our partners and wider society. I hope this report proves a useful resource for all of us to tackle an issue that is not just an issue for Muslim communities, but one that impacts all of society.”

 

The full report can be accessed here.

 

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1. For more information, visit: mcb.org.uk/islamophobia and www.islamophobia-definition.com

2. The Muslim Council of Britain is the UK’s largest Muslim umbrella body with over
500 affiliated national, regional and local organisations, mosques,
charities and schools.

For further information please contact:
PO Box 57330, London, E1 2WJ
Tel: 0845 26 26 786
Fax: 0207 247 7079
[email protected]

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