Tory ministers condemned for rejecting MPs’ definition of Islamophobia
Ministers have been criticised after it emerged they will not adopt a definition of Islamophobia demanded by MPs and Muslim groups.
In December, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims called on the Government to accept guidelines on anti-Islamic abuse which states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”
In a Commons debate on Thursday however ministers will say that unlike the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition on anti-semitism, which it supports, the proposal on Islamophobia “has not been broadly accepted”.
“Any hatred directed against British Muslims and others because of their faith or heritage is utterly unacceptable,” a Government spokesperson said.
“We are conscious that the APPG’s proposed definition has not been broadly accepted – unlike the IHRA definition of anti-semitism before it was adopted by the UK Government and other international organisations and governments. This is a matter that needs further careful consideration.”
The definition has been formally endorsed by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives, as well as over 750 British Muslim organisations, 80 academics and 50 MPs.
BuzzFeed News has reported that ministers will appoint two new independent advisers to produce their own definition instead, while holding a wider investigation into anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain.
The revelation comes amid recent claims of an Islamophobia problem in the Tory party, after several members, including councillors, were suspended over controversial comments.
Wes Streeting, the chair of the British Muslims APPG, said of the Government's ruling: "The lack of humility and self-reflection is astonishing.
"Given their abject failure to tackle racism within their own party, why does this Conservative Government believe they has the credibility to write their own definition rather than one backed by huge numbers of Muslims?"
National Police Chiefs Council chief, Martin Hewitt, wrote to the Prime Minister last week warning that accepting the definition could undermine counter-terrorism work.
Following the Government's statement today, he Tweeted: “I want to see a definition that protects Muslims, has wide support across Muslim communities and is workable.
“Police chiefs are ready to help in that process in any way we can. In the meantime, we will treat abuse, harassment or hate crimes with the seriousness they deserve.”
Shadow Equalities Minister Naz Shah said the Government's decision reflected “a worrying trend” of Muslims being looked at “through the lens of terror and security”.
"The Conservative Party is in denial about Islamophobia and other forms of racism in its ranks, and that denial flows from the very top," she said.
"If Theresa May refuses to adopt the definition of Islamophobia, the message she sends to the Muslim community will be heard loud and clear.
"It has been a great struggle to get the police to record Islamophobia as a specific crime, so it is deeply worrying to see the National Police Chiefs Council bringing terrorism into the discussion about tackling Islamophobia."