The government has rejected a proposed definition of Islamophobia, saying that combining race and religion would cause “legal and practical issues”.
The definition, “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”, was proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims after a six-month inquiry.
According to government equality advisers, the Equality Act 2010 “defines ‘race’ as comprising colour, nationality and national or ethnic origins, none of which would encompass a Muslim or Islamic practice”.
The definition has been accepted by political parties including Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives. However, in the same week as the debate more than 40 religious leaders and experts warned in a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid that the definition could be a “backdoor blasphemy law” that will limit free speech.
Speaking in the Commons debate, England’s first Muslim MP, Khalid Mahmood, said the definition would divide the country more and lead to increased segregation of Muslim communities. Mahmood, a Labour MP, said, “I am for equality for all – but I oppose this. We as Muslims should be proud of who we are and try to move away from a victim mentality.”
In 2017, Barnabas Fund published a statement recommending the use of the word “Muslimophobia” when condemning a fear and hatred of Muslim people. In the statement we said that the word “Islamophobia” should be used only to mean fear and hatred of the religious ideology Islam. Our statement also highlighted that it is a cause of much confusion that “Islamophobia” is commonly used to include fear and hatred of Muslim people as well.