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UK Conservative Party quietly halts efforts to establish definition of Islamophobia

Conservative Party Leader Rishi Sunak addresses the nation in Downing Street, London, Britain, October, 25, 2022 [Dinendra Haria/Anadolu Agency]

Britain’s ruling Conservative Party has reportedly quietly dropped moving towards accepting an official definition of Islamophobia, as it remains heavily criticised over its lack of action to tackle the issue and combat Islamophobic attitudes within the Party and government.

In a report by The Independent newspaper this week, the UK’s Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, opposes the establishment of an official definition of Islamophobia and aims to have the current government abandon any notion of adopting the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims’ definition.

The Parliamentary Group’s definition, proposed in 2019, was adopted by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties but, until now, has been rejected by the ruling Conservative Party. It defines Islamophobia as being “rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

At the time, the-then Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, stated that the Tory Party and government would, instead, refrain from adopting the definition in order to establish its own definition “to get a firmer grip on the nature of this bigotry and division”.

In July 2019, Islamic scholar, Muhammad Asim, was appointed to advise the government on a supposedly suitable definition, only to reportedly have had his letters and emails that he sent to Gove and 10 Downing Street ignored entirely.

OPINION: UK politicians and media need to open their eyes to the Islamophobia they are fuelling

He was then fired in June this year, without being notified beforehand, due to allegedly supporting protests against the screening of a controversial movie depicting the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter and “limiting free speech”, all of which he denies.

At an event hosted by the Counter Extremism Group last month, Gove – at the time not in his current official position – clarified his stance when he suggested that “there are dangers if a university or another organisation which should be the home of free debate uses a definition like that to police what people can say in order to penalise them for it.”

Agreeing with another panellist that the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia is “drivel”, Gove stressed that he wanted to target “political Islam” which he called a “virus”. He also denied being an Islamophobe and claimed the British government had some “resistance” to that stance due to a “desire not to cause offence”.

According to the paper, a spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities claimed in a statement that “We remain committed to stamping out anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of religious prejudice and we will outline our next steps in due course.”

The Tory Party has long been criticised for its lack of will to tackle Islamophobic attitudes and biases within government, with many critics insisting there is a culture of blatant Islamophobia within the Party. The Conservative MP, Nusrat Ghani, for example, claimed a Party Whip admitted to her that she was sacked from her ministerial position because her Muslim identity and faith were “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

READ: Report finds Muslim communities among most discriminated against in UK

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