Definition of Islamophobia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:29 pm on 16th May 2019.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings 1:29 pm, 16th May 2019

I will be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am delighted to follow Wes Streeting for whom, as he knows, I have the highest regard; we have worked on many things over some time. I disagree with him today, however, and the nature of a relationship —indeed, I would like to say friendship—is that we can do so with integrity. I hope he will agree that my disagreement is based on good faith—those were the words that he used—rather than anything else, and it is informed by conversations that I have had with others, whom I shall quote in a moment.

It is, of course, axiomatic that prejudice and bigotry levelled at a particular group on the basis of their race, religion or origin is wholly unacceptable, and those who apologise or are apologists for that have no place in this House. Mr Lammy —he is another friend of mine, in the personal rather than the parliamentary sense—knows of my support for him when he, quite rightly, boldly and bravely, raised the issue of Windrush. The Government were undoubtedly in the wrong, he was in the right, and his star rose as a result. But he did not do it for that reason; he did it in the cause of justice, and once again I congratulate him on so doing.

Let me start with a quotation which will not be to the taste of all Members:

“Most Muslims in this country see the preoccupation with Islamophobia, which is increasingly peddled by guilt-ridden white liberals and self-appointed Muslim campaigners, as far from being in their interests, an initiative that is likely to separate, segregate and stigmatise them and their families.”

That quote comes from a Muslim scholar, Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, with whom I had breakfast this morning. He is an example of how a first-generation immigrant, a practising and devout Muslim and, like many Muslims, a proud British patriot—the hon. Member for Ilford North made that point emphatically in his opening remarks when speaking about his constituents—sees the risks associated with something that is, to speak candidly, undoubtedly well intentioned and well motivated.