Definition of Islamophobia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:42 pm on 16th May 2019.

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Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe) 1:42 pm, 16th May 2019

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising that issue, but that is above my pay grade and I have no particular knowledge about that.

The point I want to make is about inter-community discrimination. My hon. Friend Naz Shah is aware of the constituent who murdered a person from the Ahmadi community. We should really reflect on that. [Interruption.] I ask the shadow Minister to listen. I am coming to that, so please carry on listening. When we discuss Islamophobia, we also have to consider inter-community Islamophobia. As my right hon. Friend Mr Lammy will understand, a huge amount of knife crime is predominantly between Muslim communities, whether Turkish, Pakistani or north African. The other key issue we have to look at is class discrimination. If we are to address the issue holistically and move forward, all of these factors are important.

I thank my hon. Friend Wes Streeting and Anna Soubry for giving their best endeavours and having the best intentions in working on the report. I take issue not with the great work they have done and their genuine interest—I commend them for the time they spent on the report—but the issues of Islamophobia are not defined in the report. We must look at that seriously, because it needs addressing properly. I will come to that in my conclusions.

The report says that the Prevent policy, followed for a long time by both Labour and Conservative Governments, is Islamophobic. I believe strongly that Prevent must be amended, but that does not mean that it should not be followed. There should be a better interaction through Prevent with mainstream communities, with its work not limited to small organisations. However, the work done in education has been quite good and positive.

People have made exaggerations. A so-called terrorist house was taken up by MEND, but that was a completely different issue. Social services, a school and the police worked together, understood the issue quickly and dealt with it. However, people wanted to expand on it and highlight it further in the media because that suited their cause.

Chapter 3 of the report looks at a particular case. One person said:

“I was stopped at Heathrow airport. The policeman said that they targeted me because of my attire. This has happened to me so many times. I cannot report it because the police do not see this as Islamophobic”.

That goes to the crux of the definition of Muslimness in the report, which is the key issue for us to address. Muslimness is not just about the attire someone wears. I have a very good friend who is a civil engineer and one of the most observant people of his religion I know. He does not walk around wearing a particular turban. He still works as an engineer, although a lot less than he used to because I think he wants to take it easier. He is a devout Muslim, but he cannot be identified through his attire. If the report is to go the way it seems to be, how can we protect those Muslims who dress normally in society but have in their heart those religious beliefs?

I know someone else in Birmingham who has her hair cropped and blonde. She wears western clothes—sometimes skirts and sometimes trousers. Recently she has come back from supporting a charity in Sindh to look after the poor, open their fasts and do those sorts of things. She does not qualify under the Muslimness description, yet she does more for the Muslim community—