Tackling Islamophobia

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:36 pm on 7 December 2023.

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Photo of Rehman Chishti Rehman Chishti Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham 1:36, 7 December 2023

I thank my hon. Friend for clarifying that point. We have people like Mo Ali in cricket; across the board, in enterprise and sport, Muslims contribute at every level. Our population in the UK is around 4 million, or 6% of the total population. Having a strong, cohesive society is not just morally right; it is in our national security interests. When we have a Government favouring one faith community and not another, it leads to divisions and divisiveness, which we do not want.

The Minister may want to look at the Prime Minister’s Twitter page, which lists an Eid event on 3 May and an engagement on Eid Mubarak with the Muslim community. There is nothing else on the Prime Minister’s page about tackling anti-Muslim hatred, but there are 21 mentions of tackling antisemitism, even though antisemitism and Islamophobia are both unacceptable. If someone looks at the Government’s action from the outside, they will see that there is no independent adviser for anti-Muslim hatred and no comparable funding to tackle it, which creates negative perceptions of the Prime Minister and his Ministers.

In the autumn statement, the Treasury gave £7 million to deal with antisemitism. Did the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities ask for money from the Treasury to deal with anti-Muslim hatred? If the Department did not ask for money, I do not think we cannot blame the Chancellor, so the Department has to answer the question.

I have another question for the Minister, and I hope the Prime Minister will read it in Hansard. The Prime Minister says that the Government have given Tell MAMA £6 million since its inception in 2012 to deal with anti-Muslim hatred. We have seen the stats that show that such incidents are increasing and increasing. The Minister may say that the Government’s funding is for protected places of worship—I think that was the answer given by the Treasury. In the Home Office statistics, there is a category for protected places of worship, which covers mosques, temples, gurdwaras and others across the board, but there is no data on how much money has been given. The Government say, “Up to x amount is available.” Okay, but how much of it has actually been given?

I will end with this. As a former Foreign Office Minister, I can tell the House that people across the world look around and say, “The UK advocates for international freedom of religion or belief for all”—we got a lot done during my time in office, working with the US on getting members of the Baha’i community released from the Houthis in Yemen, and helping people in Uzbekistan who had been persecuted for their faith—“but how do you address anti-Muslim hatred in the UK, with the resources and structures that you use to deal with other forms of hatred?” I think the Government will find it a real challenge to answer that. We see the foreign policy issues in places such as the middle east. People say, “Your perspective on how international law is applied in the middle east may explain how you are dealing with the situation back home with regard to faith communities and anti-Muslim hatred.” When we ask people to apply international law in Ukraine, they will probably ask us to apply international law when it comes to the middle east.

That is why we have the whole dilemma in UK foreign policy about getting more people from the non-aligned states to join us. They want a consistent approach across the board internationally. Back home in the UK, we need to make sure that we treat all faith communities fairly and equally, with the same resources and structures. At the moment, I am not seeing that in engagement with the Muslim community.