Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, for securing this debate. Due to a small, technical reason I have not been able to get my speech here, which means that I am not going to speak for too long and will make only one or two comments.
I came to this country as a teenager and have grown up here. I am proud of this multicultural, multireligious society that I have grown up in. I really admire this society’s openness and acceptance of people from different religions and cultures within this country, and for giving us all the opportunities to excel in the areas that we are good at. I am a prime example of somebody who came to this country without speaking much English and, after many years of course, joining this House. It was hard work, no doubt, but there is no ceiling in this country for anybody who excels.
However, during the 47 years that I have lived here—nearly half a century—I have witnessed racial discrimination and religious discrimination of all sorts, and I am not the only one. Thousands of others have done the same. Many people have tried to give names to discrimination, asking, “What kind of discrimination is this? Is it racial discrimination, religious discrimination or whatever?” But religious discrimination has worsened into the hatred that we have seen. I have been a recipient of the “Kill a Muslim” letters in the recent past. That is how far it has gone, and purely on religious grounds. It is about the colour of skin no more; it has gone further.
I very much appreciate the work of many who have tried to raise the issue of Islamophobia, or hate against Muslims or Islam. My friend the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, has done a tremendous amount of work in this regard and I appreciate her efforts in having the inquiry, on which I spent some hours sitting. We got very powerful testimonies from people who gave us their experiences and told, in their life stories, how they were discriminated against on the basis of religion. With that, I hope only that the definition of Islamophobia which the inquiry came up with, after consultation right across the country—I know of many Muslim organisations that were consulted—will be adopted by the Government. I also hope that it will be implemented and that the Muslims will get a recognition of their discrimination through this new definition of Islamophobia.