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Islamophobia - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:00 pm on 20th December 2018.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 2:00 pm, 20th December 2018

I apologise to my noble friend for not picking that up earlier. The first I heard about the letter was when he mentioned it. I will go back to the department, find out what has happened to the letter, take it very seriously and respond to him, but I did not know about it until he raised it, so I will follow that up, if I may. I shall say something about the government position on Islamophobia later, if I may.

My noble friend Lady Warsi has been for many years a friend, as well as a friend in this place. I must say how much work she has done in this area in general and how valuable it is. I noted one thing she said, which was, “Read the report”. The Government are certainly doing that and I urge others to do so as well. It is a great contribution to the debate, but I shall say something more about that later, if I may.

The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, spoke about the definition and traced back work done by the Runnymede Trust, which is also an important contribution. He spoke about role models and the fact that someone of Muslim heritage is a potential Prime Minister—at some stage, I should say, before it looks as though I am declaring that there is a vacancy, which there is not. It is important to make the point that there are senior political figures of Muslim heritage and Muslim faith—there is Sadiq Khan in the Labour Party, as well.

I give a plug for an interesting, very important project that runs across government is Operation Black Vote, which I attended earlier this week, when there was a graduation ceremony for people who have completed internships for MPs of all parties, and at which all parties were represented. It was powerful to see how important and successful that is. Simon Woolley is to be congratulated on the work he does promoting Operation Black Vote so successfully. It was good to see them coming to Westminster this week.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Burt. She is right that the essence of discrimination is often “not like us”. People will see someone who is different and that is often how discrimination starts. We have to tackle that. That said, as other noble Lords said—this is interesting in the context of Islamophobia—there are Muslim converts and Bosniaks who are not visibly different from us, so it is a little more complex than one would immediately identify.

The noble Baroness asked me several questions about what we are doing to counter hate crime attitudes. A lot of work is being done: for example, through the Anne Frank Trust, which we fund; the Stand Up! project, which counters Islamophobic and anti-Semitic notions; and, although it is not strictly within the hate crime programme, we work with schools through the Linking Network. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been privileged to see linking in Luton and Blackburn between schools with different racial and religious backgrounds, which has been very successful.