Definition of Islamophobia — [Mrs Sheryll Murray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:19 pm on 9th September 2021.

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Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 4:19 pm, 9th September 2021

I completely concur with my hon. Friend’s comments.

As a man of faith, I firmly believe that Muslims in our country should be able to practise their faith in freedom. This Government have always been clear that they do not, and will not, tolerate anti-Muslim hatred in any form, and will continue to combat such discrimination and intolerance wherever it occurs. We have instituted some of the strongest legislation in the world to tackle incidents where people incite religious hatred, or are engaged in criminal activity motivated by religion. We have also supported Muslim communities in combating anti-Muslim hatred. We are supporting groups fighting anti-Muslim hatred on the ground, including through the places of worship protective security funding scheme, which has supported more than 240 places of worship, with approximately £5 million in grants enabling them to install measures such as protective alarms, security lighting and access controls.

Following the Christchurch attacks, we funded faith associations to run 22 training sessions during, and prior to, Ramadan, to provide advice to mosque leaders on how to improve security. In November 2020, we awarded £1.8 million through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government faith, race and hate crime grant scheme to support established community groups and civil society organisations to run projects to boost shared values and tackle religiously and racially motivated hate crime. We funded work in schools and with young people, including through the Anne Frank Trust UK and Solutions Not Sides; these two organisations, funded through our grant scheme, aim to bring religious communities together to tackle prejudice and discrimination against religious groups from a young age. Today we announced the faith new deal: a pilot fund that will provide £1 million to support faith groups to deliver innovative partnership projects that will benefit communities as they recover from the impact of covid-19.

We believe that the definition proposed by the APPG for British Muslims, although well supported, is not fit for purpose, and that, if adopted, it would create significant practical and legal issues. Islam is a religion that includes a wide range of races and thus stating, as the definition does, that Islamophobia is a type of racism is incorrect and conflates religion with race. These concerns have been raised by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. A poll by the organisation Muslim Census found that only 21% of Muslims polled agreed with the APPG definition, primarily due to the confusion it creates between race and religion. The report says:

“For attacks on Muslims and Islam to be dealt with appropriately, selecting a definition that the majority of Muslims agree with is vital. The findings of our survey suggest that the APPG definition does not have the backing of the community.”