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Theresa May refuses to commit to adopting recommended Islamophobia definition

The Muslim Council of Britain warns the Conservative Party is at risk of 'placing themselves on the wrong side of the argument'

Wednesday 27 March 2019 12:59 GMT
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Labour MP Afzal Khan raises Islamophobia complaints within Tory party and asks when it will adopt the internationally recognised definition of anti-Muslim hate

Theresa May has refused to commit to adopting the recommended definition of Islamophobia that has been accepted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru.

Afzal Khan MP, Labour’s shadow minister for immigration, asked Ms May during prime minister’s questions, why she had “failed to act” on the allegations of Islamophobia within her party and if the definition, recommended by the all-party group for British Muslims, would be adopted.

Ms May refused to acknowledge Mr Khan’s calls and instead denounced all forms of discrimination and said her party “takes action” when complaints are filed.

“The Conservative party has a complaints process that deals with complaints of Islamophobia and any other complaints about discrimination," she said.

“…We take action when there are cases of discrimination and abuse.”

The definition, which was produced after six months of consultations, classifies discrimination against Muslims as a form of racism and has been described as a necessity to tackle the rise of far-right racism.

In December The Independent revealed that more than 50 cross-party parliamentarians had written to the government to urge them to adopt the definition.

The calls were ignored and the Conservative Party has faced a barrage of criticism after being accused of attempting to “sweep Islamophobia under the carpet” after it quietly reinstating 15 previously suspended councillors.

Mr Khan, who asked the question in the House of Commons, said the Conservative Party was in denial.

“It’s scandalous that Theresa May refused to confirm that the Tories will adopt the definition of Islamophobia published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims,” he told The Independent.

“The Conservative Party leadership are in denial about Islamophobia in their ranks and simply aren't taking it seriously. They must adopt this definition without delay.”

James Cleverly, the deputy chairman of the conservative party, was also questioned about why the party had not adopted on the definition and claimed they did not need one as they have dealt with complaints "swiftly".

“There is no agreed definition of Islamophobia and the Conservative party’s position has been clear and consistent,” he said on BBC's Politics Live.

“We do not accept racism, we do not accept anti-religious comments, we don’t accept abuse and whenever that has been presented and unfortunately that has happened in the Conservative party we have dealt with it swiftly and that has not been reliant on a definition of Islamophobia.”

The Conservatives have been told to launch an urgent inquiry into Islamophobia in the party

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) warned that the Conservative Party was at risk of "placing themselves on the wrong side of the argument".

“Amongst those who oppose the definition are many bigots, those wilfully seeking to misrepresent the definition, those who wish to set a standard for the definition not set for other communities, as well as those who have good faith concerns,” a spokesperson for the MCB said.

“It seems that many bad faith actors are motivated by a desire to deny Muslims the right to define the bigotry and discrimination they face. The Conservative Party should be wary of placing themselves on the wrong side of the argument and we call on the Party to unequivocally adopt the definition.

“Our political parties should be united in working with Muslim communities and confronting Islamophobia wherever it is found."

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