Conservatives criticised for refusing to adopt recommended definition of Islamophobia

Exclusive: 'The Tories should be wary of placing themselves on the wrong side of the argument,' the Muslim Council of Britain says

Tuesday 26 March 2019 17:32 GMT
The suggested definition of Islamophobia has been adopted by several political parties
The suggested definition of Islamophobia has been adopted by several political parties (Shutterstock)

The Conservative Party has been criticised for refusing to adopt the definition of Islamophobia produced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims.

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.

The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have both adopted the definition, which reads: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Plaid Cymru told The Independent they too will now use the definition, which has been endorsed by dozens of experts, and sources close to the SNP leadership said they were also on the verge of doing so.

Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru's Westminster leader, said: "Plaid Cymru is pleased to adopt the formal definition of Islamophobia.

"Islamophobia, and indeed any form of racism, is abhorrent and it is the responsibility of all political parties to ensure we do everything we can to promote a more tolerant and inclusive society."

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 several examples of members and elected councillors posting Islamophobic and racist content has appeared online.

At least 40 people have been suspended so far this month and the party has been accused of attempting to “sweep Islamophobia under the carpet” after it quietly reinstating 15 previously suspended councillors.

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."

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

A spokesperson for the Conservative Party said: “We are deeply concerned at hatred directed against Muslims and others because of their faith or heritage. Any form of discrimination or abuse is wrong and the strong action we take on anti-Muslim discrimination is testament to the seriousness with which we take such issues.

“We know that some have suggested that establishing a definition of Islamophobia could strengthen efforts to confront bigotry and division. Any such approach would need to be considered carefully to ensure that this would have the positive effect intended.

“Following the recent publication of the Hate Crime Action Plan, we look forward to the outcome of the Government’s work to confront hatred, bigotry and division with the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group.”

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