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Press Release: Experts and Faith Groups Warn Against Adoption of Islamophobia Definition

Liam Duffy, 15 May 2019

A coalition of experts and multi-faith leaders have written to the Home Secretary counselling against the definition of Islamophobia which serves as a ‘backdoor blasphemy law’. The definition has so far been adopted by the Labour Party, the Mayor of London and a growing list of local authorities.

The signatories to the letter hail from a wide range of backgrounds and fields, including representatives of leading Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Secularist organisations. Others who have signed the letter to condemn the definition include Professor Richard Dawkins, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Imam Seyran Ateş, and Muslim counter-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz.

The letter warns that the Islamophobia definition in its current form would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech in the United Kingdom, and the inclusion of criteria such as ‘perceived Muslimness’ will have a worrying impact on reformist and feminist Muslims, as well as ex-Muslims and minorities – such as the estimated 30,000 strong Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

Speaking on the letter, Emma Webb, Director of the Forum on Integration, Democracy and Extremism at Civitas: said:

“The APPG definition is being adopted without proper scrutiny by councils and political parties across the country. Its impact on freedom of speech, freedom to criticise Islam and Islamist ideology, academic freedom and counter-extremism and integration work would be dire.

“The definition poses a very real threat to our civil liberties. Islamophobia has been used in the past by people who wish to censor those with whom they disagree – journalists, politicians, academics and public figures.

“It’s adoption will have a chilling effect on free speech and will undoubtedly shut down important conversations that a healthy free society must have. It will only be counterproductive.”

The letter follows a grave warning from Scotland Yard’s former head of Counter-Terrorism, Richard Walton, who expressed concern that the definition could ‘cripple’ counter-terrorism investigations at a pivotal time for UK national security.

Emma Webb and Civitas have called for the Home Secretary, national and local government, to listen to the legitimate concerns of a broad range of academics, activists, faith groups, experts and Britain’s minority communities who risk being further marginalised by this definition.

Notes

The Forum on Democracy, Integration and Extremism (FIDE) is a new project from Civitas, the Westminster think tank for the study of civil society.

A full copy of the open letter and list of signatories can be found at the following link:

http://www.civitas.org.uk/content/files/islamophobiaopenletter.pdf

For interview or further comment please contact Emma Webb: Emma.Webb@civitas.org.uk or call 020 7799 6677

Civitas: Institute for the Study of Civil Society is an independent, cross-party think tank which seeks to facilitate informed public debate. We search for solutions to social and economic problems unconstrained by the short-term priorities of political parties or conventional wisdom.

www.civitas.org.uk

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