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Launch of APPG on British Muslims Report on Islamophobia Defined at Parliament

4 December 2018

Written by: Dr. Mozammel Haque

Let me clear first the two words on the title – Islamophobia and APPG on British Muslims. The history and background of Islamophobia goes back, of course in recent times, when the word was coined and first used in the Runnymede Trust Report 20 years ago defined Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism. Since that time Islamophobia has passed a ‘dinner table test’ said by Baroness Warsi. The recent report also shows the rise of 52% hate crimes against the Muslim community.

The second word APPG on British Muslims is a young organisation which was founded only a year ago did some useful works to promote many aspects of Muslims in Britain and Muslim contributions in British society and Britain as a whole. This APPG on British Muslims launched its report last December 2017 entitled ‘Marry Muslim Christmas’. The APPG felt a clear need for a definition of Islamophobia and they came out with a definition of Islamophobia.

According to the APPG on British Muslims, “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expression of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

The APPG report recommend the adoption of the abovementioned definition which was reached after following widespread consultation with academics, lawyers, local and nationally  elected officials, Muslim organisations, activists, campaigners, and local Muslim communities.

Foreword of the APPG Report
on Islamophobia Defined
In the Foreword of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, Anna Soubry, Conservative MP and Wes Streeting, Labour MP, the co-chairs of the APPG on British Muslims, said, “The year 2017 marked the twentieth anniversary of the seminal report of the Runnymede Trust’s Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, ‘Islamophobia: A Challenge for us all’. The occasion of the anniversary, and the follow up report by the Runnymede Trust last year, highlight the extent to which Islamophobia remains a palpable concern among British Muslims when it comes to inequality and discrimination. Across policy domains, from employment, education and criminal justice to housing, healthcare and hate crime, Islamophobia has a significant negative impact on the life chances and quality of life enjoyed by British Muslims.”

The Foreword also maintained, “Our impetus for conducting an inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia/anti-Muslim hatred derived from the twin observations of seeing equality rise up the political agenda but Islamophobia remain conspicuously absent or demonstrably relegated as a subject of interest. Twenty years on from the promulgation of the term Islamophobia, we can no longer ignore or deny its impact on our British Muslim communities.”

“Let us be clear, Islamophobia is rooted in racism and its victims are not just Muslims but also those who are perceived to be Muslims. Its effects are seen in individual behaviours and institutional processes. Whether it is Muslim women who are denied job opportunities because they wear a headscarf, gurdwaras that are defaced because they are mistakenly identified as mosques, or Muslim students who fail to secure entry offers from Russell Group universities, the effects of Islamophobia are real and measurable,” the Foreword mentioned.

APPG Report in its Foreword also said, “In pursuing this inquiry to arrive   a working definition, we have attempted to engage the ‘process of defining’ through widespread consultation with parliamentarians, experts, lawyers, community activists and victim-led organisations so that we could confidently propose a working definition which serves to give meaning to the word and nature of the thing we call Islamophobia.”

Launch of the APPG Report on
Islamophobia Defined
On behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, Labour MP, Wes Streeting, co-chair of the APPG on British Muslims launched the report on Islamophobia Defined at the British Parliament on Tuesday, the 27th of November, 2018. Followings are the proceedings of the launch of the Report on Islamophobia Defined.

Wes Streeting Labour MP
While giving an introduction and background to the report, Labour MP Wes Streeting, the Co-chair of the APPG on British Muslims, said, “I am proud to co-chair the APPG on British Muslims with my Conservative colleague Anna Soubry actually conceived from the cross-party consultations from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. This is an issue of enormous importance. This can be seen from the turn up in this windy afternoon. This is also an enormous topic of concern and interest to Muslim community across the country and the people who care about tackling prejudice and discrimination in all of its forms.”

“APPG on British Muslims is a relatively young APPG. We are now going for a year. We sorted two things really; one is to promote so many aspects of Muslims in British and the Muslim contributions in a making in our country as a whole. Around this time last year our first report Marry Muslim Christmas which highlighted the amazing works of the Muslim community’s social organisations are doing, particularly doing at the festive times of the year,” parliamentarian Wes said.

He also mentioned in his opening introduction, “We have to immediately turn to Islamophobia the real problem and the negative aspects of life in Britain. There are plenty of evidence research already out there about the hate crime attacks on Muslims, verbal attacks, the physical attacks on people who are non-Muslims perceived to be Muslims; the attacks on Muslim institutions whether mosque or community centres. So we knew this is the problem that happens to be tackled.”

“Whenever any of us talk about Islamophobia in the Parliament immediately we see reactions of denouncing dismissals legitimisation of Muslim people,” mentioned Wes.

He said, “So we set out defined what islamophobia was. We started Islamophobia was an anti-Muslim hatred. We decided the best job we could do is to put together all of that existing research already out there and my goodness there is a rich body of research out there already. We engaged with a huge number of academic enormously generous their time and expertise in this area.”

Wes also informed how the APPG worked with Muslim community organisations, public sector bodies, public service providers and cross section of Muslim communities. He said, “We also engaged with Muslim community organisations nationally and locally; we engaged with public sector bodies; public service providers and most importantly far-reaching cross section of Muslim communities; PGGI Muslim communities across the country to go and test some of our thinking and assumptions with people. Because the best way to a kind of reaching to an authoritative definition we ask people themselves of their own lifetime experiences; what they wanted to see in the Report in term of definition of Islamophobia.”

Parliamentarian Wes also mentioned the findings are very conclusive. He said, “I think the findings you will see from the report presentation today are very conclusive. There was a very clear need for a definition of Islamophobia and you will see the use by the Muslims community across the country if Islamophobia, that’s the term, the most widely used. It’s a problem, its shortcoming. We found when we were asking people what the term you would most likely to see you use one of the vast majority of people set forward.”

Definition of Islamophobia
Wes also maintained, “So we adopted in our report and in defining Islamophobia I think we sought to do two things; one is to establish beyond any doubt and I quote now from the definition, ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and it is a type of racism the targets the expression Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. And I think that’s really important firstly to make clear beyond anyone doubt what we have seen in terms of Muslim experience of Islamophobia is racialization of Muslims as a group and expression of Muslimness not just attacks on people but attacks also on buildings and there is no doubt in some of the evidences we looked at experiences we heard from academics and quantitative research or Muslim community themselves what people are experiences is a form of racism. That is abundantly clear definition we had from the Sikh representative organisations. They described their experiences of Islamophobia.”

“We are very clear of protecting people from prejudice; protecting people from discrimination; try to improve the quality of life  and the opportunities for Muslim communities life across the country. We hope with this report, this is just the start of the process because in order to tackle racism and prejudices of any kind; he must be able firstly properly to define and understand and most importantly we got to accept the principle that is the victims of discrimination ought to be able to define their experiences about prejudices for themselves. How that experience properly understood by legislature, by policy makers, by employers, or by people of any position of power and authority. And I hope that definition will help people to do that,” mentioned Labour MP Wes.

“The second thing we want to achieve today is not just to get your support of the definition or to sign up up for what will be a big campaign.,” the co-chair of the APPG on British Muslims, Wes, said and added, “I actually want this to be a court of action for far too long real acts of violence and discrimination against Muslims have gone unchallenged unchecked and sometimes un-prioritise by people in position of power. Too often people working this building have abused their authority and their position using languages about Muslim people, particularly Muslim women that will never be accepted against any other group in our society. That has to be stopped too.”

Co-chair of the APPG on British Muslims Wes also informed that they met Home Secretary, Shadow Home Secretary and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. He said, “So this document defines Islamophobia as a court of action to tackle Islamophobia. We want to see the government adopts this; we met Home Secretary this afternoon, Shadow Home Secretary, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. So we want to see the government adopt this; we also want everyone whatever their position or authority really take this what can I do to tackle prejudice against Muslims.”

“There might be an HR director going back and look at practice;  Are we sure we got it right; people applying for jobs here,  Muslims have a fair practice at the opening; are we sure people progression in their pay is it fair or are we may be inadvertently discriminating against Muslim people. We want people walking down the busy street like Oxford Street when they see women like my constituent, were attacking on broad daylight during rush hour and in a state of distress,” said parliamentarian Wes and added, “Each of us can live a decent and meaningful life. That’s, for this report, is all about.”      

Chair, Home Affairs Select Committee
Yvette Cooper, MP
After thanking the chair and members of the APPG on British Muslims, Yvette Cooper, MP, the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said, “To give you my commitment that the Home Affairs Select Committee is keen to take this forward. We have shortly will be completing our enquiry into hate crime and publishing; we would be tackling the toxic hate crime and levels of racially motivated, religiously motivated and other kinds of hate crime across the country But we are also conducting a parallel inquiry into Islamophobia which was started by suggestions are sharp now with Naz (Shah) is also on the Committee and part of the work already done take evidence around Islamophobia in the media. We are taken evidence of Sayeeda (Warsi) and also look at Islamophobia online and the escalation online hatred; we know the impact that can happen offline as well. And we think throughout the work even this initial work by actually how charging it was with the lack of widely accepted definition of Islamophobia.”

“That’s why I think this work is so important by the APPG; this is not just about a word but actually we know the word is incredibly powerful and therefore round the definition what then helps you to be able to take actions; to be able to challenge prejudice, to be able to challenge discrimination; to be able to challenge the kind of hatred and to be able to challenge to kind of divisive society but also with you too often to silence British Muslims,” said chair of Home Affairs Select Committee and added, “We know that the Muslim women face the experience of worst hate crime and the worst divisive prejudice as well. So very best of luck with the rest of the events this afternoon and with the commitment that I know you people will be making how we take this forward and we look forward to be able to take evidence from all of those involved in this piece of work and also to be able to do our bit to take it forward and to challenge the appalling prejudice and divisiveness across the country.”

Omar Khan – CEO Runnymede Trust
While welcoming the APPG Report on Islamophobia and its definition, The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Runnymede Trust said, “For taking so seriously, for engaging not just academics but by British Muslims and the wider community, I am really proud of what you have done and finally I do welcome this report and its definition and I think it follows from Runnymede definition established in our 20th anniversary report which is to define Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism. We think it is really important to focus on racism, not just as a question of analysis of definitions, but as mentioned my previous speaker has suggested ensuring that our civil society and policy response tackle all the ways which British Muslims are disadvantaged and discriminated against.”

Omar Khan mentioned, “There is a challenge here which is not to deny that hate crime is indeed a terrible experience for many years to many British Muslims around the country but at the same time we need recognise that hate crime is the only way in which British Muslims are disadvantaged and discriminated. We hold the secretariat of the APPG on racial community a few years ago; we did inquiry into black and Muslim women in the labour market and we had multiple people coming forward talking about changing their names; taking off their headscarves in order to sit in an interview and we know we have to send many CVs of Asian and African sounding surnames that means the Muslim sounding surname just to get an interview. The same people could not enter the door because of the surname; do your sons will go to treat you fairly once you go through the door or things like progression promotion and pay rise. “

 “I think we need to recognise this definition does that the discrimination of British Muslims experience is just one off the street a member of the EDL as Sayeeda Warsi is called ‘dinner table Islamophobia,’” said Omar Khan and added, “The final thing I say as the Director of an organisation not only 20 or 21 years ago first published a Report on Islamophobia but racism on its all forms. The other event of defining which is again a challenge we need to navigate Islamophobia and racism; it connects to other form of discrimination and racism; it allows us to understand that all forms of discrimination are at the same time they have the  distinctive property.”

CEO of Runnymede Trust, Omar Khan, said, “So yes Islamophobia does look different from anti-Semitism which looks different from anti-black racism or Afro-phobia. But all of them are forms of racism and are not only that useful analytical point; it is a useful point for policy makers to think about all the different communities that experience racism and indeed all of us are fighting it. If you are opposed to one form of racism you should be opposed all forms.”

He also said, “One last word I do think the free speech point Wes (Streeting) has mentioned easily is a challenging one. The way we put in our Report criticism of ideas is a hallmark of free society but discriminating against people is a sign of an unjust one and I think that’s the distinction we have to keep in mind and Muslims do need to accept that there would be criticism, sometimes tough criticism of Islam but I think people who make those criticism also need to anticipate that some of those critics wade into attacks on Muslim themselves as people. So we need to keep distinction clear but at the same time many people criticise Israel are not motivated by anti-Semitism; so many of those who do criticise Israel actually are not anti-Semitism. Similarly most of those who criticise Islam, may be, are motivated by Islamophobia, but too many of those who do are actions motivated by denying the rights and equal opportunities of British Muslims where this report needs to move forward too. And I welcome today and I look forward to working with the group together too.”

Ed Davey, MP
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson
Thanking the APPG, Ed Davey MP, the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson said, “I think this is the incredibly important piece of work; important because it is absolutely needed because of the single sense I think the way the APPG has got about it thoughtful evidence based way bought this subject does.”

He also mentioned an incident of mosque attack and said, “When the mosque was attacked by English far right, everyone came behind the community cohesion with depth and emotion.”

Supporting the work of the APPG, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson said, “For a moment in the history of our country where we need to re-establish commitment by everybody in our community making sure that the politics is welcoming particularly welcome to everyone in our community.”

“You certainly have my personal support right for this cross-party report. I have read some of your proceedings,” supporting the report Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesperson said, “Less be clear this is the foundation.”

“There is an existing sense of division; now we have got to heal that; we have got to use many ways of healing it; be clear of  Islamophobia,” said Ed Davey MP.

Speaking about Islamophobia and Media, Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesperson, Davey, MP, mentioned, “I see Islamophobia everywhere in the front pages of a number of our newspapers.”

Naz Shah, MP
Describing this day the historic day, a part of history day, Labour Parliamentarian Naz Shah said, “As a Member of Parliament with a large Muslim constituents like the MP in Parliament,  you know to have this kind of piece of words that we have here is for me very historical. And what we are sharing with is historical today and I think we need to really as much has everybody has said what this definition means; you are playing a part in history, from 20 years ago since from that coined Islamophobia to that day Islamophobia has passed a dinner table test; this is version three where I sit; Islamophobia defined.”

Labour MP Naz Shah also mentioned, “My message to those critic is this; this is something that the community defined. I went out there talk to that community; I am representing that community and I am still the member who represents that community. We go out and work wherever it is, Ilford, Sheffield, that being Birmingham wherever we being wishes come from the community. Those who are quick to judge this definition today they really need to check a hard look at themselves and who is it that they represent because certainly it is not the constituency I represent; the Muslims that spoke to whoever behaviour that abuse that we talked about today.”

Parliamentarian Naz Shah also mentioned, “For me; this subject is so close to me; because I want my daughter if she decides to wear the hijab to be able to wear that hijab. I want my son if he wants to grow a beard when he is older to be able to grow a beard.”

Referring to the gathering that turn up in a windy afternoon to attend and participate on the launching of the Report, Labour MP Naz Shah said, “You are part of our journey and this journey is for every Muslim of UK and beyond.”

Rt. Hon. Dianne Abbot  MP
Shadow Home Secretary
Rt. Hon. Dianne Abbot, MP, Shadow Home Secretary said, “I did want to come and show my support to the important work the APPG is doing. I do not want to say this; I have literally spent political lifetime fighting Racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia all this through. It was necessarily fashionable to fight though; but I think you could almost argue that Islamophobia is the most intense form of racism we see today and Baroness Warsi have talked about a kind of dinner party Islamophobia where people almost casually can exchange Islamophobic remarks on dinner; people who would not make other types of racism remarks. Think of a day of type of liberalism they can be hostile to our Muslim community

Referring to Brexit and rise of hate speech, Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbot mentioned, “So in a difficult time with Brexit as a rise in hate speech and hate activity; it has never been more important to support minority community and particularly our Muslim community.”

Dianne Abbot, Labour MP said, “I believe the APPG is doing very important work I think the work on a definition that is important.”

Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbot mentioned, “Actually we are strongest society all together when we fight racism Islamophobia anti-Semitism. We are stronger; stronger society; stronger community and stronger nation. We all know; I certainly know what the Muslim community has contributed; what the Muslim community continues to contribute in this country and it is so important both in foreign policy and domestic policy to fight Islamophobia in whatever party it raises its heads because exactly it is freighting and it makes us all much weaker.”

Lord Bourne (Minister for Faith)
Thanking Baroness Warsi and Anna Soubry for all the works that have been done on this Report, Lord Bourne, Minister for Faith, said, “It is almost thoroughly researched report I have not chance to go through all of it but it is very persuasive good stuff there and we should cover very basic points, first of all, any hate crime, any discrimination against any body in our country is hate crime against all of us; discrimination against all of us that runs through the report and I think that is an important thing.”

His second point is in relation to Islamophobia. Lord Bourne mentioned about the hate crime figures rise. He said, “52% rise in hate crimes often against people who have been identified as Muslims. It is not just Sikhs and Hindus; sometimes the Sikhs have frozen the whole thing that’s why we need to tackle it.”

Appreciating and praising the fantastic work done by (Akeela) Ahmad and her organisation anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Lord Bourne said, “She I know and other members of that group are very keen to do work based on what you have done using should look at the definition. The government just as we have heard Sajid Javid very much signed up to my boss very keen to do so. We want to do it; we want to do it properly but it is something that we need to do.”

Lord Bourne concluded by saying, “We are very keen to take it forward but just once again you know I think we are all united on this; we need to be united but thank you very much for being there; thank you very much for the work that you have done.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
While delivering her closing remarks, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi paid tribute to Lord Nicolas Bourne, this Minister for Faith is phenomenal. She said, “I praise people like the way he engages with all the things across the country; the time he takes out to go see them; the time he takes out to understand; the brave way to conduct the conversation; the sincerity with the open minded issues; is really phenomenal. Also the long long way you continue in that room with many bigger roles that I can look forward to working with you.”

Referring to the report on Islamophobia defined, Baroness Warsi mentioned, “This work has been hard; it has been tough; it has been tough to ask the questions that we needed to ask; we all started out with very different positions; I published a book a year and half ago in which I said the term I preferred anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-Muslim sentiment, so here I was as part of an inquiry mentally in a different place where many of my other colleagues were and what we felt was really important.”

“We wanted to follow the evidence and the only way we could do that by making sure that we heard from the academic as broadest as possible; engaged them as deeply as possible and analysis that we work with people we are being working at the top of this work as well as the grass-roots communities is that we buy and challenge communities themselves; and some of that were tough;” said Baroness Warsi and added, “but the challenge we had was to make sure that we talked to as many Muslims as possible.”

“What we felt this is a  parliamentary group that had to be led by the evidence of academic work that we heard, said Baroness Warsi and mentioned, “When we finished, one thing what we had learnt last twelve months, that the debacle within the Labour Party and the adoption the definition of anti-Semitism; it is this. It’s not a great look when you start telling communities by the fact that they are facing the onslaught this should not be the way they wanted that we know what they are feeling.”

Baroness Warsi said, “I sincerely hope that we can learn the lesson within the Conservative Party of what Labour went through;  and not say thanks for the definition we will have our own version thank you.”

While concluding her closing remarks, Baroness Warsi said, “I want to say two things really in conclusion. There is one thing that is fundamentally important to me when we started writing this report that was about making it very clear that this report was and should not be about sitting down  debate; especially sitting down debate on practicals which have sadly in the media.”

Baroness Warsi also mentioned, “This is not about Islam; it is about people; actually it is not about Muslim, it is people who are either showing of expression of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. People powerful testimonies were from visibly Muslim women I should likely to face Islamophobia. Sikhs, the people who are perceived to be Muslims; and converts, families of converts, white people who marry Muslim a non-convert were seen as traitors to Britain; so many of these people who are even Muslim were facing this discrimination; were facing Islamophobia on the basis of racialising a community and that’s why Anna (Soubry) actually has insisted on having the word despite supervision by our academic that this is rooted in racism; not just  a formal racism; it was rooted in racism and target expressions.”

Besides the above Members of the Parliament, there were other MPs, such as Afzal Khan MP, Elanor Smith MP, Tan Dhesi MP spoke during the Launch of the report. Chair of Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, Akeela Ahmed, MBE, also spoke.

After that there was a Questions & Answers (Q & A) session, when support came for the APPG Report on Islamophobia Defined and comments made from the floor.

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Interfaith Iftar & Countering Extremism through Faith 2017
June 20th 2017

Eid Ul Fitr Celebrations 2017 & 27 Ramadan 1438 Photos
June 2017

Gathering of Faith Leaders in the Islamic Cultural Centre after the Manchester Attack
May 24th 2017

ICC Holds One Day Forum on Induction to Islam
May 21th 2017

The Islamic Cultural Centre and British Islamic Community Receives MWL Secretary General
May 6 - 17th 2017

ICC Holds Two Day Teacher Training Course
15 - 16 April 2017

Holds Open Day for Worshippers with Deafness
April 9th 2017

Arabic Manuscripts Day Celebrations at the ICC
April 8th 2017

Safeguarding the Vulnerable from Extremism
March 30th 2017

Conclusion of the interpretation course of the Quran in the Persian language
March 8th 2017

The Anniversary of the Massacre of the Muslims of Srebrenica
March 8th 2017

Islam & Women Debate & Dinner Event
February 23rd 2017

Fifth Forum of Imams in Britain
January 28th 2017

ICC's Arabic Cultural Saloon Holds Book Launch & Lecture at The King Fahad Academy
January 27th 2017

Islam & Democracy - Civic Responsibility
January 26th 2017

The Islamic Cultural Centre London Hosts His Eminence Sheikh Dr Saad Al Shathry
27 - 30 December 2016

World Arabic Language Day celebrations at the ICC
December 18th 2016

Stakeholder & Community Engagement Evening & End of Year Reception Dinner 2016
December 14th 2016

World Arabic Day celebrations at The University of Reading
December 12th 2016

Westminister Faith Exchange Competition
December 12th 2016

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The London Central Mosque Trust Ltd. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 442394

Registered Office Address: 146 Park Road, London, NW8 7RG | Tel 020 7724 3363 | Fax 020 7724 0493 | Secretary 0207 725 2213, 0207 725 2152