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Open letter to Home Secretary rejects Islamophobia definition

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An open letter to the Home Secretary warning against the adoption of a proposed definition of Islamophobia has been signed by over 40 leading experts from a range of religious backgrounds.

Signatories include Professor Richard Dawkins, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, author and historian Tom Holland, and Pastor Ade Omooba MBE.

The letter, representing many Christians, atheists, Sikhs and others, criticises the definition proposed by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The letter argues that it “is being taken on without an adequate scrutiny or proper consideration of its negative consequences for freedom of expression, and academic or journalistic freedom.”

Already, the definition has been adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Mayor of London, and several local councils.

However, the letter argues that the definition could easily be "used to effectively shield Islamic beliefs and even extremists from criticism, and that formalising this definition will result in it being employed effectively as something of a backdoor blasphemy law."

The letter continues, “we are concerned that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism and investigation ... No religion should be given special protection against criticism.”

It concludes that “the APPG definition of Islamophobia is deeply problematic and unfit for purpose.”

This open letter follows another letter from Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council, to Prime Minister Theresa May warning her that adoption of this definition would hamper counter-terrorism efforts, as highlighted today in The Times.

Parliament is set to debate the definition of Islamophobia in the House of Commons tomorrow morning.

"Islamic blasphemy law"

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern, and a signatory to the letter, commented:

“The APPG definition of Islamophobia should not be accepted if we wish to preserve freedom of speech in this country. It is shocking that several political parties and councils have already adopted it without proper scrutiny.

“The proposed definition seeks to define Islamophobia as cultural racism, therefore making it unacceptable to criticise Islamic culture or practices. Already, allegations of Islamophobia have been used to silence legitimate criticism of Islamic beliefs and practices.

“Existing laws already cover religiously motivated hate crime, incitement to religious hatred, and discrimination because of a person’s religion or belief. Defining Islamophobia as a form of cultural racism will create, in effect, an Islamic blasphemy law.

“The wide range of signatories shows the strength of feeling and depth of concern about the proposed definition of Islamophobia. We urge the government to listen and to reject this definition as deeply problematic.”

 

ENDS
 
Notes to editors:
 

Background

The full letter and list of signatories is available at:
https://www.christianconcern.com/sites/default/files/Islamophobia_Open_Letter_To_Home_Secretary.pdf

The All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims published its report Islamophobia Defined in November 2018 with a proposed definition of Islamophobia. The proposed definition states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Tim Dieppe wrote an article about the proposed definition of Islamophobia in March 2019. 
 

For interview/further information:

Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy: 075 3445 3445

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