MPs call on UK government to adopt new Islamophobia definition

A group of cross-party MPs on Tuesday called on the UK government to adopt a new definition of Islamophobia to help tackle the increasing problem of anti-Muslim prejudice in the country.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims concludes in Islamophobia Defined', a report following a six-month inquiry involving evidence from a range of Muslim organisations, academics and experts, that it is not just British Muslims who are impacted by Islamophobia, but British society at large.

"Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness," the report says the new definition of the term should be.

According to latest UK Home Office figures released last month, a majority of religious hate crime 52 per cent was directed at Muslims.

"Islamophobia is a form of racism and it is growing in our society. To tackle it, Islamophobia must be accurately and fully defined and that's why this inquiry centred around the discussion on a working definition," said Labour Party MP Wes Streeting, Co-Chair of the APPG on British Muslims.

His group's report found that "prevalent" Islamophobia was driving division, hate crime and even terror attacks and that because there is no commonly agreed definition of Islamophobia, it has been allowed to "increase in society to devastating effect".

"The detectable shift from overt to subtler or respectable, manifestations of Islamophobia the normalisation of the prejudice to the extent it is rendered almost invisible to many warrants a definition that can arrest and reverse its present trajectory," the report notes.

"There has been no attempt to adopt a definition of Islamophobia by government despite recognising the significant impact the problem has on British Muslim communities," it adds.

In an attempt to preempt criticism from far-right and extremists groups, the APPG report concludes that the definition does not aim to curtail free speech or criticism of Islam as a religion.

"From hate crimes motivated by anti-Muslim feeling, buttressed by stereotypes and racist caricatures prevalent in social and media discourse, to policies which perpetuate discriminatory outcomes for Muslims, a definition of Islamophobia is vital," it said.

A UK government spokesperson said that hatred directed against British Muslims and others because of their faith or heritage was utterly unacceptable.

"We know that some have suggested 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," the spokesperson said.

The government had launched an Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group recently and said it plans to work with various groups to tackle the problem as part of a wider Hate Crime Action Plan.