British Muslim Magazine

The Government Drops Plans To Provide An Official Definition of Islamophobia


With promises made over three years ago, the government has officially dropped work on a definition of Islamophobia. Over the years, many have found that the government’s reaction to such a concern has been deeply worrying, despite the rise in hate crimes against Muslims in England and Wales. 

For many years, Labour MP Afzal Khan has written to those in charge asking to come up with an official definition of Islamophobia. Speaking to The Independent, he said, “Their lack of action since 2018, coupled with the damning allegations made by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, all show that they simply do not take the issue seriously.”

He also mentioned, “Year after year, British Muslims are victims of the highest proportion of religiously motivated hate crime. This trend shows no sign of abating under the Conservative government. Yet this revolving door of chaos has meant that consecutive prime ministers have failed to tackle Islamophobia and deliver on their promises.”

Islamophobia Awareness Month

When it comes to religious hate crimes, it is believed that Muslims are a hot target. In fact, between April 2020 and March 2021, there were 2,703 hate crimes committed against Muslims in England and Wales. What’s more, according to a tweet by Labour MP, Anneliese Dodds, ‘Hate crimes against Muslims accounted for 42% of all recorded religious hate crimes last year. The Conservatives promised to develop a definition of Islamophobia years ago. Now Michael Gove says he won’t. Another broken Tory promise.

The government plan to drop work on an official definition of Islamophobia on Tuesday 1st November, which marks the start of Islamophobia Awareness Month. For many Muslims around the UK, this caused great distress as it portrayed that the issue is not being taken seriously. 

However, according to The Independent, secretary of state, Michael Gove opposes coming up with a definition and believes that it would bring ‘dangers’. In an event hosted by the Counter Extremism Group, he said, it “would be very difficult to get a precise definition”. He also added, “I think there are dangers if a university or another organisation which should be the home of free debate uses a definition like that to police what people can say in order to penalise them for it.”

Efforts Made But To No Avail

In 2019, an expert adviser was hired to come up with a definition, but to no avail. Imam Qari Asim also wrote letters to ministers and yet again, he received no reply. 

A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “British Muslim communities have witnessed over three years of failed government policy towards defining Islamophobia. Home Office statistics consistently show that over 40 per cent of religiously motivated hate crime targets Muslims, the most of any faith group in the UK.”

In 2018, Mr Gove referred to a definition by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) as ‘drivel’. This is why, according to shadow minister for women and equalities, Yasmin Qureshi, the “scourge of Islamophobia is on the rise”. She also told The Independent that “The Conservatives are the only political party in the UK to reject the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia…Now Michael Gove has broken his promise to develop an alternative. 

She adds, “With the revolving door of prime ministers scrabbling round to fix the mess they’ve created with the economy, it’s clear that tackling Islamophobia is an afterthought.”

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