17 October 2017 - Definition of Islamophobia

APPG Officer, Baroness Warsi asked Her Majesty’s Government "whether they have a definition of Islamophobia; and, if so, what it is."

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, responded,

"My Lords, we are clear that hatred and intolerance against Muslims have absolutely no place in our society. Any criminal offence that is perceived by the victim or any other person to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s religion or perceived religion is a religious hate crime. The Government do not currently endorse a particular definition of Islamophobia. Previous attempts by others to define this term have not succeeded in attracting consensus or widespread acceptance."

Baroness Warsi, highlighting that it has been 20 years since the Runnymede Trust published Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, asked the Minister whether he agrees that it is high time to have a definition of Islamophobia, and that to fundamentally challenge the hate that underpins hate crime, we need to define what that hate is. In that vein, Baroness Warsi, invited the Minister to meet with a cross-section of community organisations and individuals, led by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, to work towards a definition.

The Minister responded,

"My Lords, I acknowledge the massive and continuing work that my noble friend does in this area. As to her last point, I am very happy to meet the all-party group and community organisations to discuss these issues. There is a definition, as my noble friend rightly says, used by the Runnymede Trust. There are many definitions, but we do not use a single definition of Islamophobia, and I do not accept that there is a need for a definitive one. It is clearly recognised, and we have very effective monitoring of race-hate crimes. As my noble friend knows, considerable work is done by Tell MAMA and the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group in these areas. We do that while understanding and being able to recognise Islamophobia, but perhaps not being able to define it precisely."

Watch the proceedings here at 14:53:41 and read the transcript in the House of Lords Hansard here.

6 September 2017 - Prevent Strategy and definitions of counter extremism, counter terrorism, Islamophobia and far-right extremism

APPG Officer, Baroness Warsi, a Former Foreign Office and Communities Minister, asked Her Majesty’s Government whether the Prevent strand of Contest is part of a counter terrorism strategy or counter extremism strategy.

Minister of State for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams of Trafford, clarified that Prevent is part of the counter terrorism strategy, Contest, which safeguards people from being drawn into terrorism.

Baroness Warsi also welcomed the Government’s intention to tackle all forms of extremism, and went on to ask whether the acts, words, conduct and attitudes that are considered to be extreme must be defined in order to tackle hate crime effectively; what the Government’s working definition of Islamophobia is; and when the Government intend to agree and publish a definition of far-right extremism.

The Minister responded,

"On Islamophobia, the Government are absolutely clear that hatred and intolerance on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity have absolutely no place in our society. Our hate crime action plan sets out our commitment to defeating all forms of hatred. Generally, the Government’s counterextremism strategy defines extremism as,

“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs”.

This applies to all forms of extremism, including the far and extreme right wing."

In the debate, Baroness Afshar raised concerns about how defining Muslims as the focus of Prevent creates a sense of otherisation and alienation, and Lord Ahmed highlighted the arrests of serving members of the British Armed Forces because of their alleged membership of a proscribed terror group to ask whether adequate measures will be taken to ensure that there are no extremists serving in the Armed Forces.

Watch the proceedings here and read the transcript in the House of Lords Hansard here.