Proposals for an official definition of 'Islamophobia' were rejected by the Government yesterday.
Downing Street said the suggested definition had not been broadly accepted, adding: This is a matter that will need further careful consideration. '
The definition had been proposed by a parliamentary campaign group, the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims. It wanted the Government to define Islamaphobia as rooted in racism or a type of racism that targets expressions of
Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.
Ministers are now expected to appoint two independent advisers to draw up a less legally problematic definition, the Times reported.
A parliamentary debate on anti-Muslim prejudice is due to be held today in Parliament.
The criticism of the definition has been published in an open letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid:
Open Letter: APPG Islamophobia Definition Threatens Civil Liberties
The APPG on British Muslims' definition of Islamophobia has now been adopted by the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats Federal board, Plaid Cymru and the Mayor of London, as well as several local councils. All of this is occurring before the
Home Affairs Select Committee has been able to assess the evidence for and against the adoption of the definition nationally.
Meanwhile the Conservatives are having their own debate about rooting out Islamophobia from the party.
According to the APPG definition, "Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness".
With this definition in hand, it is perhaps no surprise that following the horrific attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand,
some place responsibility for the atrocity on the pens of journalists and academics who have criticised Islamic beliefs and practices, commented on or investigated Islamist extremism.
The undersigned unequivocally, unreservedly and emphatically condemn acts of violence against Muslims, and recognise the urgent need to deal with anti-Muslim hatred. However, we are extremely concerned about the uncritical and hasty adoption of
the APPG's definition of Islamophobia.
This vague and expansive definition is being taken on without an adequate scrutiny or proper consideration of its negative consequences for freedom of expression, and academic and journalistic freedom. The definition will also undermine social
cohesion -- fuelling the very bigotry against Muslims which it is designed to prevent.
We are concerned that allegations of Islamophobia will be, indeed already are being, 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 accusation of Islamophobia has already been used against those opposing religious and gender segregation in education, the hijab, halal slaughter on the grounds of animal welfare, LGBT rights campaigners opposing Muslim views on
homosexuality, ex-Muslims and feminists opposing Islamic views and practices relating to women, as well as those concerned about the issue of grooming gangs. It has been used against journalists who investigate Islamism, Muslims working in
counter-extremism, schools and Ofsted for resisting conservative religious pressure and enforcing gender equality.
Evidently abuse, harmful practices, or the activities of groups and individuals which promote ideas contrary to British values are far more likely to go unreported as a result of fear of being called Islamophobic. This will only increase if the
APPG definition is formally adopted in law.
We are concerned that the definition will be used to shut down legitimate criticism and investigation. While the APPG authors have assured that it does not wish to infringe free speech, the entire content of the report, the definition itself, and
early signs of how it would be used, suggest that it certainly would. Civil liberties should not be treated as an afterthought in the effort to tackle anti-Muslim prejudice.
The conflation of race and religion employed under the confused concept of 'cultural racism' expands the definition beyond anti-Muslim hatred to include 'illegitimate' criticism of the Islamic religion. The concept of Muslimness can effectively
be transferred to Muslim practices and beliefs, allowing the report to claim that criticism of Islam is instrumentalised to hurt Muslims.
No religion should be given special protection against criticism. Like anti-Sikh, anti-Christian, or anti-Hindu hatred, we believe the term anti-Muslim hatred is more appropriate and less likely to infringe on free speech. A proliferation of
'phobias' is not desirable, as already stated by Sikh and Christian organisations who recognise the importance of free discussion about their beliefs.
Current legislative provisions are sufficient, as the law already protects individuals against attacks and unlawful discrimination on the basis of their religion. Rather than helping, this definition is likely to create a climate of
self-censorship whereby people are fearful of criticising Islam and Islamic beliefs. It will therefore effectively shut down open discussions about matters of public interest. It will only aggravate community tensions further and is therefore no
long term solution.
If this definition is adopted the government will likely turn to self-appointed 'representatives of the community' to define 'Muslimness'. This is clearly open to abuse. The APPG already entirely overlooked Muslims who are often considered to be
"insufficiently Muslim" by other Muslims, moderates, liberals, reformers and the Ahmadiyyah, who often suffer persecution and violence at the hands of other Muslims.
For all these reasons, the APPG definition of Islamophobia is deeply problematic and unfit for purpose. Acceptance of this definition will only serve to aggravate community tensions and to inhibit free speech about matters of fundamental
importance. We urge the government, political parties, local councils and other organisations to reject this flawed proposed definition.
Emma Webb, Civitas
Hardeep Singh, Network of Sikh Organisations (NSOUK)
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
Tim Dieppe, Christian Concern
Stephen Evans, National Secular Society (NSS)
Sadia Hameed, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB)
Prof. Paul Cliteur, candidate for the Dutch Senate, Professor of Law, University of Leiden
Brendan O'Neill, Editor of Spiked
Maajid Nawaz, Founder, Quilliam International
Rt. Rev'd Dr Gavin Ashenden
Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters
Professor Richard Dawkins
Rahila Gupta, author and Journalist
Peter Whittle, founder and director of New Culture Forum
Trupti Patel, President of Hindu Forum of Britain
Dr Lakshmi Vyas, President Hindu Forum of Europe
Harsha Shukla MBE, President Hindu Council of North UK
Tarang Shelat, President Hindu Council of Birmingham
Ashvin Patel, Chairman, Hindu Forum (Walsall)
Ana Gonzalez, partner at Wilson Solicitors LLP
Baron Desai of Clement Danes
Baroness Cox of Queensbury
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
Ade Omooba MBE, Co-Chair National Church Leaders Forum (NCLF)
Wilson Chowdhry, British Pakistani Christian Association
Ashish Joshi, Sikh Media Monitoring Group
Satish K Sharma, National Council of Hindu Temples
Rumy Hasan, Academic and author
Amina Lone, Co-Director, Social Action and Research Foundation
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Seyran Ates, Imam
Gina Khan, One Law for All
Mohammed Amin MBE
Michael Mosbacher, Acting Editor, Standpoint Magazine
Lisa-Marie Taylor, CEO FiLiA
Julie Bindel, journalist and feminist campaigner
Dr Adrian Hilton, academic
Neil Anderson, academic
Tom Holland, historian
Prof. Dr. Bassam Tibi, Professor Emeritus for International Relations, University of Goettingen
The Saatchi Gallery in London has censored works featuring an Islamic declaration of faith after complaints from Muslim visitors who claimed the artworks were blasphemous.
The Gallery is hosting an exhibition of new material by the artist SKU featuring a variety of works. However, it decided to censor the two 'offending' paintings that incorporated the text of the shahada, juxtaposed with images of a partially nude
women with the background of a stylised US flag .
SKU suggested that the works should remain on the gallery wall but be covered up with sheets. He told the Sunday Times that it seemed a respectful solution that enables a debate about freedom of expression versus the perceived right not to be
The Saatchi Gallery told the newspaper it fully supported freedom of artistic expression ...[BUT]... The gallery also recognises the sincerity of the complaints made against these works and supported the artist's decision to cover
them until the end of the exhibition.
Offsite Comment: We must have the right to blaspheme against Islam
Ofcom has imposed a £75,000 fine on City News Network for failing to provide adequate protection for viewers.
The service Channel 44 -- an Urdu-language news and current affairs channel -- broadcast hate speech and material containing abusive treatment of the Ahmadiyya community.
Under the Broadcasting Code, licensees must not broadcast material which contains uncontextualised hate speech and abusive treatment of groups, religions or communities.
After an investigation, Ofcom concluded that the serious nature of the breaches of the Broadcasting Code warranted the imposition of statutory sanctions. These include a financial penalty and a direction to the broadcaster to broadcast a
statement of Ofcom's findings on a date and in a form to be determined by Ofcom.
The fine of £75,000 will be paid by City News Network to HM Paymaster General.
Lords of Chaos is a UK / Sweden thriller by Jonas Åkerlund.
Starring Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen and Sky Ferreira.
A teenager's quest to launch Norwegian Black Metal in Oslo in the 1980s Members of the Norwegian death metal band perform a series of increasingly shocking publicity stunts leading to a very violent outcome.
It is based on real-life band Mayhem, and includes scenes of murder including the brutal killing of a homosexual man - and the burning of churches by satanists.
The latest most controversial film ever has been passed 18 uncut by the BBFC for strong bloody violence, gore, suicide.
According to the Telegraph the BBFC are understood to have been so concerned about the film that it was reviewed at the highest levels and suicide prevention experts were consulted before it was approved for an 18 certificate.
The Telegraph suggests the US film censors at the MPAA were similarly concerned before rating it R for strong brutal violence, disturbing behavior, grisly images, strong sexuality, nudity, and pervasive language.
The BBFC said the film did not glamorise self-harm and that there was no reason to think the film would have a damaging effect on adults who chose to view it - although some might find it distressing.
Church groups have, however, have called for it to be banned. Speaking to The Telegraph, Simon Calvert, deputy director of The Christian Institute, said he was surprised the film had not been banned given the recent discussion about self-harm. He
In the current climate of concern over self-harm and suicide, you would have thought there might have been more consideration of the risk that vulnerable people might imitate what they see. The distributors ought to be asking themselves if it is
worth this risk.'
The film is being distributed in the United Kingdom by Arrow Films and will be released in cinemas on 29th March.