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Backdoor Blasphemy Law? Brit Muslim Group Attempts to Get Islamophobia Definition Approved by Govt

06-17-2019
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Last month after the British government dropped a proposed definition of Islamophobia, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the largest Islamic organization in the United Kingdom, called for the ruling Conservative Party to be investigated for Islamophobia.

The Gatestone Institute reports the dispute arose after the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims tried to make the government's official definition of Islamophobia to be in racial terms rather than religious terms.  

Back in November of 2018, the group's report titled "Islamophobia Defined," proposed a one-sentence definition of Islamophobia: 

"Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness."

The definition was endorsed by hundreds of Muslim organizations, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, as well as several political parties, including Labour Party, Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives, according to the Gatestone Institute.

However, the proposed definition has been described by some as a "backdoor blasphemy law."  It has been opposed by many Britons, including British Muslims, who warned that it would effectively shield Islam from any scrutiny or criticism.  

Proponents for the definition said although it is true Muslims come from many nationalities, Islamists also experience what they call prejudice, and discrimination that's a form of racism. 

However, during a debate in the House of Commons, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire rejected the APPG's definition of Islamophobia, saying it was too vague and has "potential consequences for freedom of speech."

Brokenshire said that the definition is not in conformity with the Equality Act 2010, which defines "race" as comprising color, nationality, and national or ethnic origins — not a religious practice.

In the online blog, The Spectator, David Green, the founder and chief executive of Civitas, a non-partisan public policy London think tank, wrote: 

"Using words with the intention of stirring up racial hatred is not protected under British law and — no doubt for this reason — the APPG definition claims that criticizing Islam is a form of racism," Green wrote. "But race and religion are very different."

"There is wide public support for freedom of speech and it is unlikely to be officially ended by an act of parliament, but it can be chipped away bit by bit. Giving official recognition to the APPG definition of Islamophobia will be a giant step towards an arbitrary police state," he concluded. 

Senior British law enforcement officials have also warned the proposed definition of Islamophobia could confuse police officers and even hinder the fight against Islamic terrorism.

"We are concerned that the definition is too broad as currently drafted, could cause confusion for officers enforcing it and could be used to challenge legitimate free speech on the historical and theological actions of Islamic states," Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May that was leaked to The Times.  "There is also a risk it could also undermine counterterrorism powers, which seek to tackle extremism or prevent terrorism."

Even the UK's first Muslim member of Parliament, Khalid Mahmood, spoke out against the definition, saying it would lead to increased segregation of Muslim communities. 

"I am for equality for all — but I oppose this," Mahmood said. "We as Muslims should be proud of who we are and try to move away from a victim mentality."

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the MCB, later admitted the group's complaint was aimed at pressuring the government to accept its definition of Islamophobia, according to the Gatestone Institute.

A government spokesman said that the APPG's definition had "not been broadly accepted" and needed "further careful consideration."

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