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Countering Misrepresentation: Defending the APPG Definition of Islamophobia

Countering Misrepresentation: Defending the APPG Definition of Islamophobia

Categories: Latest News

Monday October 02 2023

In recent times, discussions surrounding Islamophobia and its definition have gained traction, notably with the release of the Civitas report titled ‘Islamophobia Revisited’ and Policy Exchange’s report titled ‘The Symbolic Power of the Veil’. These reports have alleged that the APPG’s definition of Islamophobia is a tool used to suppress free speech and shield Islam as a religion from criticism. However, upon careful examination, particularly of the Civitas report, it becomes evident that the report relies on isolated examples and lacks substantive evidence and statistics to support its claims. This article aims to debunk the misconceptions and highlight the importance of the APPG definition in protecting Muslims as people and fostering a society free from hate speech and discrimination.

Firstly, the Civitas report erroneously contends that the APPG definition stifles free speech. However, the definition, by referencing ‘Muslimness,’ seeks to protect individuals based on their expressions of Muslim identity, such as clothing choices, dietary preferences, or linguistic expressions. Discrimination or hate speech against expressions of Muslim identity would not be protected under freedom of speech laws, making the definition crucial in safeguarding Muslims as people against hate speech and discrimination without impinging upon critiques of Islam as a religion.

Indeed, it is essential to differentiate between freedom of speech and hate speech. Freedom of speech allows for open dialogue, disagreement, and criticism within the boundaries of respect and tolerance. Hate speech, however, promotes discrimination, incites violence, and targets individuals or groups based on their religion, ethnicity, or other protected characteristics. The APPG definition aims to combat hate speech while upholding the principles of freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, the Civitas report selectively uses isolated incidents, such as the display of crude imagery of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), to substantiate its claim that the APPG definition aims to stifle free speech. However, these isolated incidents do not accurately represent the broader context and purpose of the definition. It is essential to consider the intent and the larger framework within which the definition operates, rather than cherry-picking isolated examples to claim that a widely accepted definition stifles free speech.

On the other hand, Policy Exchange, a think-tank well-known for its Islamophobic biases, recently released a report titled ‘The Symbolic Power of the Veil’, which presented a skewed critique of female Islamic dress codes using the situation in Iran as a case study to effectively paint a picture of oppression against Muslim women on a large scale. In its recommendation, the report vehemently opposed the APPG definition of Islamophobia by misrepresenting it as an attempt to shield Islam from criticism. However, such misrepresentations serve to contribute to the perpetuation of Islamophobia and hinder genuine efforts to combat discrimination against Muslims while respecting freedom of speech. While claiming to draw light on the oppression against Muslim women, by oposing the APPG definition of Islamophobia, the first working definition of Islamophobia that has been adopted by all major political parties barring the Conservative Party, Policy Exchange overlooks a genuine counter to the discrimination, hatred, and prejudice faced by Muslims.

Moreover, the endorsement of the Civitas report by the National Secular Society, an organisation that has attacked organisations like MEND and campaigns like Islamophobia Awareness Month, raises questions about the underlying motives for opposing the APPG definition. By aligning with a report that selectively presents isolated incidents without providing substantial evidence or statistics, the National Secular Society effectively enables Islamophobia under the guise of defending free speech.

Critiquing the APPG definition of Islamophobia without a comprehensive understanding of its intent and purpose can perpetuate misconceptions and hinder progress in combating hate speech and discrimination. Vigilance against biased narratives and misrepresentations is crucial to fostering a society that values respect, understanding, and inclusivity for all, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Moreover, an important observation is the selective focus of organisations like Civitas, Policy Exchange, and the National Secular Society. While they express concerns about the potential stifling of free speech with the APPG definition of Islamophobia, they notably remain silent about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA definition, which has faced significant academic and professional opposition for conflating criticism of Israel as a state with genuine antisemitism, raises legitimate concerns about free speech suppression and shielding Israel from criticism. The inconsistency in addressing these issues suggests a potential bias that may undermine the broader objective of fostering open dialogue and upholding the principles of free expression and scrutiny. It is vital for organisations to demonstrate a consistent and balanced approach when addressing concerns related to discrimination and free speech across various contexts.

Ultimately, it is imperative to have informed discussions about Islamophobia and understand its definition. The APPG’s definition seeks to protect Muslims as people, not to stifle freedom of speech or shield Islam from criticism. In our pursuit of meaningful dialogue, it is essential to uphold the principles of respect, empathy, and fairness for all individuals, regardless of their faith or identity.


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