Fear and free speech: why defining Islamophobia could do more harm than good

May 19, 2019 by

by Irene Lancaster, Christian Today.

This past week an open letter was sent to the Home Secretary expressing concern regarding the new mooted definition of Islamophobia.

The proposed definition by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Muslims suggested the following be adopted by the Government: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

What is most interesting about the open letter is the variety of people who have signed – Muslims, experts on Muslim history, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, human rights activists, humanists and famed atheist Richard Dawkins.

I don’t think that any letter of this type has ever before been signed by so many disparate people, which in itself says a great deal. What has united them is their shared concern about this very ill-thought-out definition of illegal hostility towards a particular religion.

The Government has rightly rejected the definition. The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Conservatives are among those who are reported to have adopted it.

It is notable that missing from the list of signatories to the letter of opposition is any of the leadership of the Jewish community – in my view, a sad indictment of contemporary Britain and also, as a Jew myself, a tragic reminder of the cowardice of the Jewish community when faced with a threat to their way of life, which I have to say I believe this definition would present if adopted…

…If this definition of Islamophobia were to be adopted, it would make that much harder and free speech cases such as those recently involving academic experts Professor Jordan Peterson and Professor Sir Roger Scruton would only escalate.

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