When the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims reported on the subject of prejudice against Muslims earlier this year, it also included a definition of Islamophobia: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. Islamophobia was a type of racism.
Our free and fearless press was most unhappy at the news, and it was therefore no surprise that then Prime Minister Theresa May and her pals declined to adopt the definition: after all, the press was sustaining her in power, and defining Islamophobia as racism would severely cramp the press’ style, or lack of it.
It was rejected on free speech grounds, the National Police Chiefs Council claiming “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 or theological actions of Islamic states. There is also a risk it could also undermine counter-terrorism powers, which seek to tackle extremism or prevent terrorism”.
But now a problem has entered: senior Police officers have confirmed that they have no problem with the APPG definition. And i News has told readers “Boris Johnson is under pressure to accept the widely-recognised definition of Islamophobia after it emerged that two of the country’s top police officers have agreed it would not undermine counter-terrorism operations”. So who are the two top cops?
“A letter seen by i from Martin Hewitt, chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council, and Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Britain’s top anti-terrorism officer, says they have been reassured by a group of MPs and peers that the definition would not hinder their work in fighting extremism”. The Tories have thus far resisted adoption “amid claims it would hinder free speech and stop police investigating terrorists”.
Now the UK Government is out of excuses: “The definition has been adopted by all other political parties, including the Conservative Party in Scotland, a number of trade unions and the London mayor”. Zubaida Haque has asked “Just about everyone - incl police chiefs now agree that the definition of Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism. The definition has widespread support across 3rd sector faith/race equality orgs and all the political parties - except [Conservatives]. Why not?” Sadly, the reason is the same as last May.
The Tories were dependent on the press to keep cheerleading for them. The Tories are still dependent on the press to keep cheerleading for them. And the press, which has run a succession of anti-Muslim stories in the recent past, mostly wants to be able to keep on running those stories, from the Sun right up to and including the Times.
So expect Bozo The Clown, supported by every editor in the right-leaning press, and scores of pundits and hangers-on, to fudge the issue, avoid adopting the definition, and most likely play for more time. So those papers and their websites can carry on smearing Muslims to their hearts’ content. Because they think it sells more copies.
Free speech is not free hate speech. And it’s high time the press took that on board.
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