Let me begin by saying that I believe anti-Muslim hatred is abhorrent and that such hate has no place in our communities. No one should feel unsafe while practicing their religion.
I welcome that the Government is committed to tackling this problem head-on through a coordinated cross-departmental effort. From ensuring the safety of worshippers in mosques to community engagement and supporting the victims, swift action has been taken to address anti-Muslim hatred and institute safeguards. For example, I am encouraged that £1.8 million has been awarded through the faith, race and hate crime grant scheme to support established community groups and civil society organisations to boost shared values and tackle religiously and racially motivated hate crime.
The APPG on British Muslims has done much great work. However, the definition of Islamophobia as proposed by the APPG is not in line with the Equality Act 2010, which defines race in terms of colour, nationality and national or ethnic origins. The proposed definition could also unintentionally undermine freedom of speech, and prevent legitimate criticism of Islamist extremism, or of unacceptable cultural practices.
I welcome that the Government has appointed an independent adviser to lead the study of defining Islamophobia, building on the important work already undertaken by the Cross-Government Working Group to Tackle Anti-Muslim Hatred and other bodies. I understand the Government will then consider the advisers’ recommendations on a definition of Islamophobia.
While I was unfortunately unable to attend the Westminster Hall debate on Islamophobia Awareness Month due to a prior commitment, I was encouraged to hear my ministerial colleagues reiterate the range of action that is being taken to tackle the scourge of anti-Muslim hatred.