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Volume 743: debated on Tuesday 9 January 2024


Tuesday 9 January 2024


Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Definition of Islamophobia

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that a formal, government-backed definition of Islamophobia is needed; further declares that the definition by the APPG on British Muslims is more appropriate, which defines Islamophobia as “rooted in racism and a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness;” notes that this definition recognises that Muslims are subject to a system of discrimination, control and socio-economic exclusion, alongside hate crime, harassment and abuse; further notes that adopting this definition is an important first step towards tackling hatred against Muslims in Britain.

The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to formally adopt the APPG's definition of Islamophobia and take further steps to tackle Islamophobia in the UK.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Afzal Khan, Official Report, 22 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 426.]


Observations from The Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety (Lee Rowley):

Anti-Muslim hatred, just like any other form of religious-based discrimination, is completely abhorrent and has no place in our society. No one should ever be a victim of hatred because of their race or religion and the Government continue to work with police and community partners to monitor and combat it.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales, which provides estimates of the volume of hate crime incidents, shows a long-term decline in hate crime, with a 38% fall in incidents reported between surveys in 2007-2009 and 2017-2020. This is in keeping with a similar percentage fall of 39% in crime overall over the same period.

Tell MAMA have recorded 1,202 incidents of anti-Muslim hatred since 7 October (7 October - 30 November). This figure demonstrates a sevenfold increase in cases from the 2022 figure of 172. We are concerned with this sharp rise in anti-Muslim hatred, which comes alongside a very steep increase in antisemitic incidents as well as wider community tensions. Anti-Muslim hatred remains at an elevated level compared to the same time last year (October - November 2022) and the weekly average for 2023.

We are proud to have funded Tell MAMA, a service that supports victims of anti-Muslim hatred, with over £6 million since their inception in 2012. Tell MAMA’s work has been recognised internationally as a good practice model in recording and monitoring anti-Muslim hate. In light of the rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents being reported, the Government has increased Tell MAMA’s funding to £1 million this year. This funding will provide additional resource to the service they are providing to support victims of anti-Muslim hatred. The Government will also make available an additional £4.9 million to Muslim community groups for the protection of mosques and Muslim Faith schools-this uplift will also be maintained into 2024-2025. This takes total funding for Muslim communities to £29.4 million, available in each year 2023-2024 and 2024-2025.

This funding can be used to provide protective security at mosques and Muslim faith schools, which can include physical protective security measures, such as CCTV, intruder alarms and secure perimeter fencing.

Alongside the increase in funding for mosques and Muslim faith schools, the Communities Secretary hosted a roundtable with Tell MAMA and counter-extremism experts in late November 2023, to hear their experiences and feedback. With regards to the petition on the definition of Islamophobia, it is an issue to which the Department has given careful consideration.

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 ideology, or of unacceptable cultural and/or religious practices.

The term anti-Muslim hatred is a more precise term which better reflects UK hate crime legislation. It also allows better space for critical debate about theology, culture and religious practice, while acknowledging this should typically be done in a way which affords people respect. We want to make sure that the terminology we use does not engender divisions and tensions between British Muslims, and that our language responds to the various forms of hatred experienced by Muslims. This includes people who are Sunni, Shi'a, Ahmadi or part of any other Muslim group, as well as those of Muslim heritage who may express their faith in diverse plural ways or not at all. This approach also encompasses the experiences of those perceived to be Muslim and targeted as a result of this.

This is a topic we continue to explore more broadly as we look at tackling all forms of religious hatred. The department is currently seeking the views and perspectives of domestic and international experts in this field to explore how religious hatred is experienced by British communities, and how it affects different faiths and individuals.