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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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HomeCulture WarThe invention of Islamophobia, Part 1

The invention of Islamophobia, Part 1

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THE All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims was established in July 2017, in their words, ‘to build on the work of the APPG on Islamophobia, of which many Members were active in, but with a wider remit to examine a broad range of issues that British Muslims care about, and are affected by’. 

This range of issues included investigating prejudice, discrimination and hatred against Muslims in the UK, and this is what it has since focused on. You can see a list of current members here

Of the three reports the Group has published, the most significant is ‘Islamophobia Defined – The inquiry into a working definition of Islamophobia’ (2018) which after some 60 pages in which anti-Muslim hatred is conflated with Islamophobia (whatever that means) comes out in favour of the value of the latter term. So has Sir Keir Starmer. He said recently that Islamophobia needs ‘tackling much more robustly than it is at the moment’. The fear is that his administration will outlaw it even though the whole notion is  wrongheaded and the impact on freedom appalling. This for an etymological fallacy as Ed Husain spelled out last week in the Spectator

He is right. The APPG give every impression in their report of having gone about their work by constructing the basis of their preferred definition first, and only after that produced/concocted and documented their justification for that conclusion.

The report embraces a circular argument that first assumes that Islamophobia does exist in the form of their definition and then seeks ways to prove it – trying to harden an ephemeral concept into a permanence that justifies special, protected treatment of Muslims and, by inference, Islam. This is no less than a blasphemy law by the back door.

It is unsurprising that sources of information and data used to formulate the definition are predominantly left-leaning and Muslim. The few dissenting voices allowed are given minimum space and off-handedly dismissed as misconceived and irrelevant.

Starting with a misuse of data, the report asserts that Muslims are the UK minority group suffering the greatest level of discrimination, stating: ‘The risk of being a victim of hate crime was highest for Muslim adults (Crime Survey for England and Wales, 2016-2018)’. However, if you analyse the data for the updated 2019 figures for recorded hate crimes (very similar to those of 2018), you find that of a total of 6,487 offences, 3,089 were against Muslims and 1,205 against Jews. Taking the UK Muslim and Jewish populations as approximately 3.9million and 290,000 respectively, the reality is that as a Jew you are five times more likely than a Muslim to be a victim of hate crime. This is just one of many issues that undermine the purported evidence in the APPG report and demonstrate its deliberate bias and preconceived purpose.

Another section of the report says: ‘Whatever categorisation we might wish to attribute to “British values” – be it based on morality norms or universal values – those are popularly depicted as irreconcilable with religious, cultural or political agency based on Islamic faith.’ Professor Tahir Abbas, a contributor listed as being a Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics, says that the concept of ‘British values’ has become ‘a favourite trope of both the soft and hard right’, which use this ideological argument to ‘excuse their Islamophobia’ or indeed ‘legitimise it’. 

He thus asserts that British values are used unfairly as a weapon to attack Islamic norms, as if we should automatically accept those Islamic norms and ignore how they impinge upon and are often the antithesis of our own Judaeo-Christian and democratic traditional norms. It colours those who use this argument to express concern about encroaching Islamism as racist and far right. And it deliberately devalues any concept of specifically British values and traditions.

Abbas also criticises the government’s anti-radicalisation vehicle Prevent for ‘[conflating] legitimate political resistance among young British Muslims as indications of violent extremism’, and ‘[adding] to structural and cultural Islamophobia’. In other words, Prevent is seen as hindering the expansion of radical or fundamental Islam as an acceptable political force, and hence justifies the opposition to Prevent from the more fundamentalist Islamic groups and individuals.  

This is an Islam that Professor Tahir seems to have no problem with, along with many others in this report. In a 2018 editorial for the British Journal of Sociology of Education, Abbas also emphasised that in regard to Muslim school pupils, ‘the importance of the mother tongue as an opportunity for enhanced teacher-pupil interaction as well as a refocusing on the hijab as a form of female self-empowerment are valuable considerations’. 

This is not just a ‘no’ to integration, it is the active promotion of a Muslim demand to bend education to the norms of Islam and its cultural preferences however much they may conflict with British belief in freedom and sex equality before the law.

The public as well as MPs might note that many of the contributors to this report are connected to Cage, an advocacy group that had been in close contact with the man now known to be called Mohammed Emwazi, aka ‘Jihadi John’, who was seen in several videos showing the beheading of ISIS captives in 2014 and 2015, and which David Cameron, while PM, accused of being an apologist for terrorism. Many are also connected to a group called Mend, designed ‘to tackle Islamophobia’ but described even by the BBC as ‘Islamists masquerading as civil libertarians’. Its senior figures promote anti-Semitism and the organisation provides a platform for extremist speakers. Employees and volunteers of Mend have been accused of links to extremism, legitimising the killing of British soldiers in Iraq, and downplaying acts of terrorism. Other sources used in the APPG report have links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another contributor is Professor David Miller, who defended Ken Livingstone’s statements about Hitler and Zionism and his description of Israel as a ‘racist endeavour’.

Both the Civitas and Policy Exchange think tanks submitted commentaries on the APPG report. They conclude that:

·         No convincing case has been made that the current provisions of the law are insufficient to deal with anti-Muslim hatred, abuse and discrimination

·         The APPG definition would have a chilling effect on free expression, criticism of Islam and related ideologies, such as Islamism

·         The vague, expansive and jargonistic nature of the definition and its confusing conflation of religion and race

·         A lack of due diligence and partiality in the collection and treatment of written and oral evidence

·         Negative implications for freedom of expression and its impact on journalists, researchers and the public

·         Negative ramifications for the efficacy of the integration and counter-extremism policy

The Aziz Foundation supported the APPG’s six-month inquiry into Islamophobia. The chair of the foundation is Asif Aziz, a property entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the Founder and CEO of Criterion Capital, which manages a property portfolio. 

The Aziz Foundation has also funded the Islamic Society of Britain and is in a co-ordinator role for the Muslim Lawyers Action Group, both of which oppose Prevent. 

There is no doubt that the APPG report’s definition of Islamophobia has been driven by pro-Muslim and pro-Islamic groups and individuals, to satisfy the demands of those who wish to expand the power and influence of Islam.  It will, to quote Civitas, have a chilling effect on free expression and criticism of Islam and related ideologies such as Islamism. It is a corrupt device that undermines our freedom of expression, will help enable the spread of Islamism, and poses a threat to the future of the UK.

To be continued.

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John Hale
John Hale
A semi-retired would-be poet, with a keen interest in politics and a love of the countryside, over 35 years of world-wide business development experience, and most importantly nine grandchildren. His substack, Driving Out the Money Changers, is here.

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