Question asked by Lord Sheikh on Thursday 13th February 2020 in the House of Lords
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards the adoption of a formal definition of Islamophobia.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Viscount Younger of Leckie)
My Lords, the Government remain committed to stamping out anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of hate crime. It is unacceptable for anyone to feel unsafe while practising their religion. We continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to Islamophobia. The definition proposed by the APPG is not in line with the Equality Act 2010 and could have consequences for freedom of speech. We recognise the importance of this matter and will interrogate it in further detail.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Islamophobia is of great concern to the Muslim community. I have raised this subject before in your Lordships’ House. Can the Minister assure the House that the process to be undertaken will not involve any preconditions such as recognising Islamophobia as a form of racism? Does he agree that any definition proposed by the Government must have the support of the Muslim community and Muslim representative groups, without which it will have little value? If so, can he confirm that this will be done?
Viscount Younger of Leckie
I agree with my noble friend that Islamophobia, while a hate a crime, is not a form of racism as defined by the Equality Act 2010. Section 9 of the Act defines race as comprising “colour, nationality” and “ethnic or national origins”, none of which would encompass a Muslim or an Islamic practice, so conflating race and religion in conflict with any definition could cause confusion.
On the second question, it is important for the Government to listen to and engage with Muslim groups and communities, which we will continue to do.