Rejection of Islamophobia definition ‘backwards: Anas Sarwar

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar has branded the UK Government’s decision to reject the definition of Islamophobia as a “significant backwards step”.

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar speaks. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The definition was set out in a report published by a cross-party group of MPs in December and has been adopted by parties, including the Scottish Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

“Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness,” the definition says.

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However, the UK Government has said the definition needs to be given further consideration in rejecting its immediate adoption.

Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, issued a statement expressing concern about the definition, saying it was “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”.

But Mr Sarwar – a Glasgow MSP who hails from a Pakistani Muslim background – has criticised the Government for the stance.

In Scotland, all of the main political parties have agreed to adopt the formal definition of Islamophobia in a bid to tackle prejudice.

“We have made great strides in tackling Islamophobia, so this would be a significant backwards step,” Mr Sarwar said.

“It’s for the Muslim community to define Islamophobia, just like it’s for the Jewish community to define antisemitism or the LGBT community to define homophobia.

“This is not about stopping criticism of Islam or creating blasphemy laws. This is about the everyday prejudices faced by Muslims or those perceived as Muslims.

“Governments, parties and organisations need to accept the definition and move on to discussing how we challenge and defeat Islamophobia.”

The definition of Islamophobia was produced by the Westminster All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims after months of consultation.

Sarwar has battled against being the target of alleged racist comments from within his own party.

He last month hit out at Labour’s complaints process after a councillor was cleared of racially abusing him.

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