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Government Rejects “Islamophobia” Terminology in 1 out of 7 Councils, Citing Concerns over Free Speech

Research conducted by the British think-tank, Civitas, has revealed that more than 50 local councils in England are using a definition of Islamophobia that was rejected by the government due to concerns over free speech. This means that approximately one in seven local authorities have adopted the term, despite the government’s reservations. The all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims defined Islamophobia as a form of racism that targets “expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness,” a definition that was accepted by the Labour Party and other opposition parties but rejected by the Conservative government. The Civitas report warns that the adoption of this definition could result in self-censorship and prevent honest conversations about public policies relating to faith, religion, and historical facts. The research also highlights that some councils have rejected the APPG definition after considering opposition voices and concerns over its impact on free speech. However, there are instances where the definition has been adopted through alternative means, such as the development of a glossary by the Senedd Commission’s Diversity and Inclusion team in Wales. Critics of the Civitas report argue that it misrepresents the APPG definition and claim that it has widespread support, having been adopted by most national political parties. They also emphasize the importance of an evidence-led approach to defining and addressing Islamophobia. This issue is particularly pertinent as a recent independent report revealed that anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the Conservative Party, although claims of institutional racism were not substantiated by the evidence.

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