Following on from the news last week that I was invited to present evidence to the AGM of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia, I thought that I would share the nine initial recommendations I made.
These are very basic but I think that the enquiry into Islamophobia is still at a very basic stage: there is still no real consensus about what it is, where it is, what it does or looks like, and how much of it exists out there in today’s society. These nine recommendations – I hope – would begin to address some of these issues and provide some information that we could then build upon.
Nine recommendations to the APP on Islamophobia
1. Explore the need for establishing a working definition of Islamophobia. In line with official definitions of such concepts as ‘disability’ or ‘religion or belief’ to better communicate the role of the APPG and to support government, institutions and policymakers to engage with the phenomenon.
2. Make a categorical commitment to the term and concept of Islamophobia, communicating a clear refutation of the smokescreen and distracting discourses about its perceived inappropriateness.
3. Significant further information/ investigation is necessary in relation to Islamophobia. Set out below are what might be the first steps in this process:
– Establish a comprehensive existing knowledge-base of Islamophobia. From this basis a gap analysis exercise can be undertaken to identify critical areas where additional research/ investigation is required.
In collaboration with the Policy Research Centre – click here to visit their website – a new guide to the Equalities Bill aimed primarily at Muslim communities has today been published.
To view the guide online, click here.
To download a pdf version, click here.
A quote from the guide is reproduced below:
For Muslims and others, recognising the value of equalities legislation is key. To do this, it is important to understand the clear distinction between upholding and respecting the rights of everyone to be treated fairly and not to be discriminated against, and the endorsement and agreement with activities, practices and beliefs that are contrary to your beliefs. Recognising that gay, lesbian and bisexual people need the same levels of protection against discrimination as everyone else, for example, remains quite separate from whether some activities and practices may be deeply offensive to some. In the same way, recognising that Muslims need the same levels of protection as everyone else is again quite separate from requiring everyone to agree and believe in the tenets of Islam. The value of equalities is that everyone is treated fairly and that all forms of discrimination are afforded protection.
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Next month, I’ll be presenting a paper at the “Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice: Strategies for Inclusion” conference held at London South Bank University on Thursday 18th March. As the blurb for the event goes:
The University of Southampton (School of Education, Pedagogy and Curriculum Research Centre) and London South Bank University (Gender Research Forum, Department of Social and Policy Studies) are organising a one day conference on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice: Strategies for Inclusion at London South Bank University.
The conference brings together scholars under the following themes:
- Educational Inclusion: Difference and Diversity
- Policy, Practice and Social Justice
- Professional Experiences of Inclusion
My contribution to the conference will be a paper entitled, “Towards greater inclusiveness? A critical review of the ‘religion or belief’ equality strand”
The conference is FREE to attend but you do need to book in advance. To do so, contact the Conference Administrator Melanie Walters via email firstname.lastname@example.org by 5th March to avoid disappointment.
A flyer for the conference can be downloaded here
A conference programme can be downloaded here
Why do we need an event that focuses on Islamophobia and religious discrimination when, as Alistair Campbell once famously remarked to Tony Blair, as a nation “We don’t do God”.
For a nation that doesn’t ‘do God’, reading or watching the news may suggest otherwise. A glance back at 2009 might remind you of a number of different stories that had a relevance to religion or belief:
The British National Party (BNP) run a European election campaign under the slogan “What would Jesus do?” culminating in them winning two seats in the European parliament after almost a decade of running openly anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim campaigns
Anjem Choudhury and his Islam4UK group campaigning against British troops returning from Afghanistan
(The following short post is an introductory piece that will be included in the next edition of Speak Out magazine due for publication in early June. It will introduce a collection of short pieces about minority religions in Birmingham and a more detailed piece of the British Humanist Association’s recent report into the ‘religion or belief’ equalities strand – click here to read)
The former Labour spin-doctor Alistair Campbell was once famously quoted as saying, “We don’t do God”. In many ways, Campbell may have been speaking on behalf of the British per se: or at least how things might have been because there are signs that some things might be changing.
A few weeks ago I posted about the report that the British Humanist Association (BHA) commissioned BRAP to research (click here). Below is an article by Damian Thompson that appeared in The Telegraph on the 30th April 2009 where he strongly criticises not only the report but also the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for funding it.
The article is entitled, ‘Christians: this is how your taxes are being spent in the middle of a recession’: