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.
4. Prioritise the need for quantitative data – the ‘numbers’ relating to Islamophobia – and consider quick and easy strategies for beginning to collect and collate. It is likely that data relating to exclusionary practices and violence as a tool for exclusion would be particularly beneficial. Two suggested start points include:
– Commission a research report from the Crime Prosecution Service into Islamophobic crime including reported Islamophobic incidents and their respective prosecution outcomes. This would reflect the work of the APPG on anti-Semitism in May 2008 from which an action plan on hate crime was devised.
– Commission a research report from the Equality & Human Rights Commission into the way in which Islamophobia is being addressed and tackled via equalities legislation. This could be multi-sector, e.g. education, employment, housing etc. From this a further action plan could be drawn up.
5. Reproduce a similar “Islamophobia: taking stock, moving forward” model to facilitate a series of Islamophobia roundtables around the country, bringing together a wide range of different voices – including academics, policymakers, institutions, third sector, community and grassroots – to engineer a more meaningful engagement with the topic of Islamophobia but so too to gain a better understanding of the “what, where and how”.
6. Begin a consultation exercise where different voices – of consent and dissent – can meaningfully engage with and contribute to the Islamophobia agenda: the questions, the solutions, the challenges. Produce a report and explore how this might be used to formulate an action plan and influence change.
7. The APPG should consider establishing – if it has not already – a pool of ‘experts’ from which it can draw advice. Those ‘experts’ should not only come from different backgrounds – community, institutional, academic and so on – but should also include a broad consensus of interest including those from within equalities movements. It is essential that the ‘experts’ should be drawn together because of their expertise; expertise which should be credible and relevant.
8. The APPG should work closely with the proposed Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred as reported in the Government’s internal Integration and Tolerance Working Group called “A framework for discussion”. The APPG should liaise with this Working Group to ensure that the two agendas are not counter-productive and that the reporting to Ministers is conducive with the work of the APPG, is informed by its findings, and that all knowledge/ evidence etc is duly shared.
9. Make a firm and conscious effort to ensure that all activities of the APPG are seen to be credible, objective and non-partisan wherever possible. Do not allow the APPG to be distracted from its focus on Islamophobia.