‘Islamophobia’ definition poses a threat to free speech in the UK

‘Islamophobia’ definition poses a threat to free speech in the UK May 18, 2019

THERE are ‘surprising levels’ of agreement among many Christians and secularists that the proposed adoption by the government of a new definition of Islamophobia will do nothing to eradicate anti-Muslim prejudice. Instead it will have ‘a chilling effect on freedom of speech’ and could be used to ‘shield extremists from criticism.’

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Christian website Premier took the “unprecedented step” of inviting the National Secular Society’s CEO Stephen Evans, above, to express his views on the definition.

Evans responding by writing:

It’s not often that we at the National Secular Society agree with Christian Concern! So when we do, it’s always worth sitting up and taking notice. This week representatives from both our organisations were signatories to an open letter to home secretary Sajid Javid cautioning him against adopting a proposed definition of Islamophobia.

The definition says ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’. The Labour party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the mayor of London and all five major political parties in Scotland are among those who have adopted it in recent months.

Evans pointed out that the government has recently come under increasing pressure to follow suit, although as parliament debates the topic of anti-Muslim hatred ministers are reportedly preparing to reject the definition.

The open letter criticises the rapid rush to adopt the definition, which was proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims in a report published last year. The open letter says the APPG definition:

Is being taken on without an adequate scrutiny or proper consideration of its negative consequences for freedom of expression, and academic or journalistic freedom.

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The letter has support from a diverse range of more than 40 campaigners, academics, writers and other public figures. Its signatories include prominent NSS supporters such as Professor Richard Dawkins, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Muslim counter-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz.

But it’s also been signed by a number of prominent religious figures and others, such as advocates of women’s rights in minority communities.

Wrote Evans:

The authors of the definition have attempted to justify it on the grounds that anti-Muslim hatred needs to be tackled. Following the horrific attack on a mosque in Christchurch in New Zealand, and other incidents where Muslims have been harassed, threatened and attacked, this is an understandable impulse.

The signatories to the letter unreservedly and emphatically condemn acts of violence against Muslims, and recognise the urgent need to deal with anti-Muslim hatred. But we should still be wary of attempts to place responsibility for the atrocity on the pens of journalists and academics who have criticised Islamic beliefs and practices or commented on or investigated Islamist extremism. And silencing legitimate criticism of Islam will not tackle anti-Muslim bigotry – as the letter says, it will ‘aggravate community tensions’.

The definition in its current form would have a chilling effect on freedom of speech. The letter’s signatories are concerned that allegations of Islamophobia will be, and indeed already are being, used to effectively shield Islamic beliefs and even extremists from criticism.

And he warned:

England and Wales’s blasphemy law was scrapped in 2008, but formalising this definition will result in it being employed effectively as something of a backdoor blasphemy law. The phrase ‘expressions of Muslimness’ within the definition can easily be translated to mean Islamic practices. And the inclusion of the phrase ‘perceived Muslimness’ will have a worrying impact on reformist and feminist Muslims, as well as ex-Muslims and minorities – such as the estimated 30,000 Ahmadiyya Muslims in Britain.

Free speech, including the right to mock, insult, ridicule and criticise religion, is the bedrock of genuinely free society. As David Anderson QC, the senior lawyer tasked with reviewing the Government’s legislation on counter-extremism, has noted, ‘the answer to extremism is not to be found in undermining the foundations of democracy’.

He also pointed out that the former head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard has also warned that the adoption of the definition would “cripple” efforts to fight terrorism. And this week the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said the adoption of the definition could hinder counter-terrorism efforts.

Evans concluded:

Hostility towards Muslims on the basis of their faith is unacceptable. But it should also be unacceptable to allow Islamic practices to undermine freedom of and from religion and a commitment to the principle of one law for all. There is a need for a robust public discussion of the influence of religion, including Islam, on British society.

The hasty adoption of this definition will work against attempts to have that discussion: it will chill free speech and undoubtedly shut down important conversations that a healthy free society needs have.

Both the Government and civil society have a role to play in challenging hatred directed at Muslims and others because of their faith. But efforts to silence criticism of Islam will only be counterproductive.


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  • He also pointed out that the former head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard has also warned that the adoption of the definition would “cripple” efforts to fight terrorism. And this week the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, Martin Hewitt, said the adoption of the definition could hinder counter-terrorism efforts.

    Oh, pull the other one. You guys really think that being asked not to characterize Muslims as terrorists and psychopaths is going to hinder official efforts to fight extremism? Please tell me you don’t think mocking and demonizing Muslims is making an important contribution to national security or something.

  • Yes, the APPG definition is a thoroughly bad idea, and the motivation behind it not as innocent as most of its critics accept.

    One aspect not discussed is the “type of racism” at the heart of the definition. It is something called “cultural racism”, a piece of nonsense only a sociologist could believe in. Further details here:

    https://ecawblog.wordpress.com/2019/04/29/parliamentarians-duped-over-islamophobia-part-3/

  • I think you need to read the article again. The concerns are clearly spelled out and nowhere near your strawman.

  • How is cultural racism “nonsense”? You seem to think that if bigotry isn’t based solely on skin color, then it doesn’t qualify as racism at all. The fact of the matter is that you’re using someone’s cultural identity and practices to make judgments about their moral character and their value to society.

  • Bigotry based on skin colour is racism. Bigotry based on sex is sexism. Bigotry based on age is ageism. Bigotry based on cultural identity is…what? I would call it culturism. Allying it to racism is a failure in logic and actually sleight of hand to illegitimately boost the effect of the accusation of Islamophobia. Read the link. I go into it in some detail, including a section asking why Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in Britain are regarded so differently when they have similar pigmentation and ancestry. Perhaps you can explain the difference. I think this goes a long way to explaining it:

    https://ecawblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/05/islamophobia-pic2.jpeg

  • Oh, it goes a long way to explaining the extent of your paranoia, no doubt about it.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    I’m curious how you define bigotry against Jewish people, then.

    Is that racism? There are Chinese Jews just like there are Ethiopian Jews, and Africans and Asians are, traditionally, two very different races. Is it ethnic supremacy? There are different ethnic traditions among the Jewish people. About the only way Antisemitism makes sense is as a type of “cultural racism,” since “Jew” isn’t a race or an ethnicity of people but a collection of cultural traits — just like Muslim (although even this is watering it down too much, since there are different cultures within Judaism just like there are different cultures with Islam. However, in the case of both groups, I find, the cultural distinction within are rarely acknowledged).

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Funny that you overlooked Hindu Nationalism. There are several groups in the U.K. and Canada that are tied to Hindu Nationalism, and in India, that’s led to everything from bombings to gang rapes — hell, they have a Hindu Nationalist running that country right now, and minorities are all the worse for it. And as far as Sikh terrorism goes. . . once again, Canada probably knows a thing or two about that.

    See, here’s the problem: you’re taking traits endemic to other people groups in addition to Muslims (including FGM, since Christians from that region of the world practice it as well; this is especially true in Nigeria) and holding up Islam as a single, special case worthy of additional scrutiny — for what reason, again? Muslims are not guilty of anything that hasn’t been the purview of one particular group of people or another at some point in very recent history, or ongoing history. Bombings? Christians have done that; there’s a reason women’s health clinics sometimes have armed guards. Death Threats? Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, even atheists and Jains have done that; petulant stupidity is a human trait. FGM? Like I said, that’s endemic to the Christians in Nigeria. Supremacism? Hindu Nationalism and Christian Nationalism are both things. Victimhood? I could provide examples all day long of Christian victimhood just from the United States (fuck, just from this week) alone. Rape gangs? I’m sure if I went digging I could find examples that were’t Muslim, and were likely Hindu. Jew-hatred? If your skin is eggshell colored, this has been a popular sport among your people since the Middle Ages. It hasn’t gone away. Failure to integrate? Well, when you hold a group up for special condemnation, you’re isolating them for additional scrutiny. And if you’ve isolated a group, do you really have room to complain when they don’t integrate into society?

  • Bezukhov

    Are you an Islamophobe? Take this simple quiz to find out.

    1) Do you wish to convert to Islam?
    2) If you are not a Muslim do you pay the Jiyza?
    3) If you are not a Muslim do you acknowledge that Muslims are your lords and masters?

    If you answered “No” to any of those questions you may be an Islamophobe.

  • Anti-Semitism could be on racial or religious grounds (let’s restrict it to those two for the sake of argument), depending on what the anti-Semite thinks Jewishness consists of and what they dislike about it. Does that mean there is something called religious racism? I say it doesn’t.

    Likewise, I do not think the proponents of cultural racism show a connection between discrimination based on culture and discrimination based on race which would make a third kind of hybrid discrimination. I spend some time in the link above criticising the concept on both logical and empirical grounds.

  • In Canada more Muslims have been killed by terrorist violence than Muslim terrorists have killed. In fact the 1984 bombing of Montreal’s Central Station by an anti-Catholic American killed more people than Muslim terrorists have. Whoops, I forgot, since those attacks were carried out by white dudes like me they aren’t terrorism, just irrational lone wolves.

  • See that Union Jack in the top left corner. It is there to indicate that I am comparing activities between the three groups in Britain. What Sikhs and Hindus do in India or Canada is irrelevant to the point I am making. The fact that you have to go that far to find what are in fact false equivalences indicate that you cannot counter my argument.

    Likewise, FGM in Nigeria, Christian bombings in the US, Jew hatred in the middle ages and rape gangs you are sure you would find if you went digging.

    That diagram is intended to show up the overwhelming differences between the three groups today in Britain and is tied to the comparison I make in the link above for the purpose of showing the cultural racism to be a bogus concept.

  • rubaxter

    I would have figured a country with as long a history of religious issues as the UK would have figured out that legislating and prosecuting Thought Crimes was not a good idea?

    The ideal that all humans are equal gets away from having to create ‘Special Rules’ that screw up the rest.

    Is prosecution for actions like Assault, Battery, Communicating Threats, etc. under other laws NOT POSSIBLE? You could make determination of motivations part of the CRIMINAL trial, but just having the ideas is also a crime? Will there be random fMRIs to see who has ‘bad thoughts’?

    This in the land that gave us Thomas Paine, one of the jewels in the ANTI-Crown?! This in the land that gave us George Orwell, too?!

    Even ASBOs had it right in basing it on BEHAVIOR, not thoughts.

    The real issue was summed up in:

    “But we should still be wary of attempts to place responsibility for the atrocity on the pens of journalists and academics who have criticised Islamic beliefs and practices or commented on or investigated Islamist extremism. And silencing legitimate criticism of Islam will not tackle anti-Muslim bigotry – as the letter says, it will ‘aggravate community tensions’.”

    That is the crux.

  • WallofSleep

    The Weimar Republic attempted to silence the rising Nazi party by making it illegal to openly/publicly criticize religion/religious people and their beliefs. It only served to increase interest in their heinous message and allowed them to grow their power and numbers in secrecy. History has proven this move had the worst of unintended consequences.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Anti-Semitism could be on racial or religious grounds (let’s restrict it to those two for the sake of argument), depending on what the anti-Semite thinks Jewishness consists of and what they dislike about it.

    Frequently it’s both, though, just like you hear about Antisemites trying to protect the “White, Christian race.”

    What’s happening here is that a malleable label like “race” is running right up against a malleable label like “Jewish” and the resulting shotgun scatter is what Antisemites target — usually Ashkenazim, but a Jew is a Jew and a Beta Israeli is just as vulnerable as a Mizrahi and Kaifeng Jew, even though the Beta Israeli and Kaifeng will also face harassment for being black and Chinese. I do disagree with it begin called “racism” since the last time Mediterranean people were classified as a separate race was during the 1800s, but it is almost certainly bigotry. the idea of “cultural racism” or “religious racism” seems to me like a kludge to try and describe a phenomenon that doesn’t have an appropriate label, but for whom “racism” doesn’t entirely work and ethnocentrism isn’t a good fit, either.

    So in lieu of a better word, and given the nature of the people involved, “cultural racism” is the best description that we have for it. It’s far from perfect and may perhaps be a bit misleading, and perhaps “intersectional bigotry” would be a better way to describe it, but if academics were interested in eyepopping names, HSTJWSTTP wouldn’t be an acronym that actually existed.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    See that Union Jack in the top left corner. It is there to indicate that I am comparing activities between the three groups in Britain. What Sikhs and Hindus do in India or Canada is irrelevant to the point I am making. The fact that you have to go that far to find what are in fact false equivalences indicate that you cannot counter my argument

    Two thoughts: one, your argument assumes your country exists in a vacuum, which it doesn’t, and two, it’s based on confirmation bias.

    You do not exist in a vacuum. Like I mentioned before, there are several Hindu Nationalist organizations that operate out of the United Kingdom and they play an active role in Indian politics — which right now are very discriminatory against Muslims and Christians. In 2008, a Sikh group in the United Kingdom was accused of sending finance and money to the Khalistan movement. and the ISYF is called a “Proscribed terrorist group” in the United Kingdom. It’s true that, as far as I know, neither Hindus nor Sikhs have ever carried out a bombing like, say, the 1993 Bishopgate bombing or the Stoke Newington Road lorry bombing in 1992. But they have impacted India, and in a very negative way. I guess my question is this: Why don’t the actions of these Hindu Nationalist movements or Sikh terrorist groups that get funding out of the UK count for the purposes of your chart?

    And yes, I know the Provisional Irish Revolutionary Army — a Catholic militia — carried out those aforementioned bombings. I felt like I’d be cheating if I brought up the Troubles as an example of Christian terrorism directly affecting the UK, but given the five bombs mailed out earlier this year by a group calling themselves the IRA and the likely fallout from a hard border between North Ireland and Ireland as a result of current path the Brexit appears to be taking, that feels relevant once again and makes this argument feel a bit like confirmation bias.

    My point is that what you’re accusing Muslims of doing here is nothing special. Humans do that all the time, regardless of religion. What troubles me is that we’re holding Muslims up as this special case that needs to be taken apart from the fact that almost everything you listed up has been exhibited by some other non-Muslim group in human history or another. If you want to say Islamic Extremism is the problem, you aren’t wrong, but you aren’t wholly right, either. Religious extremism is the problem. Nationalist extremism is the problem. Tribalism is the problem. And a doctor with tunnel vision who focuses on just treating your sore throat is going to be blind-sided when you wind up with pneumonia.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    Wasn’t there just recently a guy shot and killed a bunch of women in Quebec because he couldn’t get laid, too? And that’s just in Canada. It’s even worse in the United States, where white men can gleefully get a gun and kill people willy-nilly, since nobody has the spine to tell the NRA to fuck off. The worst attack in U.S. history before 9/11 was carried out by a White guy (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), and the worst one before that was also carried out by a White guy (Bath, Michigan).

    If you want to argue that Islamic extremism is a problem, I will not debate that. But if you want to pull it out from the much larger and picture and say, “this is what we have to focus on treating,” then no, you’re wrong. It’s part of a much larger picture. What’s more, pulling Islam aside and holding it up as this unique instance of something every other group in human history has done before is not only disingenuous but also rooted in exclusionary tendencies. That’s where the accusations of bigotry come from.

  • You’re probably thinking of Alek Minassian, who killed 10 people on Toronto’s Yonge Street by running them over with a van in April of 2018. After the attack his social media activity indicated he thought of himself as an incel. The only mass shooting of women in Canada was Marc Lepine killed 14 female students at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique back in 1989.
    Some sources tried to spin Minassian’s attack into Muslim terrorism, despite Minassian being of Armenian descent.
    Extremism is the problem. There’s nothing unique about extremism by Muslims. And Muslims are often the ones who help stop it, such as Mubin Shaikh, whose infiltration of what became known as the Toronto 18 plot helped bring it down before anyone could be injured.

  • You could make determination of motivations part of the CRIMINAL trial, but just having the ideas is also a crime? Will there be random fMRIs to see who has ‘bad thoughts’?

    This in the land that gave us Thomas Paine, one of the jewels in the ANTI-Crown?! This in the land that gave us George Orwell, too?!

    Even ASBOs had it right in basing it on BEHAVIOR, not thoughts.

    Um, but you want to excuse harassment and discrimination against Muslims not because they’ve committed crimes, but on the basis of their identifying as Muslims?

    Sounds like thoughtcrime to me.

  • TheBookOfDavid

    I agree with your “both sides” argument.

  • My diagram was specifically, and only, intended to suggest the cultural reasons why three similar racial groups, barely distinguished by the British population three generations ago, have since diverged so markedly in public perceptions. The point was to show the different trajectories owe everything to their respective cultures, at the centre of which sit three very different religions, and nothing to do with race, thereby challenging the validity of the hybrid concept of cultural racism.

    You choose to (mis)apply it to a much wider situation, bringing in Hindu nationalists who have never blown up a pop concert in Britain and the actions of the IRA 30 years ago. I am only disappointed that you couldn’t manage to squeeze in the Crusades somehow.

  • That’s a very self-serving interpretation of the historical record. You seem to be implying that any attempt to curb hate speech or demonization of a despised minority leads inexorably to tyranny and genocide. That’s a great way to evade responsibility for the oppression and marginalization of minorities, but are our only choices absolutely unrestricted derision and hate speech on the one hand, and totalitarianism on the other?

    I’m pretty sure that’s what a false dilemma is.

  • WallofSleep

    The last time we spoke, you misinterpreted a comment I’d made, and despite being corrected multiple times by myself and others, you insisted on doubling down on your misinterpretation, over and over, making it blatantly obvious that you intentionally misinterpreted my comment for the purpose of creating a strawman out of my position.

    In case I did not make it clear to you then, I will do so now: You can fuck off, and keep fucking off. I have absolutely no interest in attempting dialogue with someone like you, who employs such lowly and craven ‘debate’ tactics.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    intended to suggest the cultural reasons why three similar racial groups

    Whoa, whoa, racial groups? Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu are all races now? Doesn’t that mean that, by the definition of the word, any judgement that distinguishes between the three is now racism?

    I’m just going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you meant “religious” or “ethnic” there, since that would directly contradict this otherwise:

    at the centre of which sit three very different religions, and nothing to do with race,

    You choose to (mis)apply it to a much wider situation

    No. I’m telling you that the world is bigger than you seem to want to believe and actions ripple back and forth. You cannot hold the UK up a something independent or separate from the rest of the world. That just isn’t how things work anymore; in fact, I doubt that’s how things ever worked.

    bringing in Hindu nationalists who have never blown up a pop concert in Britain

    But they have attacked non-Hindus in India, and done so with help from Hindus living in the UK. So what you’re telling me here is that by your metric, the only people who matter are people who live in Great Britain and that the Muslims and Christians in India hurt by Hindu nationalists that receive aide from Hindus living in the United Kingdom are irrelevant to a discussion of terrorism or religious extremism? If terrorism and religious extremism exists in all three groups, why is it that only Muslim extremism is worth putting up on a pedestal?

    the actions of the IRA 30 years ago.

    So what exactly is the cut-off point at which we can no longer consider something “relevant” when discussing terrorism, anyway?

    Also, did you overlook how I pointed out that just this year a group claiming to be the IRA mailed out package bombs?

    I am only disappointed that you couldn’t manage to squeeze in the Crusades somehow.

    You don’t think those played a huge role in making the situation we find ourselves in? I’ll grant you not as much as World War I — hello there, British Mandate of Palestine; that worked out so well, didn’t it, promising it to several different people groups with opposing ideas of nationalism? But still.

    Ah, historical illiteracy.

  • You are clearly one of those tiresome people who refuse to look at anything without looking at everything. It is an excuse for doing nothing since you cannot do everything and I’m sure you will still be parroting it as the black flag is raised over your government buildings. As for me I intend to do what little I can to raise awareness about the threat to Western Civilisation which eclipses even Hindu Nationalism. I cannot waste time on people like you. So long.

  • rubaxter

    The Nazis were also in competition with Religion-Defined parties whom the standing gummint and power structure favoured.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “The definition says ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism ”

    Not possible, since Muslim is not a race.

  • Like I keep saying, “terrorist” and “immigrant” aren’t races either. But isn’t the way we discuss the issues of terrorism and immigration infested with racism?

    I don’t see any difference in the way we discuss Islam.

  • Bigotry based on culture is called ethnocentrism.

  • Thanks, I didn’t know that. The issue of mixing it up with racism remains the same.

  • David Cromie

    Reminds me of the efforts of political Zionists to stem any justified criticism of Israel/Zionism by terming any such criticism as ‘antisemitic’.

  • Tom Bradford

    We already have some words that cover the maltreatment of groups of people, bigotry and racism. Islamaphobia is a word that has an impact due to it ‘sounding’ like it is apt (onomatopoeia), when in reality it is often adopted to impose religious views by means of stealth.

  • al kimeea

    “But isn’t the way we discuss the issues of terrorism and immigration infested with racism?”

    no, that’s the way you wish to discuss those issues because you believe it isn’t possible to do so calmly and rationally as a means of resolving the challenges they bring

  • huzonfurst

    I have no problems – and much experience including as being roommates – with Muslims as people, but I have HUGE problems with the religion of Islam, and no god-damned “blasphemy” (a victim-less crime if there ever was one) law will stop me from expressing my opinions of this most violent and backward religion on the planet!

    This fact unfortunately demands that individual Muslims be carefully monitored for signs of extremism for the sake of public safety, and any Muslims who protest this will be invited to leave and never return. All it takes is the determination to carry this out while being as fair as possible.

    And for anyone who thinks that opposition to Islam is a form of “racism,” please kill yourself and raise the IQ of the planet by doing so.

  • This fact unfortunately demands that individual Muslims be carefully monitored for signs of extremism for the sake of public safety, and any Muslims who protest this will be invited to leave and never return. All it takes is the determination to carry this out while being as fair as possible.

    Because subjecting people to surveillance and monitoring on an arbitrary basis is just the dictionary definition of “fair.”

  • C_Alan_Nault

    Islam is not a race. A person cannot change the race they are born as. A person can decide to adopt Islam & become Muslim or can decide to leave Islam & no longer be Muslim.

    A person can choose to not like Muslims. That is not racism, since Muslim ( as I just explained) is not a race. It may be prejudice or bigotry but not racism.

    Personally, I have no particular respect for any religion. But I am not aware of any religion other than Islam that has a pedophile as their prophet.

  • So “Muslim” isn’t just a camouflaged version of “Arab,” “Paki,” or some racial slur that bigots apply to hated minorities encroaching on white Europe or America? You’ve come up with what you consider rational, evidence-based reasons to fear the brown people, and we’re supposed to think you’re not bigoted?

    Let’s believe anything!

  • al kimeea

    Thanks Adm. Obvious!

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “So “Muslim” isn’t just a camouflaged version of “Arab,” “Paki,” or some
    racial slur that bigots apply to hated minorities encroaching on white
    Europe or America?”

    Correct. As an atheist caucasian in Canada,I could choose to follow Islam & become Muslim. My race does not change.

    Muslim means you are a follower of Islam.Islam is a religion,NOT a race. These are facts. If you are offended by facts,that is your problem.

    Sure,there are prejudiced ignorant bigots that don’t like Muslims. But that does not make them racists.

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “You’ve come up with what you consider rational, evidence-based reasons
    to fear the brown people, and we’re supposed to think you’re not
    bigoted?”

    Actually,I have presented FACTS. If you are upset by facts,that is your problem.

    Another fact is that I am an atheist and view all religions as equally ridiculous. But I don’t care what anyone chooses to believe as long as they don’t try to enforce their beliefs on others and don’t want special concessions granted to them because of their beliefs.