Faith Matters has watched the difficult and abrasive debates that have taken place around the development of a definition on anti-Muslim hatred or prejudice by this Government.
We are of the firm opinion that a definition is essential if we are to ensure that some fundamentals of our society are to be protected. Firstly, there needs to be a common definition that lets the public know what anti-Muslim hatred is and what it ‘looks like’ and ‘sounds like’. This definition also needs to be framed so that it fits into existing legislation and does not become an exercise in producing a piece of text that has no legal relevance.
Secondly, the debate rumbles on about ensuring that any definition does not stop critique of religion or faith. This also covers Islam. People have the right to critique or even dislike any faith. What they don’t have the right to do, is to attack, harm of hurt people who happen to be Muslim.
This is essential to lay out though there is a common agreement amongst many, that the definition must protect individuals and their rights to live freely without fear, harm or intimidation, as British Muslims. This does not mean that criticism of Islam is anti-Muslim, though we also acknowledge that each issue must be taken on a case by case basis and if criticism of Islam turns into targeted hatred towards Muslims, then such behaviour is not protected under the rights of free speech. At this stage, it should not be tolerated.
For far too long, there has been inaction on this and we urge the Government to take urgent action to move this process along. We must also commend the Government on the actions that they have taken in the last few days on the launch of a security fund for mosques and Islamic institutions, given the targeting of mosques by anti-Muslim activists and bigots. Furthermore, we acknowledge the work that Government has done to support the monitoring of anti-Muslim prejudice and support for victims of it, through Tell MAMA.