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Anti-Muslim hatred: What the law can, and cannot, do

Some forms of bad behaviour can be legislated against. However other aspects of prejudice can only be countered by society.


Posted 15 April 2021

On 29 November 2020, the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester held an online event using Zoom "Combating Islamophobia Together" as part of Islamophobia Awareness Month.

I was one of the speakers, as well as helping to organise the event. The event was recorded.

My presentation can be watched below, along with some additional messages and my responses during the question and answer session.

The key messages in my presentation

I think the following points are often not well understood.

The law already covers many forms of bad behaviour

Many Muslims are eager to have a definition of Islamophobia, with the hope that it can be outlawed. In reality most forms of bad behaviour that legislation could address are already illegal.

The law cannot outlaw personal dislike of Muslims

Things which the law cannot address can only be dealt with by changing people's attitudes. Each Muslim has a responsibility to help achieve that.

There is an old and a new anti-Muslim prejudice

Those who study antisemitism distinguish between classical European antisemitism and modern antisemitism linked to hatred of Israel. In the same way, I identify an "old" and a "new" anti-Muslim hatred.

My presentation


20-minute video

The slides

I am happy to share the original PowerPoint slide presentation.

Part of the question and answer session

The question and answer session was also recorded. However the Forum has not published it to preserve the privacy of those asking questions.

I have used the audio version of the recording to extract my answers to some audience questions. Those questions are transcribed below in condense form, with the recording of my answers.

You used the phrase "Sensible Muslims." Given the range of opinions within Islam, how do "Sensible Muslims" agree what is "Sensible Islam?"

Recording of my 100-second answer

Islamophobia is real and widespread. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) needs to accept the APPG Islamophobia definition and get it legislated.

Muslims often feel aggrieved that there is a generally agreed definition of antisemitism (namely the IHRA definition) while the definition of Islamophobia is contested.

I have explained in my article "What do we do with a definition of Islamophobia?" that the word antisemitism does not appear in UK law, and how the antisemitism definition is used in practice.

This goes back the part of my presentation where I discuss the role of society.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

How can the APPG definition of Islamophobia use the word "racism" when Muslims are not a race. (The question was asked by a white British convert who has suffered anti-Muslim hatred.)

In my answer I gave an example of racism (as the word racism is used by sociologists) against stamp collectors.

That is now written down on my page "The word Islamophobia should be abandoned" in the section on the Runnymede 2017 Islamophobia definition where I explain racism against chessplayers.

Recording of my 2-minute answer

How can you say that the top levels of the Conservative Party are not Islamophobic?

Recording of my 1-minute answer

Supplemental reading

On my page "Why freedom of speech is vital — interview given to a school pupil I have reproduced the text of the UK legislation on incitement of racial hatred and incitement of religious hatred.

The legislation on discrimination on grounds of religion is in the UK's Equality Act 2010.


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