UK: 'Islamophobia' definition will prevent criticism of Islam

'Giving official recognition to the APPG definition of Islamophobia will be a giant step towards an arbitrary police state.'

Saturday 24 August - A new definition of Islamophobia will prevent criticism of the 'hateful ideology of theocratic Islam,' say two of Britain’s leading atheists in new book of essays.
Richard Dawkins and Peter Tatchell - and other authors including a former member of extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir - say attempts to define Islamophobia risk curtailing freedom of speech and work to expose extremism.
In a book of essays published today by the think tank Civitas, Mr Tatchell said he would have fallen foul of the new definition - proposed by leading politicians and backed by Labour - when he attacked Hizb ut-Tahrir over its anti-gay, anti-women comments.
'I was denounced as Islamophobic. But I was merely confronting the hateful ideology of theocratic Islamism, not Muslim people, the vast majority of whom do not subscribe to such murderous injunctions,' he said.
'My protest in 1994 could fall within the sweeping definition of Islamophobia proposed by the APPG, since it talks about Muslimness.'
'No-one in our society should be discriminated against because of who they are, yet the term Islamophobia downgrades protecting Muslim people and mistakenly puts the focus on protecting ideas.'
'This has to be challenged. We are, it seems drifting towards a de facto threat to free speech and liberal values.' 
Professor Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist, said: 'Islamophobia is an otiose word which doesn’t deserve definition.' 
'Hatred of Muslims is unequivocally reprehensible, as is hatred of any group of people such as gay people or members of a race. Hatred of Islam, on the other hand, is easily justified, as is hatred of any other religion or obnoxious ideology. Muslims themselves are the main victims of Islam.'
The Government last month appointed an independent expert Imam Qari Asim to advise on a definition of Islamophobia after criticism of one drawn up by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on British Muslims.
Endorsed by Labour, the LibDems, Scottish Conservatives and some prominent Muslim groups, the APPG definition states: 'Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.'
Concerns have been raised, including by the chairman of the National Police Chiefs' Council, that the definition was too vague and could undermine efforts to tackle extremism.
Ed Husain, an expert on extremist groups after spending time as a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir as a teenager, said the racial and religious hatred act already made inciting hatred against someone on the basis of religion a crime with the caveat that it should not prohibit criticism of religions.
'One impact of adopting any definition of “Islamophobia” is that we encourage victimhood rather than responsibility. We burn the bridges of liberty and freedom of expression on which millions of Muslims travelled to the West,' he said.
Lord (Indarjit) Singh of Wimbledon, the crossbench peer and regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, described Islamophobia as a 'vague catch-all term' that poses a 'danger to free speech and legitimate discussion.'
He added: 'Hatred arises out of ignorance in which small differences can assume frightening and threatening proportions. It can only be removed through greater emphasis on religious and cultural literacy.'
David Green, Civitas’s director, said: 'There is wide public support for freedom of speech, and it is unlikely to be officially ended by an act of parliament, but it can be chipped away bit by bit.'
'Giving official recognition to the APPG definition of Islamophobia will be a giant step towards an arbitrary police state.'
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