The dangers of banning ‘Islamophobia’

The FSU has published an essay by Tim Dieppe, with a Foreword by Richard Dawkins, arguing that any attempt to define ‘Islamophobia’ will have a chilling effect on free speech.

The FSU has published an essay by Tim Dieppe, with a Foreword by Richard Dawkins, arguing that any attempt to define ‘Islamophobia’ will have a chilling effect on free speech.

Tim Dieppe, the Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern, believes that any attempt to define ‘Islamophobia’ and punish those responsible for it, whether by cancelling them or changing the law to make ‘Islamophobia’ a ‘hate crime’, would have a chilling effect on free speech. That’s particularly true of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims’ definition, which is so broad that, among other things, it means anyone disputing Hamas’s description of Israel’s military operation in Gaza as a ‘genocide’ is guilty of ‘Islamophobia’. As the GB News reporter Tom Harwood recently pointed out, this would make Keir Starmer, who doesn’t accept that what’s happening in Gaza is a ‘genocide’, an ‘Islamophobe’. Yet the Labour Party, along with the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Scottish Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Greens, has accepted the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’.

That isn’t the only shortcoming of the APPG’s definition. It produced a report in 2018, fleshing out its definition, in which it claimed that ‘Islamophobia’ also includes “claims of Muslims spreading Islam by the sword or subjugating minority groups under their rule”. As the historian Tom Holland said at the time, “most Muslims, for most of history, would have been fine with these claims”. He continued:

The definition of Islam we are being given is of a liberalised, westernised Islam – but Islamic civilisation is not to be defined solely by liberal, Western standards. Military conquest and the subjugation of minority groups have absolutely been features of Islamic imperialism.

We risk the ludicrous situation of being able to write without fear of prosecution about the Christian tradition of crusading or antisemitism, but not the Islamic tradition of jihad or the jizya.

In effect, if we were to accept the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ and do our best to eradicate it we’d have to shut down every Islamic Studies department in Britain’s universities. It’s transparently absurd, yet when the Muslim Council of Britain recently called for an investigation of ‘Structural Islamophobia’ in the Conservative Party it had in mind this definition, which includes anyone saying anything that could conceivably fuel hostility towards Muslims, regardless of whether it’s true.

It goes without saying that any newspaper reporting that the majority of the men prosecuted for child sex offences in the Rotherham ‘grooming gang’ scandal are Muslims is guilty of ‘Islamophobia’ according to this definition, as is a journalist pointing out that the security services have foiled more terrorist attacks planned by Islamic extremists than far Right extremists. If it’s a fact that could be used to whip up hatred against Muslims, then it should be suppressed, according to anyone who supports this definition, which includes Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow women and equalities minister, who recently tried to publicly shame the Conservative Party for not subscribing to it.  

As Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, pointed out in an exchange with Dodds, if this definition of ‘Islamophobia’ was universally accepted – and we all agreed it should be stamped out – it would create a blasphemy law via the back door. We’ve only just got rid of our Christian blasphemy law. Do we really want to create a new Muslim blasphemy law?

At bottom, the problem with the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is that it conflates any criticism of Islam with racism. Yet, as Richard Dawkins says in his Foreword to Tim’s essay, Islam is not a race:

A religion is something you can convert to, or opt out of. Your race isn’t like that. You can’t convert to a race or leave it. (That’s if race is a meaningful concept at all. The point is controversial, but presumably the authors of the APPG report on Islamophobia think it is or they couldn’t talk about racism.) The fact that you can’t leave your race means that, if Islam is indeed a race, apostasy is literally impossible. Yet apostasy has to be possible in Islam or it couldn’t be punishable by death. So the statement that Islamophobia is a form of racism is more than just incorrect. It contradicts a fundamental, and  incidentally obnoxious, tenet of Islam.

We urge all our members and supporters to read Tim Dieppe’s timely essay, as well as Richard Dawkins’ Foreword. In spite of being ill-thought out and not fit for purpose, the APPG’s definition of ‘Islamophobia’ is gaining traction and is likely to become more entrenched, not less, in the near future. We all need to be prepared for this new front in the ongoing war against free speech.

Tim Dieppe has also summarised his argument for Spiked, and you can read that piece here.