Concerns over proposed Islamophobia definition

23 April, 2024

The think tank Policy Exchange has released a new report expressing concern about a definition of Islamophobia that has in recent years been proposed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for British Muslims. The report was written by Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins, and Dr Martyn Frampton, with a foreword by former Home and Communities Secretary Sir Sajid Javid MP. Humanists UK has also expressed concern about the definition, for its failure to distinguish between prejudice against people and criticism of beliefs.

Prejudice against Muslims in the UK is widespread and this must be addressed. Humanists UK itself has worked to tackle such prejudice, including supporting the introduction of the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010 and the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006; extensive dialogue work with Muslim groups; and speaking out repeatedly against atrocities experienced by Muslims on grounds of their identity around the world.

The definition proposed by the APPG for British Muslims states that ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.’ However, Humanists UK believes that this definition (and in particular the tests proposed alongside it) requires improvement because it does not sufficiently differentiate between (i) prejudice and discriminatory actions against people who identify or are identified as Muslim, and (ii) criticism of the beliefs, ideas, and practices that might fall under the umbrella of Islam. It poses a risk to legitimate freedom of speech and thought and of religion or belief and it also threatens to give inadvertent succour to extreme Islamic groups abroad, including some Islamic states at the UN who use accusations of Islamophobia to silence criticisms of the human rights abuses they perpetrate.

It also fails to consider the impact upon former Muslims, for whom being able to question, criticise, and openly oppose Quranic teachings and expressions of Muslimness can be an important aspect of their identity, help them to come to terms with religious abuse they may have experienced, and is a legitimate expression of their new religion or belief.

Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson said:

‘It’s crucial that any definitions around prejudice based on religion protect individuals from discrimination while preserving the right to critique harmful beliefs and practices. We don’t believe the proposed definition achieves that.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 07534 248 596.

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