Open Letter on Islamophobia

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48 signatories respond to the government's dismissal of Islamophobia as a form of racism

The government has announced a new process for establishing a working definition of Islamophobia. They have rejected the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims definition of Islamophobia which has focused on Islamophobia being linked to a form of racism and Muslimness (or perceived Muslimness).

The Runnymede Trust have written two ground-breaking reports on Islamophobia – one in 1997 and the other more recently in 2017 which defines Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism. This report argues that Islamophobia needs to be viewed as anti-Muslim racism – both to address the nature and depth of the discrimination against Muslims in society, but also to focus policy on more than anti-Muslim hatred.

Runnymede Islamophobia report 

This letter – signed by 48 signatories from race equality organisations and academics -- is a response to the government’s decision to reject the link between Islamophobia and racism.


Letter below:

'We are at a crossroads where adopting a definition of Islamophobia has become critical. There is substantial evidence that Muslims are being prevented from enjoying their freedoms and participating more fully in political, economic, social, cultural and other fields of public life, and face increasing bigotry in public spaces and online.

It is clear from those who are resisting a definition of Islamophobia for public policy purposes that Islamophobia is poorly understood. Rather than being viewed as harm being experienced by Muslims in their daily lives, it is perceived as an attack on free speech or the ability to criticise a set of beliefs.

It is difficult to understand how defining a form of hatred against a group and bringing it in line with other forms of racism (and legislation) will stifle freedom of speech and undermine counter-terrorism legislation.

If free speech and/or counter-terrorism legislation is not unfairly singling out one group or community, there is no reason to believe that the adoption of a definition of Islamophobia will pose a threat to security and/or free speech

As strong supporters of anti-racism and equality laws we believe that people should be treated on their individual attributes rather than on stereotypes and misperceptions of group attributes.

There is strong evidence that Muslim communities are suffering considerable discrimination. Of course, there are different types of racism – faced by Jewish, Muslim and black communities – which have varying attributes. What connects these as racisms is the common experience of discrimination, and the use of cultural pathologies and stereotypes to vilify racialised minorities.  

We therefore strongly urge Ministers and the government to recognise that racism must be an integral part of any definition of Islamophobia.'


Dr Omar Khan, The Runnymede Trust

Dr Edie Friedman, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality

Andy Gregg, Race on the Agenda

Jabeer Butt, Race Equality Foundation

Rabia Mirza, British Muslims for Secular Democracy

Charles Kwaku-Odoi, Caribbean and African Health Network

Sado Jirde, Black South West Network

John Mayford, OLMEC

Nadeem Murtuja, Just Yorkshire

Dr Mustapha Sheikh , Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Leeds

Dr Tajul Islam , Lecturer in Islamic Studies, University of Leeds

Dr Kasia Narkowicz , Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology, University of Gloucestershire

Dr Shamim Miah , Senior Lecturer, Department of Education and Community Studies, University of Huddersfield

Dr Ben Whitham , Lecturer in International Relations, De Montfort University, Leicester

Dr Nadya Ali , Lecturer in International Relations , University of Sussex

Dr James Carr , Lecturer, Department of Sociology , University of Limerick

Prof. Gargi Bhattacharyya , Professor of Sociology, University of East London

Dr Tom Mills, Lecturer in Sociology , Aston University

Prof James Dickins , Professor of Arabic, University of Leeds

Dr Brian Klug , Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy, St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford

Dr Paul Bagguley, Reader in Sociology, University of Leeds

Professor Ian Law, Academic Fellow, Racism and ethnicity studies, University of Leeds

Dr Amina Easat-Daas, Project Officer, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

Dr Karima Laachir, Senior Lecturer in Literary & Cultural Studies, SOAS, University of London

Professor Nasar Meer FAcSS, Professor of Race, Identity and Citizenship, University of Edinburgh

Dr Katy Sian, Lecturer in Sociology, University of York

Dr Sariya Cheruvallil-Contractor, Research Fellow, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University

Dr Fauzia Ahmad, Senior Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London

Dr Michael Munnik, Lecturer in Social Science Theories and Methods, Cardiff University

Prof Bridget Byrne, Professor of Sociology, Director of the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE), University of Manchester

Dr Ajmal Hussain, Research Fellow, Department of Sociology, University of Manchester

Dr Chris Allen , Associate Professor in Hate Studies, University of Leicester

Dr Giulia Liberatore, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow/ Lecturer in Muslims in Europe; Sociology and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies/Alwaleed Centre, University of Edinburgh

Dr Khadijah Elshayyal, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Alwaleed Centre from the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, University of Edinburgh

Dr Elizabeth Poole, Senior Lecturer in Media, Keele University

Dr Irene Zempi, Lecturer in Criminology, Nottingham Trent University

Prof. Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy, University of Bristol

Mr Abdoolkarim Vakil, Lecturer in Contemporary Portuguese History, King's College London

Prof. S. Sayyid, Professor of Social Theory & Decolonial Thought, University of Leeds

Dr Sadek Hamid, Writer, The New Arab

Prof. Avtar Brah, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Birkbeck College, University of London

Mr Tufyal Choudhury, Associate Professor in Durham Law, University of Durham

Dr H.A. Hellyer – Senior Associate Fellow, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). Former Deputy Convenor of the UK Government's Taskforce on Tackling Radicalisation and Extremism

Dr Abida Malik, Tutor in Sociology , University of Nottingham

Dr Salman al-Azami, Senior Lecturer in English Language, Liverpool Hope University

Dr Stephen H. Jones, Lecturer of Sociology of Religion, University of Birmingham

Professor Tahir Abbas FRSA, Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE Government

Professor Humayan Ansari OBE, Professor of the History of Islam and Cultural Diversity, History Department, Royal Holloway, University of London


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