Recommendations include adopting APPG definition of anti-Muslim racism – and assessing all policies for their equality impact. That poses huge problems for the Labour right
Labour general secretary David Evans has responded to the publication of a measured but damning report on Islamophobia in the Labour Party with an email to party officials, seen by the SKWAWKBOX, committing to accepting and implementing all the report’s recommendations – and that he, Keir Starmer and deputy leader Angela Rayner will lead on the implementation.
It’s almost unthinkable that this will actually be carried out in practice, because one of the report’s recommendations would mean the suspension of dozens of Labour MPs – and acting against one of the groups most cherished by the Labour right.
The ‘APPG’ definition
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims has created a ‘working definition’ of Islamophobia along similar lines to the ‘IHRA’ working definition of antisemitism adopted by the Labour Party. The Labour Muslim Network report’s recommendations include adopting this definition at all levels of the party:
But the APPG definition, like the IHRA definition, provides examples of Islamophobic behaviour. Those examples include:
Contemporary examples of Islamophobia in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in
encounters between religions and non-religions in the public sphere could, taking into account the
overall context, include, but are not limited to:
• Calling for, aiding, instigating or justifying the killing or harming of Muslims in the name of a racist/fascist ideology, or an extremist view of religion.
• Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Muslims as such, or of Muslims as a collective group, such as, especially but not exclusively, conspiracies about Muslim entryism in politics, government or other societal institutions; the myth of Muslim identity having a unique propensity for terrorism, and claims of a demographic ‘threat’ posed by Muslims or of a ‘Muslim takeover’.
• Accusing Muslims as a group of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Muslim person or group of Muslim individuals, or even for acts committed by non-Muslims.
• Accusing Muslims as a group, or Muslim majority states, of inventing or exaggerating Islamophobia, ethnic cleansing or genocide perpetrated against Muslims.
• Accusing Muslim citizens of being more loyal to the ‘Ummah’ (transnational Muslim community) or to their countries of origin, or to the alleged priorities of Muslims worldwide, than to the interests of their own
• Denying Muslim populations the right to self-determination e.g., by claiming that the existence of an independent Palestine or Kashmir is a terrorist endeavour.
• Applying double standards by requiring of Muslims behaviours that are not expected or demanded of any other groups in society, eg loyalty tests.
• Using the symbols and images associated with classic Islamophobia (e.g. Muhammed being a paedophile, claims of Muslims spreading Islam by the sword or subjugating minority groups under their rule) to characterize Muslims as being ‘sex groomers’, inherently violent or incapable of living harmoniously in plural societies.
• Holding Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of any Muslim majority state, whether secular
or constitutionally Islamic.
These examples are a minefield for the Labour right. For example, the pro-Israel group of Labour MPs Labour Friends of Israel responded to the massacre of dozens of unarmed Palestinians protestings against the occupation of their land by blaming Palestinians for their own murder, in a tweet it subsequently deleted because of the outraged response:
The tweet provoked angry calls from Muslims and other supporters of Palestine for Labour MPs to resign their membership of LFI over the comment, but only one – Catherine West – is known to have taken action:
In addition, Labour MPs have made comments linking Muslims to grooming, while right-wing favourite Jess Phillips was heavily criticised for comments about Muslim families ‘importing’ wives from Pakistan for their ‘disabled sons’.
If Evans and Starmer put their commitment into practice, the precedent they have created by suspending Jeremy Corbyn would logically require them to ‘administratively’ suspend every MP and peer who remained a member of LFI or was otherwise associated with anti-Palestinian or anti-Muslim comments – for example, the numerous MPs who have shared or praised anti-Muslim articles by certain journalists and any MP who has written for the S*n, which was ludicrously cleared by IPSO after headlines asking what should be done about ‘the Muslim Problem‘. Any failure to do so would lead, rightly, to accusations of differential treatment.
After all, Jeremy Corbyn was suspended for making a comment that the leadership acknowledged was true but which they said was offensive and hurtful. Right-wing comments about Palestinians, especially those blaming them for their own murder, don’t even have that defence. And near the end of his tenure, Jeremy Corbyn led the way when Labour suspended former equality watchdog head Trevor Phillips after Islamophobia complaints over his comments associating Muslims with child abuse.
The LMN report also calls for every Labour policy to be assessed for any discriminatory impact. Yet the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report on antisemitism linked the party’s focus on antisemitism complaints to a damaging impact on other ethnic minorities. This would make Keir Starmer’s promise to implement the Board of Deputies’ demands highly questionable – and would almost certainly put Labour in breach of equalities laws if they in any way involved the BoD and other groups in disciplinary processes and policy formation without offering exactly the same to every other minority group.
Starmer’s and Evans’s promise to implement ‘all’ the LMN recommendations, if they do so in a way that stands up to even a moment’s scrutiny, will involve mass suspensions. It’s hard in the extreme to imagine it happening.
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