February 29, 2024 - 7:00am

Last night, it was reported that the police were “assessing” a report of hate speech made against Lee Anderson following his claim that “Islamists” had taken control of London and Sadiq Khan.

This is a concerning step, particularly because Labour has used the Anderson saga to divert the narrative away to the party’s adoption of the contested All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) definition of Islamophobia, which could become incorporated into law if it sweeps to power. According to this definition (also adopted by the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the London Mayor’s office), Islamophobia is “rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”. 

Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has described this definition as a backdoor blasphemy law. Its use could serve to embolden those now targeting our elected officials with intimidation. She instead insisted on using the term “anti-Muslim hatred”, which is less ambiguous than the APPG definition, and consistent with the law. 

Badenoch is correct: the APPG definition wrongly defines Islamophobia as a form of racism. To illustrate its flaws, “claims of Muslims spreading Islam by the sword or subjugating minority groups under their rule”, would be considered “Islamophobic” and therefore tantamount to racism. Remarkably this serves to censor historical truths, such as the well-documented spread of Islam through the sword by the Mughals, Ottomans, and the Moors (or ISIS). If this gets put into statute, we’d be in the remarkable situation in which we can openly talk about the crusades but are on much shakier ground when it comes to jihads. Free speech would most certainly be censored. 

My report for Civitas last year, ‘Islamophobia’ Revisited, showed one in seven councils across England and Wales have already adopted the contested APPG definition (despite it being rejected by government ministers on grounds of free speech). The Government cited a poll by the organisation Muslim Census that found that only 21% of Muslims polled agreed with the APPG definition, primarily due to the confusion it creates between race and religion Unsurprisingly, the councils that have since adopted the definition are mainly Labour-led, which is why the definition is growing in popularity and recognition. 

Back in May 2023, it was reported that one councillor from Boston Council, who was scheduled to be appointed Mayor, was denied the role for Facebook posts made in 2022, which were alleged to constitute “hateful speech” towards Muslims. The “offending” posts were made during the 2022 Qatar World Cup, with the councillor raising concerns about aspects of Islamic doctrine which criminalise homosexuality and severely restrict the rights of women in Qatar. Was he really so wrong?

If Labour gets into power and incorporates the APPG definition into law — which seems to be increasingly likely — “offensive” incidents like these could easily become a criminal matter. That’s because the definition is so ambiguous it has the potential to capture a panoply of scenarios — not least legitimate criticism of religious doctrine, extremism, and the mere utterance of historical truths. 

Anyone who values freedom of expression in modern Britain, should, by now, be very concerned.