Call for new definition of ‘Islamophobia’ in UK

Updated 15 November 2017
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Call for new definition of ‘Islamophobia’ in UK

LONDON: The UK government should redefine the term “Islamophobia” as “anti-Muslim racism,” according to the think-tank Runnymede Trust in a new report.

A lack of clarity around the meaning of the word is hindering efforts to design policies that could prevent the discrimination of Muslims in the UK, whether it be in the workplace or as a victim of hate crime, the report found.

“At the moment people don’t have clarity over what it is (so) it is difficult for them to tackle it and for policies to be formulated to address it in a concrete way,” said Farah Elahi, research and policy analyst at Runnymede, speaking on the BBC 4 Today programme on Nov. 14 following the publication of the report.

The recommendation formed part of a wider report, released on the 20th anniversary of Runnymede’s first paper on the subject in 1997, in which it is credited for coining the term “Islamophobia.”

The new report includes case studies on the impact of Islamophobia on individual’s lives, including a nurse who faces daily racist and Islamophobic abuse from patients and a molecular geneticist who was advised that her CV was too “Islamic” for her to get an job interview.

“This a really important and timely report, especially post-Brexit where we have seen a significant increase in anti-Muslim hostility,” Imran Awan, associate professor in criminology at Birmingham City University and author of one of the report’s chapters, told Arab News.

Following the terrorist attacks in London and Manchester earlier this year, there was a noticeable spike in hate crime and anti-Muslim attacks.

According to London’s Metropolitan Police, recorded incidents of Islamophobic crime jumped to 365 in June from 87 in April. While reported incidents dropped back to 117 in September, overall Islamophobic crime this year to September is 23.71 percent up on the previous year in London.

“I hope the report will be used by policymakers in agreeing upon a definition of Islamophobia that recognizes this as racism. It’s also important because we need to understand the drivers of hate crime and it’s impacts on communities,” Awan said.

The report also looks at the impact of Islamophobia in the workforce. The report recommends employers to adopt policies such as name-blind CVs and publishing pay gaps, to ensure Muslims are given equal opportunity to seek and gain employment.

Runnymede called for an independent inquiry into the government’s counter-terrorism strategy and questioned the effectiveness of the “Prevent” policy. It said there is “substantial evidence” that the current policy is “discriminatory, disproportionate and counterproductive.”

“Given the mounting evidence, the independent review must answer whether the Prevent strategy should be withdrawn and how to better separate the state’s security apparatus from wider safeguarding or social policy strategies,” the report said.


US wants Afghan-led peace talks with Taliban, Ghani says

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)
Updated 17 July 2018
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US wants Afghan-led peace talks with Taliban, Ghani says

  • The US media on Monday, citing anonymous US officials, reported that Washington was keen to hold direct talks with the Taliban.
  • Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Afghanistan last week to reinforce US support for the talks.

KABUL: A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said that the US wants peace talks with the Taliban to be led by the Afghan government, dismissing reports that Washington was open to holding direct talks with the militants to end the 17-year war.

“The United States of America is jointly working with the government of Afghanistan on a strategy for peace process,” Duranai Waziri, spokeswoman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Arab News.

“Any talks that will be held about the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Afghan government and the Taliban under the leadership of the Afghan government,” she said. 

Waziri said Washington would, however, facilitate the talks.

The US media on Monday, citing anonymous US officials, reported that Washington was keen to hold direct talks with the Taliban, a longstanding demand of the militants for ending the conflict.

The top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, in a statement late Monday night, also rejected media reports that quoted him talking about engaging the Taliban in direct talks. 

“Resolute Support refutes reports by the media that the Resolute Support commander said the US is ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban during a visit with Afghan provincial and government representatives in Kandahar, July 16,” the statement said.  “The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government,” the statement said. 

Gen. Nickolson said that he was only affirming Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s statement in which he said peace talks would include a discussion of international forces and that the US was ready to work with the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Afghan people toward lasting peace.

Sayed Ihsan Taheri, a spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council, said that the US role would be to speed up the peace process and that any talks would be held under the Afghan government’s umbrella and  owned by Afghans.

“This engagement is only for speeding up the Afghan led and owned direct talks to start between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he told Arab News.

The Taliban did not officially respond to confirm or deny the reports. 

The group has long refused direct talks with the Afghan government, demanding instead to negotiate with Washington, and has shown a preparedness to speak with Kabul only when all foreign troops have left the country.

The Taliban have been standing firm on their stance despite Ghani’s unilateral extension of a holiday cease-fire last month in the hope of encouraging the militants to come to the bargaining table.

After the Taliban stepped up deadly attacks, Ghani ordered government forces to resume military operations this month.

Asked if the US is willing to hold direct talks with the Taliban, the State Department said on Monday that the US was “exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government,” the Associated Press reported.

The department added that “any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”

Last August, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan which saw a surge in the number of offensives against the militants.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Afghanistan last week to reinforce US support for the talks. He said that the US was ready to “support, facilitate and participate” in discussions with the Taliban over the role of international forces in Afghanistan but that the peace process would be Afghan-led.

The US in an invasion toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and ousted the Taliban regime that had hosted Al-Qaeda. 

The US currently has about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly for training government forces.