LONDON: Britain’s new commissioner for countering extremism dismissed the word “Islamophobia” as a ploy to “shut down disagreement” and argued against use of the term.
Robin Simcox was appointed by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel to the interim position last month, but he has proven controversial figure for a number of years.
In a September 2019 article, he called for the UK prime minister to “push back on ‘Islamophobia’” and be “wary” of calls for an internal Conservative Party review into prejudice within the party.
In an earlier piece, he wrote: “Muslims’ concerns about the prejudice they face in society cannot be ignored. Those concerns, however, must be addressed without throwing around accusations of Islamophobia, a word used to narrow the parameters of legitimate debate.”
And in a 2016 article, Simcox said the term violent extremism was “dreamed up as a way to avoid saying ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ extremism in the months after the July 2005 suicide bombings in London.”
He has also previously railed against Britain’s official definition of hate crime, and said that it was “far too broad.”
Simcox previously worked in a number of extremism-focused roles, including in a thinktank known for its close links to the former Trump administration in the US.
The Muslim Council of Britain, which Simcox himself has claimed are “extremists,” said: “It is far-right extremists who have the most to gain from refusing to recognize the lived experience of Islamophobia Muslims face today.
“And it is far-right extremists who are benefiting from the willful misrepresentation of Islamophobia as a word that allegedly limits free speech.”
A report by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims found that 70 percent of British Muslims had experienced “religion-based prejudice,” and that three in five Muslims believe they face more discrimination than other religious groups.
In his new interim role — which will last an initial six months — Simcox will advise the government on countering all forms of hatred, a job that he said is a “great honor.”
He added: “Extremism is a scourge that has the potential to impact us all. There can be no place for it in the UK.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Mr. Simcox was selected as interim lead commissioner because he has a wealth of expertise in the area of countering extremism, having worked at a senior level for organizations including the Counter Extremism Group.
“The role of interim commissioner is independent of government, but all individuals appointed to roles like this are carefully vetted.”