UKIP Peer calls fear of Muslims “reasonable” and calls for abandoning term “Islamophobia”
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Monday July 02 2018
The UKIP Peer, Lord Malcolm Pearson of Rannoch, has once again ignited controversy as he calls for the Government to dismiss the term “Islamophobia” claiming that it is perfectly “reasonable” to be afraid of Islam.
Speaking in the Lords Chamber, 27 June 2018, Lord Pearson stated that: “the Government must know that hatred of us Kuffar is central to radical Islam, that it is being taught in our mosques and madrassas, and that their own Behavioural Insights Team has said that their present policies are failing”.
He added: “And will the Government please stop using the word “Islamophobia”, because it is surely reasonable and not at all phobic to fear the world’s most violent ideology, from which indeed most hate speech now comes?”
The comments were quickly called out for harbouring hostile sentiment towards Muslims and were sharply criticised by fellow Peers.
Lord Nicholas Bourne of Aberystwyth reminded the chamber that “the Government are committed to tackling Islamophobia” and spoke of his visit to a mosque in Manchester “where Jews and Christians were welcomed for a great iftar”. Lord Bourne added: “It was a true expression of British Muslim activity”.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi also suggested the idea of monitoring debates in the chamber so that it is not exploited to push for the marginalisation of vulnerable communities.
Baroness Warsi stated: “Could I ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in pursuit of their anti-terrorism strategy, they will require preaching in the form of Oral Questions and debate in your Lordships’ House to be monitored for hate speech and Islamophobia against Muslims?”
Lord Jeremy Beecham in support of tackling Islamophobia also stated the discouraging lack of action the Conservative Party has taken in response to complaints about Islamophobia being rife within its members.
Lord Beecham stated: “My Lords, the Labour Party has been criticised—rightly, as it has now acknowledged —for failing to respond promptly to claims of anti-Semitism in its ranks. Recently, we have learned of a number of cases of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and today it has emerged that, four weeks ago, the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to Brandon Lewis, the party chairman, requesting an inquiry, to which it received no reply, prompting it to write again yesterday, saying: “We cannot have an approach where you are hoping that the issue would magically go away so that (you) could avoid a bruising inquiry into anti-Muslim prejudice””.
Baroness Haleh Afshar also weighed into the discussion and stated that: “as a teacher of Islamic law, I should like to make a correction. Islam accepts all religions that preceded it – all religions of the book are accepted and respected…therefore, there is no time or respect for anyone who demonises any religion, and that should include Islam as well”.
Lord Pearson did not respond to any comments further than his original criticism of “radical Islam” and the term “Islamophobia”.
MEND recently, 26 June, held an event launching a new report, titled: “More than words: Approaching a definition of Islamophobia”, in which the importance of the term “Islamophobia” was discussed.
MEND notes that the term “Islamophobia” is a crucial tool in the fight against hate speech, hate crime, and discrimination directed against the British Muslim community, partly because of its long history of usage (beginning in the early 20th Century) but also the scope of its definition.
You can read the report here.
At MEND’s event, Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece, made a point to highlight Lord Pearson’s history of harbouring anti-Muslim sentiment and frequently entertaining far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, commonly known by his pseudonym ‘Tommy Robinson’.
Baroness Hussein-Ece said: “In the House of Lords we’ve been graced with his [Tommy Robinson’s] presence several times…he has been the guest of the UKIP peer, Lord Pearson, several times”.
She added: “We have a problem in the House of Lords where it’s okay…to ask questions that are, I believe, Islamophobic”.
It is understood that the UKIP Peer is actively pushing for his party to adopt an Islamophobic agenda, calling it the next “big one”, and it is evident that his party is following his lead by aggressively recruiting alt-right activists: Paul Joseph Watson, Mark Meechan and Carl Benjamin.
As UKIP continues to lose popularity, it seems likely that it will utilise increasingly divisive hate rhetoric aiming to ignite racial tension to still seem relevant.
Whilst not posing a political threat, it is important that the threat UKIP poses to inflaming Islamophobic sentiment in society is taken seriously by the Government and the rest of society, as should be all other manifestations of racism and discrimination.