Governmental responses to Islamophobia in the UK

A two-decade retrospective

Authored by: Chris Allen

The Routledge International Handbook of Islamophobia

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815353751
eBook ISBN: 9781351135559
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351135559-33

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Abstract

It is just over two decades since Islamophobia was afforded political recognition in the UK. Prompted by the publication of the 1997 Runnymede Trust report on behalf of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia (CBMI), it straightforwardly defined Islamophobia as ‘a useful shorthand way of referring to the dread or hatred of Islam . . . and, therefore, to fear or dislike all or most Muslims’ (CBMI 1997, p. 1). Since then, Islamophobia has been an emotive issue: to advocates pressing government to address the phenomenon, Islamophobia is a growing and increasingly worrying phenomenon that has the potential to impact the everyday lives of British Muslims; to detractors – many of whom dismiss the phenomenon out of hand – it is little more than an unnecessary shield behind which Muslims deflect legitimate criticism about themselves and their religion. While not always as necessarily polarised, a similar dichotomy can be seen in the political spaces also, with politicians and political opinion veering from Islamophobia being the most serious discriminatory phenomenon of our time through to it being an unwanted consequence of the ‘problems’ associated with Muslim communities. This chapter reflects on the past two decades in the UK to consider how successive British governments have responded to Islamophobia since the publication of the CBMI report in 1997. Beginning with a short overview that affords some context about the issue of religious-based discrimination in the UK, it proceeds by first considering the New Labour government from 1997 to 2010 before second, considering the Conservative-led Coalition and Conservative majority governments from 2010 through to 2017. In conclusion, some comparisons between the different approaches will be compared.

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