The Limits of Liberal Inclusivity: How Defining Islamophobia Normalises Anti-Muslim Racism

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Responding to recent calls made within UK Parliament for a government-backed definition of Islamophobia, this article considers the unanticipated consequences of such proposals. I argue that, considered in the context of related efforts to regulate hate speech, the formulation and implementation of a government-sponsored definition will generate unforeseen harms for the Muslim community. To the extent that such a definition will fail to address the government’s role in propagating Islamophobia through ill-considered legislation that conflates Islamist discourse with hate speech, the concept of a government-backed definition of Islamophobia appears hypocritical and untenable. Alongside opposing government attempts to define Islamophobia (and Islam), I argue that advocacy efforts should instead focus on disambiguating government counter-terrorism initiatives from the government management of controversies within Islam. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the governmental adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism by promoting a new definition of Islamophobia, we ought to learn from the errors that were made. We should resist the gratuitous securitization of Muslim communities, rather than use such definitions to normalize compliance with the surveillance state.
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Archival date: 2019-07-18
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