By Zain Hussain

AS a Muslim, it disappoints me time and again how Islamophobia is not taken seriously enough in Westminster. Its occurrence is often treated as something subjective, which can be debated about. However, Islamophobia is a real form of racism which affects Muslims in many aspects of life.

In the year ending March 2021, Muslims were the target of a staggering 45% of hate crime offences in the UK. Findings published by the Muslim Council of Britain in 2019 show how increased anti-Muslim attitudes have affected Muslims’ prospects for employment. For example, only 1 in 5 Muslim adults were found to be in full-time work, compared to 35% of the population in general.

Given this troubling context, I was relieved to see that the Scottish National Party unanimously adopted the APPG definition of Islamophobia. The All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims has proposed that Islamophobia be defined as “rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

While this development in the SNP deserved coverage, a few weeks have passed with UK news outlets largely silent on this.

Islamophobia continues to fester in British politics, as is shown by the recent case of Nusrat Ghani MP, who cited her Muslimness as a factor when she was fired from her post of transport minister.

This is not an isolated incident in British politics, as a July 2020 YouGov poll found that 47% of Conservative Party members considered Islam a "threat to the British way of life" while 58% held the false belief that there are “no-go” areas for non-Muslims in the UK where shariah law is implemented.

Notoriously, 15 Conservative councillors were suspended in 2019 for posting racist and Islamophobic content online, only to be quietly reinstated.

Islamophobic racism is also embedded in the UK Government's Prevent Strategy, the UK’s counter-radicalisation programme, which sees Muslim identity markers, such as growing a beard or wearing the hijab, as potential indicators of extremism. As a result, Muslims are racialised and racial profiling becomes widespread in schools and other institutions.

This Conservative government is out of touch when it comes to the lived experiences of Muslims. The Tories do nothing to represent our interests.

The APPG definition responds to this Islamophobia. The APPG recognises that the effects of Islamophobia “are seen in individual behaviours and institutional processes.”

This refers directly to cases such as Nusrat Ghani's, institutional Islamophobia, and physical and verbal attacks on Muslims across the UK. It spells out a type of prejudice which does not align with tolerance, acceptance, and freedom of religion, which I was taught were British values.

Every definition of Islamophobia has its weaknesses. However, the SNP’s adoption of the APPG definition of Islamophobia is very welcome. The time has now come for the UK government to do the same.

Zain Hussain is a freelance journalist and activist focusing on Islamophobia and interfaith issues