The NEC will view any acts of discrimination, prejudice or hostility based on religion or race as prejudicial and grossly detrimental to the Labour Party and its interests. Chapter 2, clause I.8 of the Labour Party Rule book applies to all members of the Labour Party. It provides:
“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party. The NEC and NCC shall take account of any codes of conduct currently in force and shall regard any incident which in their view might reasonably be seen to demonstrate hostility or prejudice based on age; disability; gender reassignment or identity; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; or sexual orientation as conduct prejudicial to the Party: these shall include but not be limited to incidents involving racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia or otherwise racist language, sentiments, stereotypes or actions, sexual harassment, bullying or any form of intimidation towards another person on the basis of a protected characteristic as determined by the NEC, wherever it occurs, as conduct prejudicial to the Party. The disclosure of confidential information relating to the Party or to any other member, unless the disclosure is duly authorised or made pursuant to a legal obligation, shall also be considered conduct prejudicial to the Party.”
This Code of Conduct on Islamophobia supplements the “Code of Conduct: Antisemitism and other forms of racism,” reproduced in Appendix 9 to the Labour Party Rule Book. The NEC and NCC will take this Code of Conduct on Islamophobia into account when determining allegations of hostility or prejudice based on the protected characteristic of Islam or towards Muslims.
Complaints of Islamophobia will be investigated and processed in accordance with the Labour Party’s disciplinary policies, which can be found on the Labour Party’s website and in the Labour Party Complaint Handling Handbook.
What is Islamophobia?
There is no single agreed definition of Islamophobia, albeit various civic, social, legal and political sources have attempted to define it. One definition is the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslim’s definition (APPG). The APPG defines Islamophobia as:
“… rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.
The Labour Party adopted the APPG definition and its examples in March 2019 as an important statement of principle and solidarity. The NEC reaffirms that position in this Code of Conduct.
The Runnymede Trust has defined Islamophobia as anti-Muslin racism and further said:
“… any distinction, exclusion, or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”.
Under equality law, Muslims are a religious group and they do not comprise a distinct ethnic or national group. Unlawful discrimination against a person because they are Muslim is, therefore, a type of religious discrimination and not a type of race discrimination. Nonetheless, adherence to Islam may often be used as a proxy for race discrimination against people who are Muslim and from extra-European ethnicities. People may also perceive others to be Muslim and treat them detrimentally because they share perceived cultural or physical traits common to various ethnic groups: that may constitute hostility or prejudice based on race.
One example of this sort of race discrimination arises especially against Sikhs, who may be perceived to be Muslims because of their skin colour, names, dress, religious practices and other personal attributes, and therefore subjected to prejudice. This is religious discrimination against Sikhs by perception (that they are Muslim) and also race discrimination (the perception arises from their skin colour and ethnic background).
Another example is where a person makes derogatory references to Muslims but the discriminator’s real target is people from South Asia or the Middle East. This ‘dog whistle’ is used particularly by far-right political groups against Muslim, and other South Asian, politicians.
Further guidance and illustrative examples
In all cases, whether conduct is discriminatory must be assessed according to the particular context, facts and circumstances at hand. When considering allegations of Islamophobia, the Labour Party is advised to take into account the following sorts of treatment that are likely to amount to prejudice or hostility based on the protected characteristic of Islam or ethnic or national origins:
Inciting by word or deed hatred or violence against Muslims, including calling for or justifying actual or threatened harm towards Muslims.
Engaging in derogatory or dehumanising stereotypes about Muslims, for example, by suggesting that Muslims in general have a particular propensity to commit, or to support, acts of terrorism; or that individuals who are Muslim are necessarily socially or politically illiberal or regressive; or that Muslims have particular physical characteristics, names, dress or moral or ethical values; or that Muslims have a propensity for violence or are incapable of living peacefully in a democratic society; or that is not used to those of other backgrounds.
Suggesting that Muslims, individually or as a group in British society, pose a threat to British or European society, civilisation or values, for example, by claiming that Muslims are a demographic threat to British people, by claiming that Muslims are taking over British society or civic or political institutions through their presence in the same, or by catastrophising immigration from Muslim majority countries.
Requiring Muslims to act in a way not expected or demanded of any other group.
Requiring Muslims to criticise terrorist acts more vociferously than other people, or requiring Muslims to apologise for terrorism committed by extremists in the name of Islam, or holding Muslims collectively responsible for the acts of Muslim majority countries, paramilitary groups or terrorists.
Using slurs or grossly offensive imagery about Muslims, portraying Muslims as sexually untrustworthy or dangerous, or that Muslims or their contemporary religious practices are cruel or violent.
Mocking or belittling people’s personal characteristics that are associated with their national or ethnic identities or origins, for example, by mocking Muslim names, the Arabic language, or national, religious or ethnic clothing, facial hair, or other physical attributes.
Objecting to the presence of Mosques or Koranic scripture because of their association with Islam or Muslims is very likely to be considered prejudicial. However, an objection to the presence of religious symbols, places of worship or religious scripture on the basis of secularism or atheism is very likely to be protected by the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of expression and should not, by itself, be considered Islamophobic.
Making irrelevant references to the protected characteristic of being Muslim. This practice is often a form of discrimination and stereotyping. It is perpetuated in media reports of alleged crime, routinely referring to the perpetrators as “Muslim”, when no other equivalent reference would be made to any other faith.
Accusing Muslims of being a “fifth column” or of lying or acting in ‘stealth’, and/or implying a Muslin, or Muslims in general, are inherently antisemitic, homophobic and/or misogynist.
Minimising or justifying the persecution, oppression or denial of the human rights of Muslims on the basis of concerns about ‘Islamic’ terrorism, or national security. This may manifest itself by using stereotypes in an international context (for example, in respect of the position of Palestinians or Kashmiris, to deny the right to self-determination) or in a domestic context.
Denying, or minimising the significance of, discrimination against Muslims may demonstrate hostility or prejudice because of religion.
The Labour Party must remain a forum for discussion about important social and political issues that involve Islam or Muslim people. However, these discussions about important social and political issues that involve Islam or Muslim people must always be undertaken sensitively and respectfully. All Labour Party members are required to act with and to promote tolerance and respect. Personal abuse has no place in political discussion and such abuse is, for the purposes of the Labour Party, always unacceptable.