Posted on Tuesday 26th July 2011
For the past few years, a growing number of concerned individuals and organisations have been lobbying for the establishment of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime in much the same way that similar APPGs have looked at the issues of racism and anti-Semitism previously.
Following on from a closed meeting at the Houses of Parliament in March 2010 to discuss the issue - a meeting where IASS's Chris Allen was invited to provide oral evidence - an APPG on Islamophobia was finally launched in November last year. Supported by a broad range of Parliamentarians including Kris Hopkins (Conservative), Simon Hughes (Lib Dem), Jack Straw (Labour) and Lord Janner (Labour), it was described by Hopkins - who was Chair at the time - as a 'momentous occasion'.
Despite initial optimism, the APPG has since been dogged by controversy, most linked to the decision to appoint the Muslim media monitoring organisation iENGAGE as Secretariat to the Group. Following a series of vitriolic exchanges between iENGAGE and a number of journalist, political commentators and others in the 'blogosphere', both Kris Hopkins and Lord Janner publicly resigned from the APPG.
In an attempt to get the APPG back on track, the new Co-Chairs - Hughes, Straw and Sir Peter Bottomley - approached Chris Allen in June this year to compile a report which offered an 'objective view' on the unfolding situation surrounding the APPG and its Secretariat. As part of this, he was also asked to consider 'what criteria a group should meet if it is to be the secretariat of an organisation' and 'how (the APPG) should move forward in the future'. Having just five days to complete what has been shown to be a highly controversial and contentious task, Chris delivered the report in early July.
Being critical of the way in which the APPG had functioned to date, Chris concluded:
"Most damning...is the realisation that Islamophobia - the very issue that the APPG was set up to consider - was completely removed from the frame...Islamophobia was lost...
In truth, since its launch in November 2010 the APPG on Islamophobia has been little more than a sideshow: an unhelpful, unwanted and unnecessary distraction from giving Islamophobia the rightful, timely and necessary attention it so desperately needs. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the credibility of the APPG has been damaged."
Since submitting the report to the APPG, the Group has put in place a new approach to establishing a Secretariat, and in the autumn, Chris has been invited by the APPG to present summary findings from his research into Islamophobia over the past decade.
Full report: 'A Momentous Occasion: A Report on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia and its Secretariat' (pdf; opens in new window)