Government appoints Leeds imam as “independent expert” to tackle Islamophobia

Qari Asim

The government has appointed Qari Asim of Leeds Makkah Mosque as an “independent adviser” to provide “expert advice on a definition of Islamophobia.”

Qari Asim, who is Deputy Chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, will lead a process for establishing a definition of Islamophobia.

In May the government was criticised for rejecting a definition of Islamophobia created by a cross-party group of MPs. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims defined Islamophobia as: “rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

But the government said the definition was too vague and could undermine efforts to tackle extremism. It says there needs to be a formal definition of Islamophobia to help strengthen efforts against anti-Muslim hatred, but the APPG definition could unintentionally undermine freedom of speech, and prevent legitimate criticism of Islamist extremism, or of unacceptable cultural practices.

The Tories have also been criticised for not doing enough to stamp out Islamophobia within their ranks.

Following his appointment Qari Asim said: “To tackle the alarming rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, it is imperative that Islamophobia is defined. I am deeply committed to working across Muslim communities and with relevant stakeholders to formulate a legally robust, comprehensive and workable definition of Islamophobia.

“I am honoured to be entrusted with this role, which will have a far reaching impact in protecting British Muslims and tackling anti-Muslim hatred.”

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP added: “The government is wholeheartedly committed to ensuring that Muslims are not targeted for hatred, persecution or discrimination.

“Imam Asim’s appointment marks a further step in helping us to achieve that goal and ensures that we develop an effective definition of Islamophobia which commands widespread support.”

Qari Asim is also Chair of the government-funded Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, and Senior Editor of the government-funded Imams Online. 

Reacting to Qari Asim’s appointment, MPACUK spokesman Imran Shah said he was being used by the government for their own counter extremism objectives.

He said: “This government has a record of promoting those who are receptive to their counter extremism agenda. Imam Asim is one of those people who has shown very little resistance to Prevent and its Islamophobic characteristics and has worked with the likes of Faith Matters and Zionists at the Community Service Trust.

“So it’s not surprising that he has been appointed by the government to increase their own credibility within the Muslim community. We should be wary how Imams Online and MINAB are being used as vehicle by the government to essentially do soft propaganda for the government’s counter extremism objectives.”

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