Government ‘in denial on Islamophobia’ says lawyer who represented Azeem Rafiq

The Government is failing to tackle Islamophobia and is still in denial about its existence, according to the lawyer who represented Azeem Rafiq in his racism case against Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

“Other leaders are not shying away from the issue because they want a fair society,” says Asma Iqbal.
“Other leaders are not shying away from the issue because they want a fair society,” says Asma Iqbal.

Asma Iqbal, a partner at Chadwick Lawrence, said the treatment of Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani shows that Muslim women face additional challenges when it comes to equality.

Ms Iqbal said that Islamophobia is dismissed as “a figment of our imagination” and that it is seen as “an excuse that we make because we don’t progress in life”.

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“Islamophobia is a big issue but then our Government is dithering on Islamophobia,” she added. “We don’t tend to accept it and we’re still in denial.”

Qari Asim says there has been a lack of engagement from the Government on defining Islamophobia.

The lawyer contrasted the British Government’s approach to that of the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who accepted it was an issue and appointed a special representative to tackle Islamophobia.

“Other leaders are not shying away from the issue because they want a fair society,” she said. “We should be doing the same.”

Last month Ms Ghani claimed that she was sacked as Transport Minister in 2020 due to her “Muslimness”.

A Leeds imam has urged the Government to take action in defining the term Islamophobia after the Prime Minister launched an inquiry into Ms Ghani’s claims.

YCCC's new chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel is looking to implement wide-ranging reforms in the wake of the racism scandal.

Qari Asim was appointed as an independent adviser in 2019 by the Government to help shape a formal definition of the term.

But he said he has not been provided with the resources to undertake the work. He said Islamophobia was reaching “alarming levels” and undermining confidence of Muslims.

“Yet there’s a lack of engagement from the Government when it comes to defining Islamophobia,” he added.

Ms Iqbal welcomed the decision for international matches to be reinstated for Yorkshire, with the cricket club’s new chairman Lord Kamlesh Patel looking to implement wide-ranging reforms in the wake of the racism scandal.

Mr Rafiq told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee that racist language was “constantly” used during his time at the club and described English cricket as “institutionally racist”.

Ms Iqbal said that Yorkshire needed to be monitored and that there needs to be good governance to ensure that it would sustain inclusivity at the club.

She added: “Lord Patel has made some good changes. To hold back on internationals would have crippled the club.

“Azeem didn’t set out to destroy his club. He’s still Yorkshire through and through. None of us want to see the club fold.”

The Bradford-born lawyer also said progress was slow but that it was “good the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has continued with their questioning” of the wider game.

Lord Patel said: “What happened to Azeem Rafiq and the bravery he showed to share his traumatic experiences, must never be forgotten.

“We are at the beginning of an important journey, which includes learning from the past, and are driven by a firm belief that we must not only build a more inclusive culture at Yorkshire County Cricket Club, but work with our partners to develop a blueprint to lead the way in cricket.”

A Government spokeswoman said: “We take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Muslim hatred in any form and will continue to combat discrimination and intolerance. The Government is absolutely committed to supporting freedom of religion and believes faith has an important role in public life.”

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