Trevor Phillips suspended from Labour over Islamophobia allegations

Never been a fan of some of the statements of Phillips, including the examples cited in the article. But expulsion only draws further attention to some of the weaknesses of Labour:

The former UK equality watchdog chief, Trevor Phillips, has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia.

The Times newspaper reported the anti-racism campaigner is being investigated over past comments dating back years.

Mr Phillips, ex-chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said Labour was in danger of collapsing into a “brutish, authoritarian cult”.

Labour said it takes complaints about Islamophobia “extremely seriously”.

A spokeswoman added: “[The complaints] are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate disciplinary action is taken.”

Mr Phillips was among 24 public figures who wrote to the Guardian last year declaring their refusal to vote for Labour because of its association with anti-Semitism.

He could be expelled from the party for alleged prejudice against Muslims.

Mr Phillips has been suspended pending investigation over remarks, including expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern British towns, according to the Times.

It says the complaint also covers his comments about the failure of some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by some in an opinion poll towards the “motives” of the Charlie Hebdo attackers.

The paper said many of his statements are years-old but that Labour’s general secretary Jennie Formby suspended him as a matter of urgency to “protect the party’s reputation”.

‘A kind of racism’

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Phillips stood by his previous assertions that Muslims were “different”, adding: “Well, actually, that’s true. The point is Muslims are different and in many ways I think that is admirable.”

But he criticised the party for taking offence, saying: “I am kind of surprised that what is and always has been an open and democratic party decides that its members cannot have healthy debate about how we address differences of values and outlooks.”

Mr Phillips went on to describe the decision by Labour to adopt the definition of Islamophobia agreed by an all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims as “nonsense”, as Muslims were “not a race”.

He added: “My objection is very simple. That definition said…that Islamophobia is rooted in a kind of racism – expressions of hostility towards Muslimness.

“First of all, Muslims are not a race. My personal hero was Muhammad Ali, before that Malcolm X.

“They became Muslims largely because it is a pan-racial faith. This is not a racial grouping, so describing hostility to them as racial is nonsense.”

Mr Phillips was the founding chair of the EHRC, which is currently investigating anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, when it launched in 2006.

He has previously made documentaries about race and multiculturalism, and now chairs Index on Censorship – a group that campaigns for freedom of expression.

Asked if he would change his language as a result of the suspension, Mr Phillips pointed to this new role, adding: “Frankly, it would be a bit odd if I suddenly decided because I had been kicked out of the club, I couldn’t express my beliefs.”

Source: Trevor Phillips suspended from Labour over Islamophobia allegations

Before we hurl insults around about ‘transphobes’ let’s be clear about what we mean

Definitions can be helpful but can also be divisive as we have seen the shift from the IHRA antisemitism working definition to one that has been adopted by governments and institutions:

When anti-semitism still appeared to be the Labour membership’s most glaring problem with intra-party prejudice and related mudslinging, great importance attached to definitions. What might seem to some members a perfectly allowable comment on the Israeli state might to others, using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, be manifestly hateful and targeted.

The party’s adoption of that definition was itself disputed. Labour took on the IHRA definition in 2016, then argued about adopting its examples of antisemitic behaviour. As ugly as this difficulty with internationally agreed terminology might look from outside, the interest in precise wording represented some common ground. On the definition of antisemitism, Labour’s factions were at least able to communicate.

More recently, the party has adopted a working definition of Islamophobia advanced by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims (after consultation with more than 750 British Muslim organisations, 80 academics and 50 MPs). The group’s co-chair Wes Streeting dismissed objections that free speech would suffer. “While our definition cannot prevent false-flag accusations of Islamophobia to shut down reasonable debate and discussion, it does not enable such accusations. In fact, it makes it easier to deal with such behaviour,” he said. “Our definition provides a framework for helping organisations to assess, understand and tackle real hatred, prejudice and discrimination.”

There could hardly be a better case for another considered definition – after a week in which its meaning has been both stretched and contested – of what should be understood by transphobia. Unless we want to leave that job to the courts. Is it allowed, for instance, to satirise self-ID, as in the case of Harry Miller? Yes, says Mr Justice Knowles. And in a passage that might have been inspired by Labour’s pledges: “Some… are readily willing to label those with different viewpoints as ‘transphobic’ or as displaying ‘hatred’ when they are not.”

There are obvious implications for the unprecedented debates prompted by a proposed reform to the Gender Recognition Act, facilitating gender self-identification (ID). Can it be damagingly transphobic – if Miller is not – for people to meet and discuss the possible implications for women-only spaces and safeguarding? Should people be able to meet, without fear of abusive crowds, to share concerns about early gender dysphoria diagnosis/affirmation? Is it actionably bigoted – unlike Miller – to question the fairness of male-bodied athletes competing in women’s elite sport?

ICYMI: Labour anti-Semitism inquiry academic on being caught in a storm

Interesting and thoughtful reflection:

What is it like for academics to try and bring scholarly analysis to issues that are at the centre of fierce public debate?

On 29 April, Jeremy Corbyn appointed Shami Chakrabarti to chair an inquiry into “anti-Semitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia, within the [Labour] party”, after a series of incidents involving Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and others.

It soon attracted comment from both “sides”. There were those who believe that the Labour Party is riddled with anti-Semitism and feared that the inquiry would be a whitewash. Others suggested that the issue was just a storm in a teacup, an attempt to curb legitimate criticism of the state of Israel or part of a coordinated campaign against Mr Corbyn’s leadership.

One of those caught in the crossfire was David Feldman, vice-chair of the inquiry, and director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London.

“My role in the Chakrabarti inquiry was announced at a time of great controversy and concern around the allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party,” he told Times Higher Education.

“The sort of complexities and nuance that academics can bring to an argument are not always listened to – people are not at their most receptive. I didn’t recognise some of the views that were attributed to me.”

Most of the attacks, Professor Feldman went on, came from “the Jewish communal leadership, figures and institutions who strongly identify with Israel”. He was taken to task for distancing himself from what he calls the “subjective” definition of racism, that “if a group or an individual regards something as racist, then it is”.

Some also called attention to the fact that he had signed a declaration by Independent Jewish Voices, a group which has raised concerns about “the proliferation in recent weeks of sweeping allegations of pervasive anti-Semitism within the Labour Party”, although he responded that the particular declaration he signed was “very uncontroversial: in favour of human rights, international law, Israelis and Palestinians living in peace and security; against racism and especially anti-Semitism”.

“When one is misrepresented in the public sphere,” reflected Professor Feldman, “that is unpleasant and not something that academics are used to in their day-to-day job. And being in that situation is still something I am coming to terms with.”

The launch of the report on 30 June was overshadowed by controversy over Mr Corbyn’s comments that “our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for the self-styled Islamic states or organisations” and by the verbal abuse of the Jewish Labour MP, Ruth Smeeth, who left the room in tears.

Professor Feldman takes comfort in the fact that the report itself “has been very well received across a broad spectrum of opinion…It is striking that groups and institutions [such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Labour Movement] who did express concern are among those who have welcomed the report as a step forward.”

It has led him to “reflect on how the histories of racism and anti-Semitism have shifted in recent decades, and that is something that will feed into my research and academic publications”.

Source: Labour anti-Semitism inquiry academic on being caught in a storm | THE News