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15th Mar, 2024

Kick it out calls on football to adopt working definition of islamophobia

Kick It Out has written to football’s governing bodies urging them to adopt the working definition of Islamophobia after receiving a rise in reported incidents this season.

The anti-discrimination charity held its first Islamophobia Working Group meeting this week,chaired by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, where experts from football and other sports discussed the importance of the definition and how it would increase understanding of Islamophobiaacross the game. 

The Working Group will meet every quarter and includes Baroness Warsi, Kick It Out chief executive Tony Burnett, FA director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Yasir Mirza, broadcaster Reshmin Chowdhury and former Yorkshire cricketer Azeem Rafiq. 

It will also include chair of Muslimah Sports Association Yashmin Harun, lawyer and former FA race equality board chair Yunus Lunat, chair of Aldershot Town Shahid Azeem, chair of the cross-party anti-muslim hate working group Akeela Ahmed and Tan Dhesi, who is the Shadow Business & Trade Minister and a Labour MP for Slough.


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The letter was sent ahead of 15th March - the United Nations’ International Day to combat Islamophobia - to The Football Association, the Premier League, The English Football League, the Professional Footballers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association. 

It highlights how the definition was created after extensive research and testing by the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims in 2018, and has since been adopted by most major UK political parties, and many local governments and educational establishments.

The definition sets out how Islamophobia is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness. But it’s also clear about its limits, including how it’s not intended to prevent critique of religious belief, and how the definition is not legally binding. 

The call comes after Kick It Out successfully lobbied football to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of Antisemitism in 2021. It also follows a fourfold increase in reports of Islamophobia in the first half of the 2023-24 season compared to the same period the previous season. 

The letter, signed by Baroness Warsi and Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari, states: “Football needs a working definition of Islamophobia to enable it to deal effectively with any anti-Muslim hate directed at its clubs, personnel and participants. 

“It is designed as a voluntary practical aid to people making day-to-day assessments of whether specific behaviour is racially aggravated or has racially aggravated impacts. Like all working guidelines, it will doubtless evolve over time and be improved by feedback from working practice, including from football.”  

In the first Working Group meeting on Wednesday, held at the House of Lords, participants also discussed further research on Islamophobia across the game, stress-testing whistle-blowing procedures and victim support and how further education can be coordinatedacross football. 

The group is seeking to support football in developing best practice to tackle Islamophobia at all levels of the game. It will also consider how football can use its unique power to engage Muslim communities more deeply and build greater cohesion with others who are invested in football and beyond.

The APPG report ‘Islamophobia defined’ is outlined in full here on page 56.