Decision to defer agreed definition of Islamophobia branded 'cop-out'

SNP councillor Fatima Joji said the decision by Aberdeenshire Council was a 'stalling tactic'.

SNP councillor brands Aberdeenshire Council decision to defer definition of Islamophobia ‘cop-out’ iStock

An Aberdeenshire councillor has said she is “disappointed” the local authority has deferred a paper agreeing the meaning of the term Islamophobia.

The council’s business services committee discussed adopting the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s (APPG) definition on Thursday.

The definition has already been adopted by the UK Government and councils across the country.

It states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

However, Aberdeenshire councillors voted to defer the paper until later this year so officers could consider any “negative consequences” of adopting the definition.

Newly-elected SNP councillor Fatima Joji tweeted her disappointment after the meeting, claiming it was a “complete cop-out” and “stalling tactic”.

The Westhill and District councillor, who is not a member of the committee, tweeted: “Now I ask, what consequences they expect to arise, what issues they have with it, and negative consequences for which group?”

“This is really not ok, and tells us they don’t want anyone facing consequences for their actions.

She added: “This definition went through the scrutiny that it was due and more.

“Some of the anti-equalities/anti-working class/toxic stuff I’ve heard come out from some has been awful.

“Someone want to help me and explain what negative consequences we can get from acknowledging Islamophobia? At this stage I genuinely want to know.”

During Thursday’s meeting Lib Dem councillor Sarah Dickinson suggested the matter be deferred to ensure the definition was “clear and robust”.

She said: “I completely and fully support the intent of this. I just think the definition, if it is intended to be robust, seems to conflate an issue of race and an issue of religion and we need clarity around that.

“I appreciate that this has been brought to us by the affected group so I don’t put this forward lightly.”

She then suggested the paper be brought back at the next committee meeting.

Councillor Dickinson added: “If nobody has raised any concern about the definition and that it is just straight forward, that everybody supports it, that there’s no issues in law raised by it then I will be very happy to support it.

“I don’t think we should be afraid to ask the question about whether or not this is actually going to deliver what everybody would want it to deliver.”

The deferral was seconded by Conservative councillor Dominic Lonchay.

However, SNP councillor Gwyneth Petrie moved an amendment to approve the paper.

She said: “I think what we have in front of us has been discussed with those who would be impacted most with this and if they are happy then I’m happy.

“The quicker we get this in place the better.”

She was supported by SNP councillor Catherine Victor.

Following a vote, the motion to defer the paper received nine votes to five for the amendment.

The matter will be brought back to the next meeting of the business services committee in September.

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