Anti-Islamophobia resolution passed unanimously by BCP councillors

18 December 2020

BCP councillors voted unanimously on 8th December to pass an anti-Islamophobia resolution. The Council has now adopted a widely recognised definition of Islamophobia as rooted in racism, committed to regular race equality training for all councillors and officers, and reaffirmed its active commitment to eliminate discrimination by developing positive relationships with communities, and tackling prejudice in all forms.

The cross-party motion was proposed by Conservative Leader of the Council, Drew Mellor, and seconded by Green Councillor Chris Rigby, with input also from Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent councillors.

The text of the motion as passed is:

This Council resolves to: 
(a) adopt the widely and nationally adopted definition of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is rooted in racism, and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness, or perceived Muslimness. 
(b) ensure that all councillors and officers undertake regular race equality training, which will include, as a minimum, a working understanding of our Public Sector Equality Duty and unconscious bias.
(c) to reaffirm BCP Council's commitment to eliminate discrimination, to lead on the positive relationships across our communities, tackling prejudice, and ensuring the Public Sector Equality Duty remains at the heart of decision-making, so that fairness is central to all that we do.

You can watch an edited video summary of the councillors' discussion of the resolution:

Green Councillor Chris Rigby, seconding the motion at the Council meeting, said: "I'm really proud of how this motion has come to be, and that it is actually, really, truly a cross-party piece of work.

"Originally we were going to have three motions which were going to be submitted, along similar lines. And I think that's quite a unique situation to be in. So to have this, my motion, combined with the Conservative one is really great, as some things really are beyond politics.

"The headline-grabbing part of this is the adoption of the definition of Islamophobia, which is why point 3 is equally important - which is reaffirming our commitment to eliminating discrimination by developing positive relationships with communities, and tackling prejudice in all forms.

"Personally, I don't know what it's like to face discrimination for something which is not my choice, and I've no idea how that experience affects those that suffer this from birth, which is why it's incredibly important to do what we can to be a good ally, and use our positions to do what we can to end prejudices, and protect the rights of those individuals who are subject to them.

"And that's why today I'll call on every councillor to vote for this motion and show that BCP Council takes all prejudice and racism extremely seriously. Thank you Chair.

Chris Rigby also thanked Councillors Bobbie Dove and Nicola Greene (Conservative), Millie Earl and Vikki Slade (Liberal Democrat), Steve Baron (Independent) and George Farquhar (Labour), "who all had some role in the motion coming together, and all worked on the other ones which were coming forward."

Councillor Drew Mellor, Conservative Leader of BCP Council, proposing the motion, said: I'm pleased Chair, that the first motion I bring to this chamber as Leader of the Council is a cross-party one, that I bring alongside Councillor Chris Rigby. Thank you very much to the people who have worked on that motion with us, and we're delighted to bring it forward as a cross-party piece."

Conservative Councillor Nicola Greene said: "Following on from last September's Council meeting when I proposed the motion to adopt the IHRA's definition of anti-Semitism, I was very keen to second this linked and subsequent motion, which provides parity for the APGG definition relating to Islamophobia.

"However Councillor Rigby came up with a better idea, and I was delighted to step aside and acknowledge the importance of this being a genuine cross-party initiative. Islamophobia is a pernicious manifestation of prejudice in our society. It marginalises those who are different, and seeks to pile justification upon discrimination. It has no place in our modern world and it has no place in this Council."

Liberal Democrat Councillor Tony Trent contributed: "I fully support this motion, I think it's long overdue. I must admit that I've experienced first-hand as a witness the kind of behaviour that can take place, and there was a spout of bad behaviour after the referendum. And suddenly it gives a lot of people an excuse to be racist in one form or another. And we are coming to another time which might provoke one or two people to act like complete idiots and use it as an excuse for racism.

"And I would very much like to think that we not only vote for this and support this, but those who are in a position to do so actually try to organise and support events that demonstrate the diversity of cultures and religious practices we've got in the town. People work on positive events to engage with different cultures and religions, and to demonstrate that we're not just talking the talk, we're going to walk the walk.

Labour Councillor George Farquhar said: "I'd just like to affirm that I'm in full support of this amended motion, and I was honoured to be a part of adding and contributing to its creation."

Independent Councillor Julie Bagwell said: "For me, we'll be able to start embracing the Gypsies and Travellers that we have in our communities, and the work... [being done in the community] in trying to get the message out there that Travellers are a definition and have been here for hundreds of years."

Conservative Councillor Anne Filer told the meeting: "It's just over a year since we had the motion in Council about the definition of anti-Semitism, and I was really disappointed that some people actually disagreed with that motion. We have so many people in our area now. When I was growing up in Bournemouth, I, who was Jewish, was very unusual. Now in Bournemouth we have people of every different creed, every different - they come from many different countries, worship in different ways, people who love in different ways, people who live in different ways, and people who look different, all different from one another.

"And it really doesn't matter. As Councillor Chris just said, how you're born is how you're born. How you choose to live is your matter, it's not the business of any of the rest of us. So there can be nobody who can speak against this, can think that it's right, that Islamophobia is right, that the fear or the anxiety or worry about people who are Muslim is right - it's wrong. We represent everybody in this area, all of us. None of us can say that we know our residents - we don't know our residents. We know some of our residents, but we don't know them all. And I would like tonight to be a unanimous vote, nobody voting against, to give out the message that this Council has absolutely no prejudice, and respects and welcomes everybody to live in our area."

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