On 14th January 2019 Baroness Finn tabled an Oral Question ‘To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the potential consequences of adopting an official definition of Islamophobia.’ The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu, asked a follow up question:
The Archbishop of York: My Lords, on the overall question of definitions, sometimes it is much easier to do things when we handle them as concepts. In the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, we struggled with the question of racism, particularly when it is found in institutions, so we ended up saying: “The concept that we apply to this case of institutional racism is this”. That is much easier than a definition because a definition can restrict what you want to say. Is it not better to learn from what the Stephen Lawrence inquiry did?
We in that inquiry also struggled with the question of homophobic incidents in many other places. In the end, we adopted the word “concept” as opposed to a definition, because a definition is always contingent on who speaks and who does what. May I advise that it might be worth while visiting the way in which the Stephen Lawrence inquiry handled the question of institutional racism?
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, the most reverend Primate is right and I take his advice on this very seriously. There is obviously major work to be done here and I will certainly revisit issues relating to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and how we learned from what came forward there. It is vital that we get this right; I am sure we all share in that ambition. It is about making sure that we do it, not about rushing to judgment and coming to a set conclusion without looking at the evidence. I am keen to see the evidence and to act on it.