Defend Trevor Phillips's Right to Free Speech

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Trevor Phillips, the anti-racism campaigner and former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has been suspended by the Labour Party for "Islamophobia".

Phillips is about as far from being an Islamophobe as it's possible to be. As chairman of the Runnymede Trust in 1997, he published a report on Islamophobia and went on to successfully lobby Tony Blair for a law protecting Muslims from incitement.

Trevor Phillips is one of a handful of public figures to express concern about the sexual abuse of children in northern towns by gangs largely made up of Pakistani Muslim men, as well as the sympathy shown by a substantial proportion of British Muslims towards the motives of the Charlie Hebdo killers. 

Drawing attention to these issues is not a form of "hate speech" and it does not constitute "Islamophobia". On the contrary, we need to have an honest conversation about the failure of a minority of religious people to fully embrace British values, whether some conservative Muslims or some ultra-Orthodox Jews, if people of all faiths are going to work out how to get along together in a multi-faith society. 

We call on the Labour Party to drop these trumped-up charges, apologise to Trevor Phillips and fully reinstate his membership. He should be applauded for his bravery, not punished for "crossing a line".

In a free society, everyone should be able to express their lawful right to free speech without fear of punishment. As George Orwell said, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people things they do not want to hear."