OPPOSITION councillors have pushed through a motion aiming to define Islamophobia in a bid to tackle racism in South Ayrshire.

Labour group leader Councillor Brian McGinley was backed by his SNP counterpart Peter Henderson in putting the motion before the full council.

The definition stems from a UK parliament enquiry in 2018, and states: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Part of this definition was designed to address issues that fall outside the current hate crime legislation.

This includes ‘perceived Muslimness’ which broadens the scope to groups such as Sikhs who can often be on the receiving end of Islamophobic abuse despite being a different faith.

Cllr McGinley pointed out that 45 percent of religious hate crime  in the UK was directed towards Muslims.

He added that the adoption of the definition would allow the council to support better understanding of the problem and how to tackle it, and called on a report to be brought before Cabinet after the summer recess to provide background on the definition and what would be required if it were to adopt it.

Cllr McGinley said that the adoption of the definition was important as the issue was a complex one, with racism embedded in society.

He said: “We need to show some leadership, show that ignorance is no defence. We need to inform ourselves.”

While all of the councillors who spoke to the motion said they were firmly opposed to discrimination, there were some who were not in favour of the move.

Conservative Bob Pollock said: “I totally agree with all comments Cllr McGinley raised.

“I accept Islamophobia is abhorrent any form of intolerance. The problem is that it is such a emotive issue and complex issue.”

He said he was concerned that, by adopting the definition, the council may be out of kilter with partner agencies who had not signed up.

Cllr Henderson responded: “All of the parties in Scotland, England and Wales, all of the agencies have adopted the statement.

“Why delay it. The Scottish Government is implementing this. We are just looking to the homework before it is implemented.

“This is about human rights and human dignity and the eduction of our work force and ourselves.

Independent councillor Alec Clark (Girvan and South Carrick) said he was supportive of effort against discrimination, but added: “I wish we would mention all faiths.”

Former council leader Hugh Hunter (Independent, Prestwick) said he had not originally been inclined to support the motion, as he believed that the definition was ‘kind of intuitive’.

However, he supported it once he recognised it was about preparing the groundwork for when the Scottish Government bring forward guidance.

Councillor Laura Brennan-Whitefield said there needed to be a definition in order to tackle the problem, while noting that this would not be at the cost of other forms of ‘protected characteristics’ such as other faiths.

Councillor McGinley had the final say, telling councillors that they need to put the message out as a council and challenge the issue.

He concluded with a ‘controversial’ point – that those who benefit from the status quo, which leaves sections of the community, such as minorities, at a disadvantage were being passively racist by accepting the inequality.

“We need to bring out all of those issues and change our thinking,” he said.

The motion was approved by 15 votes to 10.