UK Politics

Toynbee on Incitement to Religious Hatred

Given David Blunkett’s resignation, it is to be hoped that this silly law – which has been closely associated with him – will also quietly be dropped, as well it should be.

Toynbee hits the nail pretty much on the head here

Liberals and progressives have had a collective softening of the brain and weakening of the knees. While they have a sympathetic instinct to defend harassed minorities, they prefer to abandon some fundamental principles and prevaricate over some basic freedoms than to face up to the damage religions do, the wars they fuel and the rights they deny. Voltaire would have defended Islamic communities to the death from racists – but not set their beliefs beyond ordinary debate.

The proposed law has made bedfellows of the National Secular Society, and the Evangelical Alliance for a simple reason.

The reason is that this law will please nobody and disappoint everybody, while offending against free expression: the principle which underpins democratic pluralism.

The most significant effect of this law is that there will be a certain amount of self-censorship when religion is discussed. However, many religious people will continue to be offended by the things that people say about their religion, and will agitate for prosecutions in the hope that the Attorney General might be persuaded that the offensive thing to which they object may incidentally also incite religious hatred. However, if the record of prosecutions for incitement to racial hatred is anything to go by, the Attorney General will rarely prosecute, the courts will rarely convict, and everybody will be infuriated.

However – pace Charles Moore – I would be amazed if the law will prevent people reprinting this sort of stuff:

The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) married me when I was seven or six. When we came to Medina, some women came. according to Bishr’s version: Umm Ruman came to me when I was swinging. They took me, made me prepared and decorated me. I was then brought to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him), and he took up cohabitation with me when I was nine. She halted me at the door, and I burst into laughter.

and suggesting that it provides evidence that Mohammed was a child molester.

The proper techique for rebutting such suggestions is this, rather than threatening journalists with the same persecution as that visited upon Salman Rushdie. But you can bet that – if this foolish law is passed – the second the M.A.B. hears something that it doesn’t like, its first response will be to call for prosecution, rather than try to provide a reasoned response. It knows it won’t get that prosecution, of course: but it doesn’t care, because the M.A.B. feeds on outrage.

In short, this law will provide a soapbox for extremists of all types. We shouldn’t let them have it.

via Norm