Hate and the Law

Camilla Cavendish adds her voice to those opposed to the bill on religious hate:

Under this law, anyone who insults the beliefs of Christians, Muslims, Scientologists or any other group parading superstitions as truth will be liable to face trial on charges that carry a seven-year prison sentence. It will be a crime to utter “threatening, abusive or insulting” words about a religious group which are “likely” to “stir up” religious hatred, even if there is no intention to do so. Hence Rowan Atkinson’s concern that comedians could become even less funny in future. Hence Salman Rushdie’s fear that The Satanic Verses could be banned, or at least that enormous amounts of court time will be taken up with attempts to do so.

Ministers protest that only the Attorney-General can decide to prosecute, and that he or she will rarely do so. In other words, “give us the powers and trust us not to abuse them”.

That’s the sticking point for a lot of people with this bill – allowing such power to be concentrated so narrowly with only the assurance that it won’t be misused. It’s bad enough that this country has all sorts of old anti-democratic statutes still on the books that can theoretically be wheeled out if the need arises, but why actually add to them ?

According to Cavendish a growing chorus are deciding that the bill shouldn’t be supported including the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain and the Islamic Human Rights Commission.

What’s her answer to the argument that at the moment some religious leaders say their religion is treated differently to others ?

A modern society should abolish all blasphemy laws. It should disestablish the Church. That would give Muslims the parity they seek; not enshrining a free-for-all persecution.

Hear, hear.