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Mr. Kaufman: In the same way, the hon. Gentleman may be a non-religious, secular Jew, but he could well be the object of incitement to religious hatred, because those who do not like Jews would consider him a Jew, whether he wants to be one or not.
Mr. Gerald Howarth: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has a fertile imagination. I therefore invite him to imagine being the Attorney- General in whose power it lay to bring actions of the kind envisaged by the Bill. Given the huge range of examples that the right hon. Gentleman has given, extending from clerics to Bernard Manning, does he not envisage courts sitting all day, every day, dealing with his catalogue of complaints about hatred? Can he identify where his priorities would lie were he Attorney-General?
Mr. Kaufman: If I were Attorney-General, it would be a great innovation, as I am not a lawyer. We are not dealing with my predilections, and I would not wish to bring a huge torrent of prosecutions. If we have the provision on the statute book, as I very much trust we will, it will be some protectionnot an impermeable protectionto those who are subject to religious hatred. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's decency and sincerity, but I say to him, as I said when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made his original statement, that it is very easy to be theoretical if one has not been on the receiving end.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): I want to be clear about where my right hon. Friend is coming from. Many Muslims in my constituency were outraged by the publication of Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses". The book provoked disorder and many people saw it as inciting racial hatred. Am I right in thinking that my right hon. Friend would agree with the prosecution of Salman Rushdie on the grounds that his work produced that hatred?
Mr. Kaufman: To the great misfortune of the entire House, my hon. Friend was not a Member of Parliament when "The Satanic Verses" issue arose. I was an extremely strong opponent of any action against Salman Rushdieexcept on literary grounds, as I think he is a very bad novelist; if I have a single achievement in life, it is that I prevented his inclusion on the Booker prize shortlist in the year when I was chairman of the Booker judges.
Sir Patrick Cormack: The right hon. Gentleman is civilised, urbane, witty and sensitive. As he is all those things, he has just given an extremely sensitive and witty answer to the hon. Member for Pendle (Mr. Prentice). However, if we introduce the Bill in its current form and in such precipitate haste, he is likely to be landed with a Dangerous Dogs-type Bill that has been rushed through the House without proper and thorough consideration: a dead letter and a pretty useless measure. I do not necessarily disagree with the right hon. Gentleman in his desire for an effective law. Indeed, I agree, of course, with all that he said about the persecution of the Jews. However, we need to consider a draft Bill in depth and to take our timeand that does not mean taking an eternity.
Mr. Kaufman: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have a great deal of respect for him, but I must say that I simply disagree with his view, which, again, is based on doctrine of unripe time. If we can get the Bill on the statute book, all hon. Members' wisdom and drafting abilities can be employed in reconsidering it. We know that it will be renewable. It is not the last word, but as a firm interim word, there is a great deal to be said for it.
David Winnick: This discussion almost resembles a teach-in, as we would have called it in the 1960s. Although there may be a case for the measures in respect of Muslims, as my right hon. Friend and others have suggested, did he not undermine his own case when he referred to Jews and anti-semitism? He said that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) would have been murdered regardless of his not having a religion. That is a matter of race. It is race that is the subject of discrimination and other such actions, so one would have thought that the proper remedy was to strengthen laws on incitement to racial hatred.
Mr. Bryant: Surely that shows why the provisions that we are considering are so important. The law has determined that Jews are protected because they are an ethnic grouping or because their ethnicity and religion coincide significantly. However, the protection that my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) might enjoy is not afforded to Muslims.
Mr. Kaufman: My hon. Friend is right, as I would expect. The law as it stands would protect Elizabeth Taylor, who is a Jew by conversion and a citizen of this country; she is now Dame Elizabeth Taylor. She would be protected under the current legal definition of Jewish, but not if she had been born a Jew and was religious. I have disagreed with one or two hon. Members, but agreed with more. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) and this therefore seems an appropriate moment at which to sit down.
Sir Brian Mawhinney: I listened with the usual pleasure to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), although I did not agree with everything that he said. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not pursue his more general argument about the Bill.
Not least because of lack of time, I want to stick to a narrow point, which I raised with the Home Secretary on 19 November. It dealt with the declaration of the belief systems of Christians, Jews and Muslims. I was prompted to table amendment No. 106 because I believe that the Committee should make a decision about the matter and also because of the Home Secretary's reply.
As Hansard shows, the Home Secretary had taken many interventions before mine on detention generally. It was characteristic of his replies that he went to great lengths to try to explain the reasons for his disagreement with those who intervened on him. However, he gave me a short reply; his answer was "unequivocally no." The more I thought about it, the more I wondered whether he had understood my point. I believe that he would have given me a longer answer if he had understood.
When I was in Belfast at the weekend, my mind went to the announcement of what we all hope is the permanent resolution of the problems at Holy Cross primary school, where one group of people, plainly on the strength of their religious views, acted in a way that caused a predictable reaction from others of a different religious persuasion. In applying his test of intention and likelihood, would the Home Secretary have judged that the behaviour of one part of the community around Holy Cross school would have been likely to produce the reaction that it did? In other words, would there have been sufficient evidence available to him that he could, without too much doubt, have predicted what the reaction would have been in the circumstances?
The issue is not one of who was right and who was wrong. One of the characteristics of Northern Ireland not much drawn to the attention of the Committee or the House is that, over great swathes of the Province, those who attend Protestant churches and those who attend Catholic churches live together in peace, harmony and good community. There is also, however, plenty of evidence that others do not.
I put it to the Home Secretary that there are fundamental and irreconcilable differences at the heart of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Christians believe that Jesus was the son of Godthat he was God and man. Jews do not believe that, and nor do Muslims. Both, particularly Muslims, would hold Jesus in high regardthey would refer to him as a prophetbut on the issue of deity, there is a deep divide. Flowing from that, there is a further deep divide about how men and women can enter into a right relationship with God.
It is no secret that I am a practising Christian, but for the avoidance of doubt I state it again. Equally, it is no secret that, in my constituency over the years, I have had excellent relations with all the many immigrant groups that form the community of Peterborough. I have been in mosques and temples, and I am welcome in all the communities.
I do not wish to make a narrow, bigoted point to the Committee. I wish to make a point about the declaration of the fundamentals of what people believe. I have framed my amendment very carefully. It refers to religious belief, but does not specify it. It provides that if someone declares the fundamentals of what they believe and what causes them to move into a mode of worship within that belief system, however that is reflected and defined, that of itself is not an offence.