Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 340-346)



  340. It would be very helpful if you could because I am not sure we are going to be able to keep the two issues apart. They did not start off as alternatives to each other but the more one thinks about it the more they seem to impinge on each other. If you can help us about finding some way of expressing this that could be very useful indeed. We have more or less run out of time, are there any other matters? Do you also subscribe to something like the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act for Desecration?
  (Mr Sacranie) We believe whatever is available is helpful. We need to see practical examples of how the law is being applied, but at the moment whatever is there is beneficial and helpful to the community.

  341. Is there anything else in the list of questions you would like to comment on?
  (Mr Sacranie) I think our other colleagues will be covering other matters as well but by and large the key matters are in the submission.

  Chairman: Taken in conjunction with your written material, that is your evidence.

Baroness Massey of Darwen

  342. Can I ask one quick question as a woman here, with regard to question 7 about problems in race relations legislation, are there particular problems for Muslim women with regard to reporting or harassment?
  (Mrs Joseph) We are very visible, obviously, as women. Yes, we have cases of some experiences of Muslim women post 11 September which have been posted to the MCB. For example, a woman on a bus being shouted at and being told she was a terrorist. The gentlemen—he was not a gentleman—her abuser, her tormenter suggested he was going to rape her. Another woman had to leave her course because of the torment she received. There is great visibility of us as Muslim women. Incidents have increased. Secondly, the fear that you feel. On a personal note, on the day after 11 September my mother called me that night and said, "take off your scarf" because she knew what would happen because of what had happened previously, for instance during the Gulf War—being spat at, abused, people trying to tear my scarf off and these incidents go across the county, and people receiving physical abuse as well. As a white person, of course, I do not fit into some race categories and I think amongst converts there are increased situations which we find ourselves in.

  343. Do you think that would be helped by new law?
  (Mrs Joseph) I think it gives a signal. I think that is one of the purposes of law, it should give a signal to society and at the end of the day you can prosecute. I think it is the signal more than anything else we really require. It is a requirement for those who are going to perpetrate this and it is a requirement for Muslims themselves to know that you are respected enough for the law to cover you, for the law to value you and for the law to say that this is a wrong course of behaviour. At the moment it does not say that.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead

  344. In your comment you mentioned key beliefs, have you given any thought to how the protection of non-believers could be included in the legislation that you suggested?
  (Mr Hamid) So far as this is concerned there is clear Qur'anic teaching on this.

  345. I notice about not coveting any other, and you mention three prophets. I am thinking about today's modern language and trying to draft legislation that protects those who are non-believers. If we are going to accept the line you have taken to retain the Blasphemy Act but putting a stronger piece of legislation in to protect all those "key beliefs" has any thought been given to how that can be expanded to the minority of religious beliefs?
  (Mr Hamid) So far as the Muslim position is concerned it is clearly stated there is no compulsion in religion. We are under a religious obligation not to compel anyone to become or to believe in a particular religion. That is the basis I think which could form the basis of any secular law as well.


  346. I think Lord Clarke's point is one that occupies our minds and we are very aware of the fact that there are people who have very strong non-religious beliefs.
  (Mrs Joseph) Can they be identified as a group? In a sense they are so identified as group in such a condensed way that they can be seen as a group. If you do not have a belief can you have something which is not to be attacked?

  Chairman: I am going to leave that to the experts on this subject. I think we have some material which indicates you may be wrong. May I suggest to you if you would like to stay and listen to the Muslim lawyers and think about matters, first of all you could take note of what they say and if there is anything that you want to add to what you have already given us, particularly perhaps on how we can phrase a new offence, then please come back to us and it may very well be that we shall come back to you. For the moment may I thank you very much indeed.

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003