Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560-570)|
WEDNESDAY 27 NOVEMBER 2002
560. Would you leave it to the poor old courts?
(Mr Kallidai) I think we would have reasonable confidence
in the British legal system to leave it to court, but at the same
time I think there need to be certain parameters within which
such an open definition or non-definition of religion is left
to the courts. For instance, we cannot have Manchester United
being termed as a religion because we need to have certain parameters.
Buddhism, for instance, some sections of Buddhists could say that
they do not have an organised form of worship. So we cannot even
come to terms by defining religious belief as a system of worship,
for instance, because that might not be acceptable to some people.
Yes, leaving it to court law, or case law and leaving to the courts,
might be an acceptable way forward, but we would emphasise, once
again, that it needs deliberation and consultation with the communities
and with legal experts because it is a grey area that we are concerned
(Mr Dasa) Could I just flag that up a little bit?
Indarjit Singh also mentioned education and we have mentioned
education at the start as well, as a fundamental behind this.
The judiciary would need basic education in, at least, who are
the religious communities in this country and what are their practices,
so they are not shocked in court having to defend something or
adjudicate objectively on some issue that is all new to them.
The issue of education is very important and it is an issue of
the chicken or the egg; who trains the trainers, who develops
the legislation, who defines religion. The fact that we have this
consultation is very important. As Ramesh has said, there is a
recognition that this is part of the development and we have a
way to go and how we adjudicate what religion is and who adjudicates
that, and religious people certainly have to be involved. Religious
leaders from the communities in this country. We have to start
with someone. We may not have everyone represented on the first
Committee, but we need something to start the process. Politicians
cannot do it, the judiciary by themselves cannot do it and the
religious by themselves maybe cannot do it, but maybe for them
to come together and that is a message to the whole community
that this is being taken seriously.
(Mrs Bahl) There are models for training of the judiciary.
There is the quite extensive training that took place before the
implementation of the Human Rights legislation in this country.
There has been training on increasing ethnic awareness amongst
the judiciary. So it is not as if this would be pioneering. We
would build on models that are there and this would just be a
development of that.
Bishop of Portsmouth
561. I wonder if I could again be seen to be
a devil's advocate, not a role that I naturally put on. It seems
to me, at this stage in the conversation, that we are left with
the issue being an SOP, somebody else's problem and you can load
onto this about public awareness, you can load this onto somebody
else. It is the Bishop's role to take a strong lead, as long as
I support what they say. We will dump it onto parents and that
is something else. So we will have courses on parental skills.
We will dump it onto the poor teachers and that is something else
for them to do. It seems to me, particularly from what you are
saying, Mr Rsi Dasa, from your perspective in what you were saying
earlier about the difference between the Hindu religious tradition
and Western Christianity, though perhaps not Eastern Christianity,
we drive wedges between religion and philosophy, religious experience
and philosophy, but the only way it seems to me that we can solve
this problem that you are trying to highlight, is if we actually
share in each other's worship and in the modern secularist view
of religious education, if I can put it that way, which can come
across to those who have religious beliefs as being rather dry
and arrogant, rather antiseptic, that is foreclosed. It seems
to me that in preparing people for life in the kind of society
in which we live now, this is actually going to be very difficult.
Who takes responsibility?
(Mr Dasa) We are interested in different areas, but
I totally agree with you the kind of education we have at the
moment does not fulfil the criteria. If you are learning Hinduism,
it does not prepare you to meet a Hindu and Hindus who go through
that education do not recognise themselves. So the religious education
we have at the moment does not reflect well on the religious life
of the country. So it is not good education. That is part of the
problem because the agendas are mixed. If you want a truly multi-cultural
agenda in this country, all the cultures need to be involved in
setting the agenda because the question of who sets the agenda
is primary. The fact that we are coming after all this time to
this, this is part of that development. I think we are going in
the right direction. We cannot rush it because it needs to be
an organic development, a proper cultural development which needs
to be based on education. So education is a very important part
of this and it could be an important recommendation of this Committee,
along with the legislative agenda that you have, but you could
recommend that this will not work in the long term without X,
Y and Z but I think this does need to be addressed. I think you
make an important point.
562. Now, I have got a rule about these sessions
that we do not go on beyond an hour and a half. Mr Kallidai, you
have had a rotten time because you have not ever been allowed
to develop any of your points. Could you pick your two best remaining
points and tell us about what you have to say because I think
after that we will have to stop, but that does not mean to say
that you cannot reduce the rest of it to a written form. If there
is something that immediately emerges, I would very much like
to hear it.
(Mr Kallidai) My Lord Chairman, can I just continue
one point from the previous unfinished one and then I will pick
on two points. As far as religious discrimination is concerned,
the employment directive have been imposed from December 2003
is a very, very good and courageous move, but that still leaves
offences caused by religious discrimination by sourcing it through
education training or housing, for instance, completely un-redressable,
so to speak. That is another area of concern that we do have,
that there is a gap in the laws of religious discrimination which
means that education, training, housing and goods and services
are still not enforceable by way of
563. They are not proved.
(Mr Kallidai) That is true. Which is outside the purview
of this Committee then.
564. That is the trouble, you see.
(Mr Kallidai) Yes. In that case I would like to touch
on two other points. Incitement to religious hatred and enforcement.
These are the two points I would like to cover. Incitement to
religious hatred, one of the questions that have been asked is
whether the present amendments proposed by Lord Avebury in his
Bill are appropriate and are there any other ways to achieve the
same objective, any special provisions needed to cover the publication
of hate material on the Internet. We believe that addressing religious
hatred under the existing legislation on racial hatred, as proposed
by the Government, will clearly provide a short term solution.
However, in the long term, it may not address all of the concerns,
all of the issues that might come forward by the nature of the
offences. For instance, any legislation on religious hatred should
definitely take into effect the long term effects, but an option
that could be examined, in this instance, would be to bring together
all the various bits and pieces of legislation concerning religious
discrimination, religious aggravation because, at the moment,
there is a Crime and Disorder Bill and other legislation being
put forward for religious discrimination and there is the Ecclesiastical
Courts Jurisdiction Act which is dating back from previous centuries
and so on. So there are various bits and pieces of legislation.
After having discussions with many different people in the Hindu
community, we think therefore that such legislation in bits and
pieces is not appropriate, but we could consider having a single
law on the lines of the Race Relations Act, something like the
Faith Relations Act, so to speak, that would cover religious incitement
to religious hatred, that would cover religious discrimination
and any other such offences as a single piece of legislation.
That could then come under the scrutiny of an equality commission.
I think there is also a move forward for a single equality body
at the moment and that would then include also how such laws are
enforced and the Crown Prosecution Service and the legislators
could then be educated and trained under the purview of these
laws and documents could be produced and training could be conducted.
So that is one suggestion that we do have, because a number of
difficulties have been seen in the enforcement of the race laws
as well, which probably equally apply to any new law on religious
discrimination and relations as well. In answer to the other question
on Internet, for instance, there has been a lot of unregulated
and inflammatory statements made on the Internet and the problem
here is that most of these might be conducted from offshore service
providers as well.
565. Yes, we know.
(Mr Kallidai) Therefore how can Britain, in effect,
have control over the content of some of these inflammatory things
probably, in most cases, perhaps addressed to the British population.
We feel very strongly that there should be some regulatory monitoring
of hate material on the Internet from the country where the Internet
site is hosted. So if, for instance, there are Internet sites
hosted from Britain, the service provider is from Britain or from
actual physical hosting of such sites from Britain, then there
should be some regulatory framework by which certain legal restrictions
can be placed upon such site holders. The other thing that can
be done and which should be promoted as good practice is that
Internet service providers should self regulate themselves and
monitor themselves and such good practice should also be encouraged.
I have various material here on the Internet and we will actually
give out some material on the inflammatory nature of some Internet
sites. As far as enforcement is concerned, one of the question
asked was; can we identify what problems are there over reporting
and investigating offences, particularly from a historical perspective
of race related offences and would these apply to provisions for
religious hatred? I have had discussions with many people who
have been involved in the area of race relations and offences,
particularly the CRE and so on and we found some of the problems
that they encountered for prosecution, investigation and reporting
of race related offences was that the level of confidence victims
of crime have in the process, in the system, is not very high.
Therefore they may not be forthcoming enough to come and report
some of these, because most of the cases that report a racially
aggravated crime, but the prosecution is only for an ordinary
crime and so there is a lot of ground level problems. Another
problem is that the victim might not have enough information on
how to report that as a race related crime, in which case such
a problem would also apply to a religiously aggravated crime.
Training for people within the criminal justice system is also
important. Then another problem which was actually reported was
there is a fear of reporting race crime simply because there is
a fear for future victimisation from the same criminals. Therefore,
we feel that this can be corrected by providing assurances of
protection to the victims and by effective monitoring of the criminals
so that they do not come back and have future crimes of that same
nature conducted on the same victims. Victims of race crime are
usually law abiding and shy, a generalised statement, and therefore
they may not be forthcoming in reporting such crimes. Which is
another social factor really, in one sense. The investigation
is often hampered because it is very difficult to establish the
difference between a non-racial crime and an ordinary crime. Again,
we come to the grey area of intentionality which is so hard to
prove in a court. So therefore we feel that if these things are
carried over to reporting and enforcing religious crimes, then
the police, the criminal prosecution service and the legislators
should have some kind of careful consideration on whether the
police will monitor religious offences together with race offences,
or whether they will be monitored by slightly different parameters,
because they do overlap but they are also different issues. And
whether issues that are distinctly religious offences are understood
and monitored by the criminal prosecution service.
566. That has given you an opportunity of saying
some of the things, at least, that you wanted to. Does that give
rise to any questions from my colleagues? Oh, I am so sorry. You
are hidden behind the shorthand writer.
(Mr Dasa) I just wanted to draw your attention, I
am sure you are aware of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, Section
75, which deals with
567. Yes, we know about it.
(Mr Dasa) It is a very good piece of legislation that
has been implemented very well in Northern Ireland. Because it
came in and it dealt with nine areas and it was about discrimination
in these areas, so it was not just you have a Race Act, you have
a Faith Act and then you have nine Acts, but age, race, religion,
debility, political, marital, gender, sexual discrimination, etc,
it put everyone on their toes immediately and immediately when
it came to religion, people began to realise that they did not
know what religions existed in Northern Ireland. There were two
religions, of course, but that is all they knew and the two were
one. So the Inter-Faith Forum in Northern Ireland was able to
provide training on every level of society; to the police service,
to the Northern Ireland Executive, to the Northern Ireland Office,
to the judiciary, to all the hospital trusts, on every level,
because they realised they were totally ignorant and now it was
legislation, now they have to do it. It was a half a day's training
and every single organisation got back and wanted further training
and to be included as part of the training process. A very, very
simple little model but just to show how effective good legislation
can be in a very difficult social circumstance, which we do not
have here and maybe that is part of the problem. It is reshaping
civil society in Northern Ireland, which needs it after the Good
Friday Agreement. So I just point out that that is a model that
works and in the faith situation has actually been effective.
All the faiths contributed to the training process.
568. I want it to be on the record that there
was a great deal of agreement from Mr Kallidai to what you were
just saying, because his nodding will not get onto the transcript.
I think perhaps I had better draw this to a close. You wanted
to say one more thing. Yes, please do.
(Dr Bhan) Just a quick comment. The fact that vilification
takes place, the fact that acts are undertaken motivated by religious
hatred is as deeply offensive to those who are non-assertive and
peaceful as to those who take the law into their own hands, but
the result of that is, in the latter case, police and the establishment
respond to assuage their hurt feelings and we get left behind.
I would suggest that the fundamental human right of belief and
worship and practice should be restricted and should be sacrosanct,
as far as I am concerned, but it should not cross beyond the point
where it adversely affects another individual, particularly another
individual of another faith. That ought to be a straightforward
guideline for those who will interpret legislation and implement
the legislation in cases of agreement.
569. I think how to do it is exactly the problem
that confronts us.
(Dr Bhan) Well, Human Rights has initiated the right
to believe and worship, but it also includes the right to propagate
and promote and it is the right to propagate and promote which
is very great and leads to the not so pleasant activities.
Bishop of Portsmouth
570. It reminds me of an 18th Century definition
of enthusiasm. That is exactly the conundrum.
(Mr Kallidai) My Lord Chairman, I would like to just
recap by reading out a concluding statement from our submission,
which is just four sentences. We believe that the existing law
on blasphemy be repealed and replaced with a more comprehensive
law, a modern law, that applies to all faith communities. The
second point is that the UK should undertake a comprehensive review
of all civil and criminal laws on religious freedom to evaluate
whether they are in line with the UK's obligations on international
law and consider that in a single law that covers blaspheming,
religious offences, discrimination and public order. The third
point is offences arising from religious discrimination should
cover not just offences at work places, but also offences arising
from purchase of goods, services, education and housing. However,
of course, that is a civil matter. Adding religious hatred to
existing legislation on racial hatred would provide a short term
solution, but a more comprehensive legislation, that is the single
legislation that we proposed, needs to be considered. The last
point is that issues relating to enforcement, regulatory monitoring
and investigation of religious offences needs careful consideration
and consultation with the community because we do not feel that
the community has been adequately consulted yet on these points.
Chairman: What an excellent summary. Thank you
very much. We were not entirely sure that witnesses from the Hindu
backgroundlet alone, I may say, from Northern Irelandwere
going to be able to come or be willing to come to give evidence
before us. If there was ever any doubt about the desirability
of it, it arises from what you have been able to tell us this
evening. You have been immensely helpful, all of you. You have
given us a lot to think about and I think, in fact, you have developed
our thinking, in the course of what you have said, in a way that
is going to be extremely useful, though to what end, at the moment,
I cannot tell you. We are going to try very hard and we listened
very carefully to you and we will read it again. Thank you very
much indeed, all four of you for coming.