Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence


Letter from the Al-Khoei Foundation

  The proposed Religious Offences Bill that is being introduced by Lord Avebury seeks to abolish several existing religious offences, most notably the offence of blasphemy, and create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred. Al-Khoei Foundation expresses its support for the second part of the Bill.

  As articulated by colleagues and other organisations supporting the Avebury Bill, Muslims generally do not object to the current blasphemy laws and the protection they provide to the Anglican Church per se. However, we do feel that there is a case for such protection to be extended to other faith communities in the interests of fairness.

  Muslims in the UK do not enjoy the same protection against hate crimes in Britain as rightly enjoyed by other minority communities and some faith communities, notably Jews and Sikhs. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill 2001, following the backlash against Muslims after 11 September 2001, sought to address this anomaly, but was only partially successful. Consequently, Muslims—and indeed, most faith communities, including all Christian denominations—are still not protected against the offence of incitement to religious hatred.

  Lord Avebury's Bill is an important step forward for minority protection legislation in this country and will, we believe, have a positive impact on race relations and civil rights in this country and beyond. As you will be aware, there is currently a European Union draft Framework Decision on Combating Racism and Xenophobia. Support for the Avebury Bill would ensure the Government's support for this Framework Decision and thus protection from incitement to religious hatred throughout the EU. It will also check the increasing power and influence of the far right who are currently mobilising support on a specifically Islamophobic agenda.

  We hope very much that the views of various sections of the diverse Muslim community and others in the UK will be given appropriate consideration in the formation of your final report and recommendations.

27 August 2002

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