Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from Bobbers Mill Community Centre

  We warmly welcome the initiative of the House of Lords on Religious Offences and we are delighted to have the opportunity to make submissions.

  We strongly support the passing of law that prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion in all areas not just in employment and training. We see no justification for the distinction that is currently drawn between racial or religious discrimination; both are socially divisive and morally reprehensible. We believe that this change is long overdue and that the need for protection of the followers of Islam from discrimination and prejudice has become acute since the tragic events of 11 September.

  The law as it stands, is discriminatory. Incitement to racial hatred is an offence but incitement to religious hatred is not. In Northern Ireland incitement to religious hatred has been an offence since 1987 but not on the mainland. Under the existing legislation, the law on incitement to racial hatred protects certain faith communities (the Jews and the Sikhs) since the Courts have ruled that followers of these faiths are also regarded as racial groups. This anomalous situation places the Muslims and other faith communities in a grossly unequal and unfair position. Indeed in the current climate of virulent Islamophobia following the 11 September tragedy, protection of law-abiding followers of Islam in Britain from physical violence and harassment is much needed.

  We should also like you to consider the position of the law on Blasphemy. As Muslims we must and we do support the current law on Blasphemy because defamation of Prophet Isa (Jesus) is repugnant to our faith. However the law as it stands does not protect other faiths and we believe that the time has come for there to be a comprehensive law for the protection of all faiths from defamation and vilification. We are not campaigning for censorship of public debate on faith matters. Far from it. We would wish to encourage such debates. We only ask that such debates are carried out in a civilised and sensitive manner.

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