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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Free Speech - How Much Longer?

A mail from regular contributor Huldah - written last week, and unfortunately I only picked it up yesterday, so the House of Lords debate has already happened (you can read the Hansard transcript here). But I agree totally with Huldah that this is an appalling piece of legislation and should be thrown out.

Dear Cyrus

I know you are living abroad at the moment, but many of your regular readers and contributors live in Britain. You may not be aware of the provisions of the Religious and Racial Hatred Bill, but I thought I'd let you know about the post I put on Biased BBC website just in case.

If your British readers don't DO something about this then our freedom of speech will be curtailed without anyone noticing - except when the police turn up at the door!

Here's what I posted


Contributors to this blog may need to be aware of the forthcoming Incitement to Racial and Religious Hatred Bill and its effect on blogs such as this which, from time to time, contain criticisms of faiths which their members might find, ahem, inciteful (no pun Particularly intended!). Under the provisions of this Bill, successful prosecutions could result in a stay at HM's expense for up to 7 years. The Lords are debating it on 11 October and threw it out last time. But the Government has threatened to use the Parliament Act to force it through.

If you don't want your freedom to criticise religions as a philosophy to be curtailed, then get writing to your MPs and the Lords. We could at least stand up and fight. Probably the Panorama programme on Muslim extremism would have had to be different if this law had been in place. Iqbal Sacranie regretted the lack of such a law to suppress "Satanic Verses".

There are sites out there campaigning against the Law, and for what it's worth, I used one of them to gain information for the small offering below which I sent off to rather a lot of Lords and Ladies recently

Incitement to Religious Hatred BillI write to express my concern about this bill and my hope that you will vote against it on 11 October.This legislation is unnecessary. It is already a criminal offence to incite a crime against another person (for example violence). We already have religiously aggravated offences in the criminal law. The obvious immediate result of such a law will be the curtailment of our hard-won tradition of free speech. Even if people undertaking ordinary religious debate are not prosecuted, they will censor themselves by keeping quiet. Furthermore, there is every possibility of malicious prosecutions under the legislation. This was the result of a similar law passed in Victoria, Australia. A convert from Islam to Christianity was successfully prosecuted for quoting verses from the Qur’an which advocate the execution of people who convert out of Islam. This man had been forced to leave his country of origin for fear that he would be murdered for becoming a Christian, and is now facing prison for telling a Christian congregation about his experience! Those who say that such prosecutions would be impossible under the proposed legislation are mistaken. Some Muslim websites already contain postings which state that the legislation should be used against those who criticise Islam. Sir Iqbal Sacranie made it clear in a recent Panorama programme that he was sorry no law existed under which Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” could have been suppressed.In short this law will at least suppress free speech, and at worst, will be used as a weapon by one section of the community against another. The State legislature in Victoria, Australia, is already considering amending or scrapping their version of this law. Let us profit from their experience by refusing to pass such an inflammatory and unnecessary law.

Yours sincerely

FOLKS IF WE DON'T DO SOMETHING our freedom of speech is going to go!

Best wishes


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