15/04/05: Chair of the No Offence Campaign, Lisa Appignanesi writes:
Not only have the Labour Party included the promise to bring back the ‘incitement to hatred on religious grounds’ legislation in their Election Manifesto, but they have also done so in the most general and therefore ambiguous of terms; terms which might lead the unsuspecting to assume that the legislation will indeed be an extension of the blasphemy law and cover provocation aimed at articles of faith, not persons. This was something Home Office Minister Fiona MacTaggart specifically denied in February when we queried her about it. Such an understanding of the law would seriously hamper free expression and prevent critical or satirical description of any item of religious belief, let alone the vagaries of religious hierarchies.
Charles Clarke has also written personally to mosques regarding the manifesto pledge. (click here for the text taken from copy of letter provided by Muslim News).Addressing a letter in this way seems to suggest that the proposed law, though framed generally, is indeed intended for Muslims, rather than for all faiths not covered by existing legislation. Charles Clarke, in his wording, also seems to be pitting Jews and Sikhs against Muslims.
We are writing to Charles Clarke to express our dismay at the way our freedoms are being sold for votes. We suggest that you, too, write to Charles Clarke and to your local MP to protest once more about a law which is misdirected and unnecessary.
Incidentally, for the record, the Liberal Democrats did not oppose the law outright, but suggested useful amendments. There was also opposition from Labour’s own benches.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/offence/archiveofnews/campaignrespondstolabourmanife/