Religious Hatred Offence Unlikely to get through this Parliament

For the latest on this discussion please see the relevant section of Hansard from 5th April 2005


04/04/05: The OFFENCE campaign is pleased to report that it now seems as if the incitement to religious hatred clause, after its embattled journey through the Lords, will be dropped by the government for the time being. With the election pending, the government is keen to get through the rest of the Serious Crime Bill quickly and not be held up by the religious hatred legislation. The time remaining for ministers to put bills through this parliamentary session has been further truncated by the delayed announcement of an election date (see today’s Guardian for further information).

Many of us fear, however, that the clause – which will make an offence of incitement to religious hatred, thereby seriously curtailing free expression – will be back in parliament early in the next session. Rumour has it that the government will be putting it into its manifesto as a vote winner for Muslim constituencies.

The excellent panel discussion at the ICA on 16th March made it quite clear that while writers and other campaigners against the legislation want Muslims to feel and to be recognized as full citizens of our civil society, and are adamantly opposed to hate literature of any kind, the current incitement legislation is not the way forward. It would serve only to make relations between faith groups worse, while effectively stifling the imaginative freedom of writers and gagging critics of real abuse.

Lisa Appignanesi, Chair: Free Expression is No Offence Campaign

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