Urgent message from Lisa Appignanesi and other PEN members

Free Expression needs your help

The Government has gone back on its promise that broad consultation on the incitement to religious hatred bill would be engaged in prior to the bill going to Parliament.

In fact, in an unseemly rush, the bill is having its first reading today and its second is scheduled for 21st June.

Please, please write to your MPs, contact the press, devise your columns in such a way as to include our protest at this legislation which – from all the evidence in other countries – will not only restrict free expression, but will pit the faiths against each other. This in a country of many faiths and none could be seriously detrimental.

Some of you might also like to write to Tessa Jowell, who is after all the Minister for Culture, and has done nothing to show us that she cares about freedom of expression or the need for freedom of imagination in a country which is meant to be proud of its writers and artists.

The principles underlying our campaign which has been building a broad coalition over these last months are below. As you know, there are many groups who are opposed to the legislation – including Index on Censorship, the Muslim Parliament and the Southall Black Sisters.

We want to see a fair, just and open society. This means a society in 
which people of all faiths and none are protected from abuse and 
harassment. We want Britain to be a beacon of tolerance in an 
intolerant world. To achieve this we need laws which preserve freedom 
while asserting the equal right of everyone to be heard and respected.

We believe the government is about to make a terrible mistake. By 
introducing legislation which it hopes will protect religious 
minorities, it risks boosting intolerance, setting communities at 
odds with one another, and creating a climate in which religion can 
be used politically, to intimidate instead of enlighten.

Whether you believe in God or you’re an atheist, an agnostic or a 
sceptic, or even if religion plays no part in your life, you should 
be concerned.

 

Lisa Appignanesi

Julian Evans

Hari Kunzru

Gillian Slovo

Maya Jaggi

 

Salman Rushdie

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/aboutenglishpen/campaigns/offence/archiveofnews/urgentmessagefromlisaappignane/

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