The Queen’s Speech today is going to announce the revival of this particularly stupid bill (among many other, equally stupid bits of legislation).
What I still don’t get – an obvious point, maybe – is precisely how it is possible to ban incitement to religous hatred without banning religion itself?
Be it the Christians with their “one true God” (which is, of course, a slightly different one true God depending on which sect you belong to) or the Muslims with theirs, the whole POINT of religion is that you believe that you are right and everyone who believes differently is wrong – heathens, gentiles, infidels, whatever. If you are strongly religious – of whatever faith – you by definition have a massive superiority complex over all the unbelievers, as you have seen the way, the truth and the light and they have not. Such smugness breeds contempt on both sides; contempt leads to hatred.
In most interpretations of most different faiths, it is the solemn duty of any true believer to convert those who have not seen the light. Missionaries are sent out. Evangelists stand on street corners. They generally spout on about how we’re all going to burn in hell unless we do and believe exactly what they tell us. (Sounds a tad like the government and their terror warnings, come to think of it…)
Does someone telling me I’m going to burn in hell for not embracing The Lord God Our Saviour Who Died For All Our Sins (TM) count as religious hatred? Does me telling them to fuck off and leave me alone? Does slamming the door in the face of a Jehovah’s Witness count?
What about things like The New Humanist, which exist solely to dissect and challenge religious belief? Is the government proposing to ban The Rationalist Society? How about atheists – are they going to become illegal? They frequently mock and challenge religious folk and doctrine.
And in any case, isn’t part of the point of having faith to be able to have that faith challenged yet to continue to believe? The Christian martyrs were tortured to death, yet held onto their conviction that their God was the true one. Are their spiritual heirs really so weak-willed that having a few people mock them and call them idiots will make them abandon Christ? If so their faith is already dead and pointless. We’re doing them a favour.
According to that FAQ, the people affected by the new law would be
“Individuals and members of extremist and racist organisations and parties who stir up hatred of groups defined by their religious beliefs. Also, religious extremists who stir up hatred against members of other religions.”
So, that would include not only every evangelist in the country, but also the entire Cabinet, all of whom have been complicit in the post-9/11 anti-Muslim tirades (which, naturally, were aimed solely at the extremists and fanatics, but which have nonetheless ensured that Musliims throught the country are now viewed with distrust and fear by the rest of the population). Will Charles Clarke have to arrest first the Prime Minister and then himself?
Of course, what this really is is merely another facet of the “anti-terror” legislation Blair and Co. keep trying to force through. The people most likely to use inflammatory rhetoric will not be Catholic priests or the beardily inoffensive Archbishop of Canterbury, but the hardline mullahs of the more extreme mosques.
After years of trying and failing to get rid of the likes of Abu Hamza for connections to terrorism (for which there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, but we allowed him to be extradited anyway despite his holding a British passport because, erm…), a law like this would enable an instant lock-up because their overblow language – not that different to the fire and brimstone sermons of the Victorian Church of England – can happily be interpreted literally.
In other words, this will all come down to semantic interpretation. The local vicar telling us how the pharasees and Jews betrayed and killed Our Lord Jesus Christ will be fine (because, you know, the fact that Jews have frequently faced attack from irate Christians over the centuries due to their involvement in the Christian God’s death OBVIOUSLY hasn’t come from Biblical blame-throwing…). But if someone at a mosque suspected of having terrorist links happens to use the term “infidel” then we’ll lock him up and throw away the key.
By showing absolute contempt for religion in using it as a convenient veil for more suspect motives, is the government again in breach of the proposed bill? And what the pissing hell right does Tony fucking Blair have to dictate to anyone about religion in the first place? The smug little God-botherer. He was the one who incited me to religious hatred through his holier-than-though insistence that everything he does is alright because he “believed it to be the right thing to do”. This belief stems from his Christian faith, so I hold his faith in contempt.
Oooh, I’m annoyed.