Letter: A bloc-headed law

November 16, 2001

Dennis Hayes is correct in much that he says about the proposed religious hate legislation (Soapbox, THES , October 26). A badly drafted law will harm intellectual freedom.

There is a crucial difference between race/ethnicity and religion that has been missed by those who advocate this law.

Religion, unlike race/ ethnicity, is more or less chosen. It could never be reasonable to criticise or discriminate against anyone on grounds of race/ethnicity because there is no choice involved. By contrast, people are typically born into religious communities, but the decision to confess a faith is in essence rational, and the reason(s) for doing so admit of legitimate discussion.

What Hayes omits to mention is that the proposed law probably has little to do with current events and much more to do with domestic politics. With erstwhile Labour supporters increasingly unlikely to vote, the possibility of a Muslim bloc vote, comparable to the Catholic vote in the west coast of Scotland, must seem very attractive.

The price for the Catholic vote was silence on the part of Labour MPs on abortion. The price of the hoped-for Islamic vote looks likely to be what is in effect an Islamic blasphemy law of the kind proposed.

David Limond
Faculty of education
Herefordshire College of Technology

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