For some time, Baroness Warsi has been advancing the curious idea that Islam, and only Islam, needs a special form of legal protection that would criminalise those who dare to criticise it here in the UK. In essence, it would make any criticism of Islam open to interpretation and prosecution as a racially based hate crime, which could lead to the possible imprisonment of anyone saying something deemed hostile to Muslims.
The definition was set out in a report published by a cross-party group of MPs in December. “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” She has gained the fulsome support of Labour, the SNP and the LibDems, and has been latterly targetting what SHE alleges is the Islamophobia problem in the Conservative Party.
But today came the news that this otherwise utterly useless Government is set to reject her current definition. This is welcome news.
In this, it is supported by Martin Hewitt, the chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which represents the leaders of law enforcement in England and Wales, and who issued a statement expressing concern about the definition. He said it was “too broad as currently drafted, could cause confusion for officers enforcing it and could be used to challenge legitimate free speech on the historical or theological actions of Islamic states”.
The fact of the matter is that Muslims, and Islam, do not deserve any special status in British law. We are all being equal under the law is the central tenet of our legal system but if Warsi succeeds, then some will be more equal than others. So her plan will disfigure the essence of British law, and Labour, LibDems and SNP support this.
The very concept of Islamophobia is also troubling. Why should Muslims be given special protected status when, for example, Jewish people suffer record levels of anti-Semitic hate in the UK? Why should Christians, another increasingly persecuted group even in the UK, be neglected of special legal insurance? And who decides what is “Islamophobic”, precisely?
If an act of Jihad is carried out could it be deemed criminal to criticise it? If the Police uncover further instances of mainly Muslim grooming gangs, should we refrain from comment lest it hurt some feelings in the Muslim community? Were someone to make a movie equivalent to “The life of Brian” but satirising Islam, could that lead to fines and imprisonment? FGM is overwhelmingly a feature of Muslim communities, will it be criminal to condemn it? Many British people find Halal slaughter repugnant, but will expressing disgust at such then trigger a visit to the Police? This will deliver a hammer blow to free speech in our country.
The reality is that Warsi is attempting to impose BLASPHEMY laws here in the UK. This is the sort of action that may characterise a Caliphate but not a 21st-century liberal democracy. There is no room in the UK for this very dangerous Islamocentric legislation. Clearly, no group suffer hatred or intolerance where such actions break existing laws. But it is wrong for Islam, and Muslims, to be afforded the special status that Warsi advocates as that places them above every other faith group – and all other people.