20 June 1998
The Home Secretary’s decision to table an amendment to the Crime and Disorder Bill came in a letter addressed to Mr Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). This followed a meeting of an MCB delegation with the Home Secretary and Mr. Mike O’Brien at the Home Office on Tuesday 16 June 1998.
The Bill comes up for the Report Stage and its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Monday 22 June 1998. The Home Secretary has said in his letter that he will “table an amendment to make it absolutely clear that, even where there may be a religious element to a particular crime, if the hostility is even partly racist, it will be covered by the new provisions in the Crime and Disorder Bill”.
The Home Secretary has further promised that “special attention” will be given to the religious element in racial hostility crimes in the guidance that will accompany the new Bill and will cover “the vast majority of cases” affecting the Muslim Community.
The MCB welcomes the decision of the Home Secretary to table the amendment and to stress the issue of religion in the guidance to be issued. This does show some movement on the part of the government to recognise the existence of crimes motivated by religious hostility and the concerns of the Muslim community especially, in this regard.
The MCB hopes the Bill will help reduce the scale of racial and religious abuse and attacks and strengthen the fabric of society. However, there still needs to be a clearer acceptance on the part of the government of the need to recognise the issues of crimes motivated by religious hatred and/or vilification and indeed of discrimination on the grounds of religion.
“Although the questions of religious discrimination and vilification need to be addressed fully, the British Muslim community feels greatly encouraged by the vision and leadership displayed for the first time by the government. We view this amendment as a small but significant first step towards the economic, social and political inclusion of the Muslim community in the national life” said Iqbal Sacranie.