3rd October 2001
The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the speech delivered this morning by the Home Secretary Rt. Hon. David Blunkett MP in which he announced changes to current legislation to outlaw religiously motivated crimes.
The Home Secretary spoke on the widening of the law on incitement to racial hatred to include religious hatred and the possible creation of a new category of ‘religious aggravated offences’ to complement the existing ‘racially aggravated offences’ covered by the Crime and Disorder Act. MCB Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok said that the changes were ‘steps in the right direction’ and an ‘important development’.
Mr Bhailok praised the Home Secretary’s comment that ‘the biggest freedom of all is the freedom from hate’ and stated that ‘people of faith communities would now be placed on equal footing with those of different racial backgrounds who have, to date, received protection under the law’. He added that The Muslim Council of Britain had been lobbying government for some time on the need for anti-religious discrimination law and that Britain being a multi-faith society necessitated laws similar to those that currently provide legal protection to racial groups and not faith communities.
Mr Bhailok cautioned that the wording and scope of the legislation remained to be seen and that any moves to outlaw religious discrimination and incitement to religious hatred should not quell dissenting voices which are essential to any healthy democracy.