Submission from the Libertarian Alliance
and the Libertarian International
1. The Libertarian Alliance is a non-party
political pro-free market and pro-civil liberties pressure group
and think tank established in 1968. Our Academic Advisory Council
is listed on the accompanying letterhead. The Libertarian Alliance
has over 700 pamphlets and monographs in print, publishes a quarterly
journal, Free Life, organises regular meetings, seminars
and conferences, and runs an internet discussion forum (The Libertarian
Alliance Forum) and a regular internet ezine (Free Life Commentary).
It regularly submits evidence to government and parliamentary
inquiries, and its spokespeople appear frequently on the media.
The Libertarian Alliance is the UK representative of the Libertarian
International, and is also affiliated to LIBERTY (The National
Council for Civil Liberties), The International Society for Individual
Liberty, and The Sexual Freedom Coalition.
2. The Libertarian Alliance is wholly opposed
to the existence of any law regarding blasphemy. We believe that
the current law should be abolished in its entirety. The law of
blasphemy is an utterly unjustified restriction of the right of
free speech. The advocates of religious beliefswhether
Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh or any other faithhave
no right to be protected from criticismor from ridicule
and abuse of those beliefs, any more than the advocates of any
secular political, social, ethical or other belief systems have
to such protection.
3. The Libertarian Alliance is wholly opposed
to the creation of any criminal offence of "incitement to
religious hatred". Although advocates of such a law use the
offence of incitement to racial hatred as a justification for
religious equivalent we wish to make it perfectly clear that we
also consider that law to be an abhorrent and immoral interference
with free speech.
4. Some defenders of a law against "incitement
to religious hatred" argue that "incitement to hatred"
is distinct from rational criticism and hence not an interference
with free speech. This is an utterly specious argument. Firstly,
it is by no means clear why "incitement to hatred" is
necessarily bad. The beliefs of many religions are seen as profoundly
irrational and inhumaneas "hateful" and deserving
of hatredby rational and liberal critics. The heritage
of irrationality, opposition to humane progress, of conflict,
repression, persecution, war and suffering inflicted by all religions
is undeniable. The rational response to this is arguably "hatred".
5. Moreover, the distinction between any
form of criticism and "incitement to hatred" is utterly
subjective. We would challenge any member of The House of Lords
Select Committee on Religious Offences to examine the publications
and discussion forums of, for example, the Muslims (The Muslim
Students Association [MSA] internet discussion list is a leading
and easily accessible one). You will regularly find ANY criticism
of Islam labelled as "hatred".
6. We thus defend "hatred" and
"incitement to hatred" as basic human rights, as part
and parcel of free thought and free speech.
7. Any idea that a law against "incitement
to hatred" would actually diminish "hatred" or
conflict in our society is absurd. Such a law would actually institutionalise
conflict between the many competing religions and those who criticise
them. Indeed, do we really have to point out that a law against
incitement to religious hatred would sanction the Islamic fatwa
against Salman Rushdie and other critics of Islam?
8. The Committee should also bear in mind
that radical libertarians, and civil libertarians from other political
traditions, will launch their own fatwa against such a
law. They will conduct a ceaseless war to disobey and resist the
law. They will set up internet sites to assist all the competing
"inciters of hatred"; they will encourage by any means
necessary all efforts to ridicule and break the law. If you wish
to encourage further social and religious division, and an unending
campaign of civil disobedience and resistance against a law of
incitement to religious hatred, then by all means proceed with
such legislationbut be fully aware of the consequences.
9. Defenders of a law against incitement
to religious hatred sometimes point to acts of violence perpetrated
by adherents of specific religions. However, "incitement
to hatred" is not the same thing as incitement to violence,
neither is hatred the same thing as violence. The true role of
the law is indeed to prevent and/or punish non-defensive, invasive
violence. However, perfectly adequate laws against violence or
conspiracies to commit violence already exist and should be enforced
vigorously. However, we also wish to make clear that we would
also oppose any enhanced penalties against religiously motivated
(or indeed, racially motivated) crimes as illiberal and unjustified.
The motivations of crimes are irrelevant. The creation of form
of "hate" crimes, whereby religious, racial or political
motivation are taken into account and further punished, are forms
of thought control and persecution and to be rejected in their
10. To summarise: The Libertarian Alliance
calls for the total abolition of ALL laws against blasphemy, and
opposes the creation of ANY new criminal offence of "incitement
to religious hatred".
Dr. Chris R Tame is the founder and Director
of the Libertarian Alliance. He is a prolific writer and lecturer
on many topics on sociology, economics, philosophy and the history
of ideas. His articles have appeared in such journals as The
Jewish Journal of Sociology, Economic Affairs, Science and Public
Policy and The Freethinker. He is also the author of
"Freedom, Responsibility and Justice: The Criminology of
the New Right" in the book The Politics of Crime Control
(Kevin Stenson & David Cowell, eds., Sage Publications,
Dr. Sean Gabb is a member of the Executive Committee
of the Libertarian Alliance and edits the LA's journal Free
Life. A university lecturer in law and economics, he is the
author of Dispatches from a Dying Country: Reflections on Modern
8 June 2002