Select Committee on Religious Offences in England and Wales Written Evidence

Submission from the Muslim Cemetery Trust

  Gardens of Peace is an affiliated organisation to the Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB).

  We have been consulted by the MCB (as part of its process for taking views from its affiliated organisations) so that it can formulate a submission to you, on behalf of the Muslim community in Britain, in relation to the House of Lords review of the law relating to religious offences.

  We would like to affirm directly to you our support for the submission that the MCB is making on behalf of the Muslim community of Britain in relation to the above-mentioned review of the law.

  Our recent experience in establishing a Muslim cemetery in North East London to more fully meet our religious requirements has not been an easy one, especially after the tragic events of 11 September. Members of our organisation have been subject to abuse and harassment that most, if not all, level headed people would find reprehensible.

   Was the abuse an incitement to racial hatred (a criminal offence) or an incitement to religious hatred (not a criminal offence)? We do not think it matters—the end effect is the same. All such hatred needs to be dealt with by the law. This can only help communities further develop a mutual understanding of each other, fostering greater respect; without one community feeling threatened as it does not have the support of the law in dealing with certain hatred, only because it is labelled religious and not racial.

  The position as it stands now is also inconsistent, as we understand that the courts regard as racial groups the Jewish and Sikh communities. Muslims, and for that matter other faiths, are therefore left in what many would regard as a very unfair position.

  We do hope that the Select Committee shall consider our submission and that of the MCB and come to the same conclusion that we do, that there should be no distinction under the law for dealing with racial or religious discrimination.

9 June 2002

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