Submission from the Muslim Women's Welfare
We warmly welcome the initiative of the House
of Lords on Religious Offences and we are delighted to have the
opportunity to make submissions.
We strongly support the passing of law that
prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion in all areas not
just in employment and training. We see no justification for the
distinction that is currently drawn between religious discrimination;
both are socially divisive and morally reprehensible. We believe
that this change is long overdue and that the need for protection
of the followers of Islam from discrimination and prejudice has
become acute since the tragic events of 11 September 2001.
The law as it stands, is discriminatory. Incitement
to racial hatred is an offence, but incitement to religious hatred
is not. In Northern Ireland incitement to religious hatred has
been an offence since 1987, but not on the mainland. Under the
existing legislation, the law on incitement to racial hatred protects
certain faith communities (the Jews and the Sikhs) since the courts
have ruled that followers of these faiths are also regarded as
racial groups. This anomalous situation places the Muslims and
other faith communities in a grossly unequal and unfair position.
Indeed in the current climate of virulent Islamophobia following
the 11 September tragedy, protection of law-abiding followers
of Islam in Britain from physical violence and harassment is much
We should also like you to consider the position
of the law on blasphemy. As Muslims we must, and we do support
the current position of the law on blasphemy because defamation
of Prophet Isa (Jesus) is repugnant to our faith. However, the
law as it stands does not protect other faiths and we believe
that the time has come for there to be a comprehensive law for
the protection of all faiths from defamation and vilification.
We would wish to encourage such debates. We only ask that such
debates are carried out in a civilised and sensitive manner.
16 July 2002
15 Identical letters were received from the UK Islamic
WAQF and the Dulwich Islamic Centre. Back