(Intel Source: LGF) The British House of Commons passed a law today outlawing written material and public verbal comments "that are threatening, abusive or insulting [and] likely to stir up racial or religious hatred." Anyone convicted under the law could be jailed for up to seven years. The Racial and Religious Hatred Bill failed in an earlier attempt to pass due to strong opposition in the normally powerless House of Lords, and likely faces the same opposition there this time. The bill was drawn up to "protect" Muslims, but there was some concern that it could backfire on them:
"Opposition parties -- and some Labor MPs -- oppose the bill for various reasons, including concerns that it could stifle free speech or infringe the right of the adherents of one faith to question the claims of another...
"...In an earlier Commons debate, a Conservative MP raised the possibility that the law, if passed, could outlaw the reading of passages of the Koran that called for harsh treatment against Christians and Jews.
"Following those assertions, a delegation of prominent Muslims held talks last week with the government minister responsible for the bill, Paul Goggins, to check whether the legislation could affect reading and quoting from the Koran and other Islamic texts such as the Hadith -- the traditional sayings of Mohammed and other early Muslim figures.
"There were concerns in the Muslim community "that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation," the Muslim Weekly reported.
"The delegation suggested that it may be preferable to "totally exempt" Islamic texts from the bill."
"The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran," the Muslim publication said."
I'm sure people will start claiming anyone proselytizing in favor of one religion is guilty of violating the law, if it is enacted. I remember four years ago when it looked like the EU commission was proposing to outlaw "xenophobic and racist" statements throughout the EU. I'm sure we're not far away from someone proposing to outlaw even thinking about such things...
Update 1105 13 July: WillyShake holds forth regarding similar concerns, and provides links to other submariners worried about free speech and press issues. And you thought we only liked to spy on people and blow stuff up...