FREE SPEECH-RELIGIOUS OPINIONS- TOLERATION -HOW FAR
SHOULD WE GO?
Times on 9th November 2004 an article by Neil Addison a
barrister has evaluated an important principle which an Australian case
involving an allegation of religious vilification, which if successful will
in the words of the author: -
The Religious Crime Moderates Will Soon
is wrong-headed to insist that all spiritual ideas are created equal.’
“Do you believe that Muslims
and Christians pray to the same God?” would normally be regarded as a theoretical rather
than as a theological rather than a legal question.
Yet it was asked of a witness
at a recent trial that demonstrates the dangers inherent in David Blunkett’s
proposals to create a crime of ‘incitement to religious hatred”.
The Australian case involves
an allegation of “religious vilification” brought by the Islamic Council of
Victoria (ICV) against Catch the Fire Ministries and two of its pastors, Daniel
Scot and Daniel Nalliah. It relates to
a seminar they presented in March 2002.
The event lasted a day and
dealt with the concept of jihad, the history of Islam, and its future in
Australia and whether it was compatible with Western concepts of democracy.
The seminar involved
quotations from the Koran and references to the life of Muhammad and the Hadith
(traditions)- [That part of it which reports custom and precedent is
called Sunna; that which preserves sayings of the Prophet is Hadith, “
in a narrower sense. Tradition”] of the Prophet that together form the
basis of Sharia. Present
during parts of the seminar were three Australian converts to Islam who
reported back to the ICV, which brought the case under section 8 of the
Victoria Racial and Religious |Toleration Act of 2001, which came into effect
in 2002. That section says: “
A person must not, on the ground of the religious belief or activity of another
person or class of persons engage in conduct that incites hatred against,
serious contempt for, or revulsion or severe ridicule of, that other person or
class of persons.”
The claim asked for damages
and also that the defendants be ordered to “acknowledge” that remarks at the
seminar were incorrect, “retract” the statements, “sincerely apologise” for the
offence caused and be prohibited from “further publication or
distribution directly or indirectly of any material containing statements,
suggestions and implications to the same or similar effect.” If such an
order was made, any breach would be contempt of court punishable with imprisonment.
In their defence Catch
The Fire Ministries argued that seminar accurately reflected Islamic teaching
and history, it was an exercise in free speech and reflected their personal
religious beliefs. During the case
it became apparent that the converts had been deliberately sent to the seminar
with a view to bringing a case.
Both pastors were known to
have strong views about Islam and Sharia but these were based on knowledge and
experience. Scot is a Christian from Pakistan who had gone to Australia to
escape prosecution, and Nalliah had worked in Saudi Arabia, where the practice
of Christianity is a criminal offence.
At one point Scot was asked whether he believed that Muslims and
Christians prayed to the same God and the question was allowed by the judge.
The trial was scheduled to
last three days. It actually extended over seven months and the judgment is
still awaited- [November 2004]. Meanwhile
another case has been launched by a witch who claims that her religious beliefs
have been vilified. Whatever
the ultimate decision these cases demonstrate the dangers inherent creating a
crime of incitement to religious hatred.
Proposals to criminalize
religious hatred or vilification draw comparisons with existing race crime
legislation. However, there is a fundamental
difference between being a member of a racial group and being a member of a
Race: - is something you are
and cannot change
Religion: - is something you
choose and you can change.
A Jew who becomes a
Christian still remains a Jew, but a Christian who becomes a Muslim ceases to
be a Christian.
Jews who had converted to
Christianity were still gassed by the Nazis because of their RACE, not their
religion. Belief in a religion is
belief in an IDEA and in particular historical figures whether Muhammad,
Christ, or Joseph Smith. The life of
historical figures and the religion they established must be open to
examination, to question and indeed to ridicule. To say “all IDEAS are created equal” is idiotic.
The danger with creating
these special types of religious offence is that they stimulate feelings of
divisiveness, create “thought crimes” and lead to show trials where judges, or juries,
have to make decisions in areas where historians and philosophers have been
unable to agree for centuries. [Or ever].
If the Law makes it
impossible to argue about religion in any meaningful way then only the extremists
on either side of a debate will benefit.
Or as Amir Butler, executive
director of the Australia Muslim Public Affairs Committee, has said:
“Who after all, would
give credence to a religion that appears so fragile it can exist only if
protected by a bodyguard of lawyers?”
The author is a barrister in
New Bailey Chambers at Liverpool and Preston.
used-comment in brackets]
LIBERTY OF SPEECH
Great Poet, a Puritan Parliamentarian, and Secretary to Oliver Cromwell - John Milton,
during the Civil War wrote the following lines on Freedom of expression: -
‘ Give me liberty
to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all
liberties. Though all the winds of
doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do
injuriously to misjudge her strength.
Let her and
Who ever knew Truth
put to the worse in a free and open encounter?
Who knows not that
Truth is strong next to the Almighty?
She needs no
policies, no stratagems, nor licensings to make her victorious:
Those are the
shifts and defences that Errors use against her power.
Give her but room
and do not bind her when she sleeps.
When God shakes a
kingdom it is not untrue that many false teachers are busiest, but yet more
true it is that God then raises to his own work men of rare abilities and more
than common industry to gain some new steps in the discovery of Truth.’
Daniel Hannan - Forming an OPPOSITION
to the EU
WITH THE ONLY PARTY WITH A MANDATE
TO SET YOU
TO RECLAIM YOUR DEMOCRACY DON'T VOTE
FOR THE TRIPARTITE PARTIES IN WESTMINSTER
SMALL PARTIES THAT SPEAK THEIR MINDS
WITHOUT SPIN AND LIES.
[EACH WORD HAS A DIFFERENT BULLETIN]
[All underlined words have a
THE QUESTION THAT THE VOTER MUST ANSWER
‘DO YOU WISH TO BE GOVERNED BY YOUR OWN PEOPLE, LAW AND CUSTOM OR BY
THE CORRUPT ,EXPENSIVE UNACCOUNTABLE AND ALIEN BUSYBODY BRUSSELS’
-SIMPLE IS IT NOT?