Tuesday, January 18, 2005

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Islamists' Favorite Brits by Melanie Phillips

FrontPage magazine.com :: The Islamists' Favorite Brits by Melanie Phillips

The Islamists' Favorite Brits
By Melanie Phillips
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 18, 2005

Tony Blair’s staunch support for President Bush over Iraq has done the Labour Prime Minister great electoral damage in Britain, not least among the country’s 1.8 million Muslims. Despite being traditional Labour voters, many are now threatening at the forthcoming general election to support either the Liberal Democrats, who have taken a strong line against the war, or Respect, an alliance between the far-left MP George Galloway and Islamic fundamentalists.

The British government’s reaction has been a panicky attempt to appease the Muslim community. In particular, there have been suspicions that a proposal to outlaw incitement to religious hatred is a crude attempt to buy Muslim votes. This is because British Muslims, who have been complaining about a rise in “Islamophobia” since 9/11, are aggrieved that they are not covered by the existing law against incitement to racial hatred, which applies to Jews and Sikhs whom it designates for these purposes as racial groups.

Of course, real prejudice against Muslims exists and should not be tolerated. But a law against incitement to religious hatred will very likely criminalize legitimate discussion about religion, which almost invariably gives rise to intemperate passions, hatred and the giving and taking of offence.

Fears that such a law may put people in jail merely for telling the truth have been fuelled by the fact that to many Muslims, any criticism of Islam — including any reference to Islamic terrorism — constitutes “Islamophobia.” If such a law had existed when a fatwa was issued against Salman Rushdie’s life for writing The Satanic Verses, he might have been prosecuted rather than protected by the British state. The idea that such a law should be introduced by the British government at the behest of a minority seeking to suppress any discussion of the role of their faith in global terror is alarming in the extreme.

Yet according to a government minister, this is indeed what has happened. In a grovelling article written in The Muslim Weekly in which he effectively pleaded for votes, Energy Minister Mike O’Brien boasted of the lengths to which the government had gone to accede to British Muslim demands. Two weeks after the Muslim Council of Britain asked for a new law banning religious discrimination, he said, Tony Blair promised he would provide it. “It was,” wrote O’Brien, “a major victory for the Muslim community in Britain.”

So a law that has the power to shut down legitimate comment about Islam; potentially put Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, secularists and others in the dock for speaking the truth; and make the giving of offence a greater offence than intimidating Britons into silence; is being introduced to buy Muslim votes. The price to be paid for invading Iraq, in other words, is to be Britain's freedom of speech.


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