Religious Hatred Bill defeated compromised… hoorah! But what’s it mean?

Still legal? Cartoon shows Mohammad as a bombI don’t believe in free speech. It would be nice if anyone could say whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to whomever they wanted, but it would be even nicer if everyone could live their lives free from hate. It’s important to recognise there’s a line to be drawn and that the battle over where that line is to be drawn will probably rage forever as our values evolve.

Nevertheless, it’s great to see the government defeated on its religious hatred bill. From the coverage, you’d think the whole thing was gone. As always the news is focused on the soap opera of politics and the important stuff – is this cartoon still legal? – is harder to find. That Danish cartoon has upset a lot of Muslims. They don’t like their prophet depicted as a terrorist, which is understandable. But with a great many terrorist acts conducted and supported by those who call themselves Muslim, it’s seems fair to provoke the debate in this way. Rather than instigate a trade war with the EU, Muslims would be better off dealing with events that fuel that view of Islam.

Had the government won, the minister admitted, publishing that cartoon could become a criminal offence. It all depends on intention and publication could still be criminal if done so with intent to stir up hatred. Without amendment, the law would have allowed prosecution if publication was ‘reckless’. Others taking such offence, say, that they feel hatred or act in a way that provokes hatred would make publication criminal.

Those who deliberately provoke hatred of faith groups should be quashed. But nobody should be held responsible for the reactions of others, especially religious others who actively reject rationality. Many of these people are quite mad.
Related: Danish cartoons satirise Mohamed… fair comment

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