These preachers of hate must be exposed

14 08 2007

Joan Smith in The Independent

The decision to investigate the Wahhabi influence in British mosques cannot be faulted

In January last year, the Government suffered two shock defeats when MPs refused to overturn amendments made in the Lords to one of its flagship bills. The second division was lost by a single vote: the slenderest of majorities, but sufficient, it now turns out, to save Channel 4 from a prosecution for incitement to religious hatred.

At the time, those of us who campaigned against aspects of the Racial and Religious Hatred bill were accused of being alarmist when we argued that the law would be used to prevent legitimate criticism of religion. But events of the past few days, farcical and outrageous in equal measure, have shown how right peers were to insist that an offence of incitement to religious hatred has to be intentional.

Had ministers got their way, I am in little doubt that Channel 4’s executives would now be facing a court appearance, accused of stirring up religious hatred by transmitting an undercover documentary in which Islamic extremists from this country and Saudi Arabia railed against non-Muslims and indulged in misogynist, homophobic and anti-Semitic rants. (Yes, I know it doesn’t make sense, but this is one of the rare occasions when the over-used adjective “Orwellian” is fully justified.)

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