12 NOVEMBER 2005, Page 21

Making hatred history

From Sher Khan

Sir: Alasdair Palmer, in his article ‘Muslims are an ethnic group’ (5 November), asserts that the supporters of the government’s Bill to prohibit incitement to religious hatred have just not looked at its details carefully enough. It is strange, then, that closer examination of the detail reveals that Alasdair Palmer is guilty of the very negligence he accuses others of.

While the criteria as laid down by the opinion of Lord Fraser are accurately stated by Mr Palmer, he omits to inform his readers about how those criteria have been applied and defined by the courts in practice. Lord Fraser’s lead opinion was used successfully to argue the inclusion of both Jewish and Sikh communities in the courts as racial groupings, thereby qualifying members of both faiths for protection under the existing incitement to racial hatred law. However, on several equivalent cases, like that of Tariq vs Young (247738/88), the courts interpreted the opinion as not applying to any faith that is not mono-ethnic, including Islam and Christianity. Over the last 20 years Muslims have failed to get the courts to interpret things any differently.

So there is a very clear gap in the law which needs to be closed so that followers of all faiths can be protected equally against those intent on inciting hatred against them. And if supporters of the Bill are indeed repeating this argument like a ‘mantra’, it is probably because they wish to encourage people like Mr Palmer to look at the actual facts in full.

Sher Khan

The Muslim Council of Britain, London E15