Islam and Free Expression - A Cautionary Tale
OP - January 08, 2015, 01:39 PM
In 2005 the Muslim Council of Britain, a group founded by men who had campaigned to have Salman Rushdie persecuted for blasphemy, lobbied the government to introduce religious hate crime legislation.
There were suspicions that the real aim was to have a de facto blasphemy law protecting Islam implemented.
Suddenly though, there were concerns by Muslim activists that any legislation may affect the Quran and Hadith, because they contain passages that could be interpreted as promoting hatred against non Muslims, apostates and others.
Iqbal Sacranie, a man who said about Salman Rushdie that “Death, perhaps, is a bit too easy for him” led a delegation to the minister in charge of the bill, Paul Goggins.
The Muslim Weekly reported that there were concerns in the Muslim community "that dawah [proselytizing] and propagatory practices may be curtailed under the new legislation."
They then demanded that Islamic scripture should be exempt from the legislation they were lobbying for.
The Muslim Weekly reported that "The minister assured the Muslim community that there was nothing in the bill that would prevent scholars from delivering their sermons or from reciting from the Koran."
Iqbal Sacranie said afterwards that he was satisfied, and "Muslim scholars may proceed uninhibited in the performance of their duties."
Ultimately the draconian aspects of the law were defeated following a campaign by activists, artists, liberals and religious people aware of the dangers of the legislation.
What this story displays is the sheer arrogance of the Muslim Council of Britain and complete blinding lack of self awareness of Iqbal Sacranie and those he represented.
It is also darkly comical, as it highlights how Islamists demanding the right to evangelise their faith were almost hoist by their own petard.
It stands as an example of the sinister hypocrisy of religious people who seek special privileges for scripture that they seek to protect from scrutiny and discussion, and is a timely reminder of why free expression can ultimately end up being denied for those who seek to deny it for others.