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Sat Jan 10, 2015, 03:48 PM


There is a price for living in a free society

As for our politicians, they go around saying “Islam is a religion of peace”, which they would not need to repeat if they believed it. Under Labour, we came close to conceding a fully fledged law forbidding blasphemy (“religious hatred”) and we introduced the repressive concept of a “religiously aggravated” crime.

Before she resigned from the Government over Gaza last year, the Muslim peer Lady Warsi worked with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which wants a worldwide ban on insulting religions. She supported the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, which would declare an attack on a faith to be an unacceptable affront to its adherents and vice versa. She was on television after the Paris murders, saying that they were “an attack on Islam”. It seems a funny way to look at it (though two Muslims were among those murdered, I do not think that is what she meant).

As for civil society in general, we have tended to tiptoe round the problem. The media deplored the death threats that followed the (genuinely un-nasty) Danish cartoons, but did not publish them. We say “Nous sommes Charlie”, but fight shy of reprinting the magazine’s Mohammed gags, so readers never quite know what the story is about. Employers worry about their staff’s safety. Some even fear upsetting Muslim newsagents. Terrorism is working.

All this has created a chasm between public doctrine and what the public can see is the case. It is not for politicians to make theological statements. Like all the main religions, Islam is rich, deep and complex and will probably outlast our system of government. But what our leaders can and should do is insist that there is a price for living in a free society, and all citizens must pay it.


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