By Ben Kelly, blogger and editor of The Sceptic Isle.
According to Muslim News, Ed Miliband has promised to make “Islamophobia” illegal:
“We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime […]We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country,” Ed allegedly told the editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J. Versi.
Now, I cannot be certain as to the veracity of this statement nor the accuracy of the quotations. I am not certain of the integrity or quality of The Muslim News so I am assessing this with some scepticism while using it as a starting point to discuss a broader theme.
For me, whether Ed Miliband really intends this or not, it is a reminder of the essentially morally corrupt nature of the concept of hate crime. Is it healthy that Muslims should rejoice that they will be recognised by a law identifying them as a separate group, worthy of a special law, to gain parity with Jews and homosexuals? I would contend that it would be better for the social fabric of our society that their sense of separation be eroded rather than made official by law.
Hate crime is identity politics in legislative form, it erodes the principles that uphold the common law; that all are equal before it, it is the law of the land and applies to all, rich, poor, black, white, Muslim, Christian, the government and the governed. Hate crime is divisive because it creates further barriers and aggravates the sense of otherness that minority groups feel.
The law should be blind to race. It is supposed to be a unifying and inclusive force; we are all British and subject to the same laws. Equality before the law is one of principles that made Britain a great and free country, hate crime laws do not conform to it and every one should be repealed.
I do not deny that it is abhorrent that a Muslim should be attacked because they are Muslim, or that a homosexual is attacked because they are a homosexual; but in the eyes of the law that should simply be a human being and a British citizen being attacked, which results in the appropriate judgement and punishment.
Moreover, the rule of law in a free country judges the individual on what they do, not what they think. You should be condemned for you actions, but not your thoughts. The law cannot pretend to see in into the minds of the defendant. Assault is a violent crime, but when the law enhances the sentence if it is judged that the defendant was motivated by racism/Anti-Semitism/Homophobia/Islamophobia/transphobia/misogony etc. etc. etc. etc. then we have essentially put thought crime on the statute books.
If an individual of one race is mugged in the street by someone of another race who, while taking the victim’s property at knife point, uses a racial slur, does that constitute a “hate crime”? Is there a real moral difference between a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street, and a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street because he doesn’t like blacks/Muslims/Jews/gays? Is it really worse if one assaults a person because they are Asian, than if one attacks a person because they are old and vulnerable, and therefore an easy target? Hate crime laws muddy the waters. The criminal justice system should punish the act rather than speculating about the motive.
It may, of course, be necessary in some situations to ascertain a motive in order to build a case to prove guilt. That does not however mean that the punishment should be harsher based on that motive. It is not okay to assault someone. It is not okay to murder someone. It actually does not matter what the perpetrator was thinking at the time nor what emotional state they were in.
I have yet to see any evidence that hate crime laws bring any tangible benefit to the groups that it is designed to help. If someone is intending to viciously attack someone else because they are gay; it is a dubious that they will be deterred by the possibility of a longer sentence based on their motive.
Such crimes should have sufficiently harsh sentences regardless of motive, the criminal who isn’t deterred enough by the sentence in the first place won’t think twice because he is committing a hate crime as well as an aggravated assault. Unfortunately, the existence of hate crime laws have not been shown to prevent or deter actions that are deemed to be hate crimes, making them unfit for purpose and a failure on their own terms.
The Labour Party Manifesto pledged to take a “zero-tolerance approach to hate crime” and to “challenge prejudice before it grows, whether in schools, universities or on social media. And we will strengthen the law on disability, homophobic, and transphobic hate crime.”
This seems to be a pledge to bring in more creepy social engineering methods into schools, in line with the Labour Party’s obsession with attempting to solve all societies ills in the classroom, while neglecting the primary purpose of knowledge impartation. It is also a promise to recognise all of these groups as having separate identities with their own unique problems that need dealing with separately.
Pandering to identity politics may win votes but “divide and rule” should not be the mantra of a party that believes it has a monopoly on social solidarity.
For a summary of my feelings about hate crime laws, here is an excellent extract from the biting satire South Park, with thanks to Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In this segment the boys are lobbying a governor to release Cartman from juvenile hall after he threw a rock at a black friend for insulting him:
Stan: Hello, Mr. Governor, and thank you for taking the time to hear our presentation on hate-crime laws, entitled, “Hate Crime Laws: A Savage Hypocrisy.” [shows the title page. Kyle presses the play button for some ambiance]Yes, over the past few years our great country has been developing new hate crime laws.
Token: [flips a page to depict a stabbing in progress] If somebody kills somebody, it’s a crime. But if someone kills somebody of a different colour, it’s a hate crime.
Kyle: And we think that that is a savage hypocrisy, because all crimes are hate crimes. If a man beats another man because that man was sleeping with his wife, is that not a hate crime?
Stan: [flips the page to reveal a person tagging City Hall] If a person vandalizes a government building, is it not because of his hate for the government?
Token: [flips the page to reveal a man being hit deliberately by a car] And motivation for a crime shouldn’t affect the sentencing.
Stan: [flips the page to reveal warring groups of people around a question mark] Mayor, it is time to stop splitting people into groups. All hate crimes do is support the idea that blacks are different from whites, that homosexuals need to be treated differently from non-homos, that we aren’t the same.
Kyle: [shows a rainbow of people holding hands] But instead, we should all be treated the same, with the same laws and the same punishments for the same crimes…
Hate crime laws are problematic, but defining and punishing so-called “Islamophobia” is a minefield and a very dangerous route to take. For what will constitute “Islamophobia”? Islam is a religion, a dogma and a way of life. It actually has many good qualities and for millions of people it is a guide for a life of decency, restraint, selflessness and community. There is a place for Islam in British life.
However, Islam also has the potential to be regressive, inward looking, pernicious and dangerous. By expressing these sentiments am I outing myself as an Islamophobe? Do I deserve punishment for it? Will the outlawing of “Islamophobia” just apply to violent crimes deemed to be committed because of this specific prejudice, or will it regulate our speech too? Many questions arise and the answers are bound to be disturbing.
The influence of Islam on some Muslims is proving to be extremely problematic; undermining social cohesion and creating a sub-culture that is the antithesis of the values embodied in British culture. This is evidenced by the disturbing results of attitude surveys amongst Muslim communities, but also (obviously) through the growth of Islamism which is, despite all protestations, an offshoot of the religion and a credible interpretation of the scripture.
The term “Islamophobia” is used frequently in an attempt to shut down criticism of Islam and shield it from scrutiny. Legislating for it will be a gift to those who want to shut down debate. Ultimately we must be allowed to criticise freely if we are to face down radical Islam in Britain. Not only that, we must be able to combat the misogyny and homophobia expressed by many Muslims. The worrying sympathy that can be found with the idea of apostasy, curbing free speech and jihad in some elements must be fought with vigour, not restricted by law.
Again, it is of course wrong and disgusting for someone to be the victim of crime or prejudiced based on their race of religion. That does not mean we need separate laws. Exacerbating the sense of “otherness” that some Muslims feel will not help us assimilate them into our society, only inclusivity will do that and there is nothing more inclusive then equality before the law.
Originally published on The Sceptic Isle.