For possibly the only time in their careers, Polly Toynbee and Charles Moore seem to be agreeing on something. Namely the utter idiocy of the proposed law against religious hatred that seems to be sailing through partliament without a care in the world.
Polly's column in the Grauniad is titled fairly simply: "I may be in bad company, but this law will not work", one suspects that those she is temporarily in agreement with would echo the sentiment. She notes accurately that Charles Moore recently wrote a deliberately controversial editorial with some interesting home truths about Islam in it which would probably be illegal under the new bill. As she says:
...The bill's Muslim supporters plunged straight into his crude elephant trap.
The Muslim Association of Britain called for Moore's sacking and said the paper should have known better in the light of the Salman Rushdie affair - distinctly threatening. The Islamic Human Rights Commission called for a boycott of the Telegraph - a more reasonable riposte. Iqbal Sacranie of the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain said that linking the Prophet's name with this crime "will have shocked Muslim readers" who are "calling for safeguards against vilification of dearly cherished beliefs". And there it is. He expects the new law to protect "cherished beliefs", while David Blunkett in the Commons assured his critics it would do no such thing. Dead prophets and holy books would be as open to criticism and ridicule as ever. The law will protect the believers, not their beliefs.
As the Samizdatistas put it not too many days ago Free Speech means exactly what it says on the box - the right to say anything - and since the late 17th century the English speaking world has generally found this to be of benefit. Interestingly enough Polly's column ends up with:
Campaigners against this bad law should not be deterred by some of the bad company they join. Where the secular part company with the religious right is in demanding even-handed treatment of all religions: repeal the blasphemy laws, remove the bishops from the Lords and abolish divisive religious state schools.
Perhaps to her surprise a number of people, such as I, who would normally consider her a barking moonbat actually agree with her on this too. Separation of "church" and state seems to be a good idea and one that is even supported by many (one suspects the vast majority) of the ~60 million Americans who voted for President Bush....
Careful Polly soon you'll be inducted in the Kkkarl Rove society and learn all about the secret handshake Update:Additional comment at Harry's Place and by Melanie Philips