Saturday, 11 December 2010

Who should be arrested for religious abuse?

The Northants Evening Telegraph have reported over recent days that five young people - two aged 13, and a 15,16 and 18 year old - have been arrested  following an incident in Finedon (a village just outside Wellingborough) for abusing the local vicar. It is alleged that the abuse was anti-Christian and unpleasant.

If the reports and allegations are true it is likely the full force of the law will be used against these young people and they will be dealt with. At one level I have no problem with this so long as they are treated appropriately according to their age and hopefully learn that abusing or insulting anyone based on their religious beliefs or affiliations is wrong.

I say above "at one level" because I am deeply concerned that these young people will be dealt with by the law, whilst adults are abusing and attacking people of another religion - Islam - on a systematic and day by day basis, and there is no intervention of the forces of law and order. Why is the law being applied against this group of young people, yet others are getting away with creating a climate of fear and hatred against Muslims across the UK which is both intensifying and becoming extremely dangerous. Such rampant Islamaphobia is far more dangerous to our society than a small group of irresponsible young people in Finedon.

Only a week ago a mosque in the West Midlands suffered an arson attack. In Bletchley (Milton Keynes) there is a BNP-led campaign against a mosque simply because it is a religious place of worship for Muslims, and individual Muslims are facing daily insults and attacks - particularly if (like the local vicar in Finedon) they are conspicuous by their dress or other identifying features. Philip Hollobone, the MP for Kettering has been running a vicious and nasty campaign by seeking to ban the Niqab - a face covering worn by a very small number of Muslim women. Support for his cause is riddled with anti-Muslim stereotypes and prejudice and has forced at least two Muslim women to leave the area.

The law against incitement to religious hatred (or when there is religiously aggravated public order offenses committed) must be applied fairly to protect those of all religions.  Adults who perpetrate such religious hatred should be particularly taken to task. I would expect adults to know better. Yet it seems adults (if they are "respectable" and in powerful positions and/or members of political parties) are getting way with it in circumstances where the consequences can be much worse - whilst young people are arrested and taken to task by the law.


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