“Male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically-coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates” – Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger on why gay and lesbian asylum seekers should be given the right to stay in the UK.
Posts Tagged ‘Law’
As one axe-wielding religious maniac tries to kill a blasphemous cartoonist, atheists in Ireland are organising a campaign against the new blasphemy law over there.
In Ireland, where the government presumably considers itself fairly enlightened and rational, those convicted of the crime of blasphemy face a possible fine of €25,000. I suppose taking money off blasphemers is indeed more liberal than the punishment preferred by Islamists – i.e. taking the disbelievers’ heads off with an axe! – but the entire concept of a blasphemy law is a humiliation for humanity and has no place in the 21st century.
All sensible religious folk appreciate that the doctrines they follow originated as heresy. Every religion was once as wacky as Scientology. Of course, the instinct to protect our deeply held beliefs from vilification is something we all possess, but it is ridiculous and dangerous to try to use the law to silence critics.
Anyway, people ‘of faith’ should have more, well, faith in the righteousness of their individual religious views. Relying on the state’s authority for shielding your beliefs from the sacrilegious is surely a sign of weakness. Plus, we all have an interest in maintaining freedom of speech. Blasphemy laws should be opposed by anyone who values an open, tolerant society where differing views are welcomed.
This issue is far from abstract. As well as the potential for criminal prosecution in Ireland, various regimes around the world (usually Islamist inclined) are attempting to curtail free speech through imposing special protections for religion. Pakistan seems to have been inspired by the wording of the Irish blasphemy law when it suggested something similar at the United Nations.
Blasphemy laws encourage reactionary governments to place even greater controls over what their citizens think. They also give succour to the religious fundamentalists who won’t be satisfied until we all believe whatever nonsense it is that they believe and who think they are justified in trying to murder a cartoonist who pokes fun at one aspect of their belief system.
Shame on the Irish government (currently composed of the right-wing Fianna Fail Party and the Greens) for having this law on the books. It would be nice if the Irish Labour Party did the right thing and voiced more opposition to this.
The campaign group Atheist Ireland has published some classic blasphemous quotes to draw attention to the silliness of the law. As a simple act of solidarity, and because copying and pasting is very easy to do, here are some of the best:
Jesus Christ, when asked if he was the son of God, in Matthew 26:64: “Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” According to the Christian Bible, the Jewish chief priests and elders and council deemed this statement by Jesus to be blasphemous, and they sentenced Jesus to death for saying it.
Frank Zappa, 1989: “If you want to get together in any exclusive situation and have people love you, fine – but to hang all this desperate sociology on the idea of The Cloud-Guy who has The Big Book, who knows if you’ve been bad or good – and cares about any of it – to hang it all on that, folks, is the chimpanzee part of the brain working.”
Salman Rushdie, 1990: “The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes.” In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie because of blasphemous passages in Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses.
Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great, 2007: “There is some question as to whether Islam is a separate religion at all… Islam when examined is not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require… It makes immense claims for itself, invokes prostrate submission or ‘surrender’ as a maxim to its adherents, and demands deference and respect from nonbelievers into the bargain. There is nothing-absolutely nothing-in its teachings that can even begin to justify such arrogance and presumption.”
Bjork, 1995: “I do not believe in religion, but if I had to choose one it would be Buddhism. It seems more livable, closer to men… I’ve been reading about reincarnation, and the Buddhists say we come back as animals and they refer to them as lesser beings. Well, animals aren’t lesser beings, they’re just like us. So I say fuck the Buddhists.”
Remember how the Daily Mail provoked a storm of fury when they published an article by weirdo bigot Jan Moir speculating about Stephen Gately’s death only a few days after the singer kicked the bucket?
Well, they’ve stooped to a similar level, if not even lower. Akmal Shaikh was executed less than 12 hours ago but today’s Daily Mail contains an article by Leo McKinstry entitled ‘Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die’.
It is full of the usual Daily Mail gibberish about “the human rights brigade” being responsible for crime and describes Akmal Shaikh as “amoral, selfish, and irresponsible”. Because laying the boot into someone killed earlier today is the moral, selfless, and responsible thing to do, eh Leo?
This being the Daily Mail, it’s impossible for the article to gain the editor’s approval without any references to celebrities. It is therefore accompanied by a big picture of Kate Moss and McKinstry predictably rants about drug-abusing celebs not being given meaningful punishments. Will McKinstry next be calling for Moss, Doherty, Winehouse and Michael to face a firing squad as punishment for their indiscretions? Surely that would act as a deterrent, following his logic!
On a more serious note: McKinstry’s argument (if it can be called that) would work better if there was evidence that China’s killing of drug traffickers was actually helping to stop people using heroin there. He can’t provide any – I certainly can’t find any. Even if I could, I don’t think we should trust any data coming out of a country run by a single party dictatorship. It is bizzare that McKinstry pours so much bile on our liberal, human rights-respecting legal system and is instead so enthusiastic about an authoritarian Communist state’s approach to dispensing justice.
As for McKinstry’s boring claim that the death penalty lowers crime rates, well, zzzzz. Correlation does not equal causation. McKinstry writes that there were fewer murders and crimes in the 1950s when Britain still had the death penalty. Aside from improvements over time in police data-keeping and recording crime (which means of course the numbers will go up), McKinstry can’t back-up his argument that abolishing the death penalty led to more crimes being committed. You could just as well posit that mass ownership of televisions in the 1960s messed with people’s minds and increased criminality.
It would also help McKinstry’s rant if countries with the death penalty (such as China and the USA) had lower crime rates than Britain and if the safest, most crime-free countries weren’t ones where the death penalty has been abolished (places like New Zealand, Finland, Denmark).
McKinstry’s article is so outrageous and stupid I find it hard to believe he genuinely believes in what he’s writing. Perhaps he instead felt he needed to raise his profile a bit. I hadn’t heard of him previously. Similarly, I wasn’t aware of Jan Moir existence before her controversial piece – maybe McKinstry’s trying to repeat the trick? Daily Mail columnists often like to lecture everyone about morality but their primary motive is almost certainly a greedy craving for attention and the extra cash that can bring their way.
As FCO Minister Ivan Lewis said today: “Anybody with a modicum of compassion will be horrified” by Akmal Shaikh’s execution.
Clearly that does not apply to Leo McKinistry and the rest of the scum at the Daily Mail.
As inconvenient as it must be for Downing Street officials and Foreign Office types to be working hard over the Christmas period, I hope everything possible is being done to prevent the execution of Akmal Shaikh.
Akmal Shaikh is a Briton apparently caught trafficking heroin in China. The Chinese authorities have neglected to take into account his history of mental illness and plan to execute him on 29th December.
Even if he was indeed smuggling a shedload of smack and is actually as sane as a plank of wood it is appalling that he faces state-sanctioned murder in the name of ‘justice’. The British government is firmly opposed to the death penalty and must make clear to the Chinese authorities that killing this British citizen would be totally unacceptable.
Nearly a million Britons got involved in the Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas No 1 spot. Wouldn’t it be great if even half that number of people did something to try to help save Akmal Shaikh’s life?
Human rights campaigners at Reprieve have got a suggested message you can send to Gordon Brown and the Chinese ambassador via email. It will only take a couple of minutes of your time.
Having just finished reading Ed Husain’s ‘The Islamist’, I hear that Husain’s counterextremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation is taking libel action against blogger and anti-war activist Craig Murray.
Craig Murray was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan until a big hooha about torture allegations a few years ago. Murray seemed to be a whistleblower standing up for human rights.
His behaviour since then has been fairly odd. He comes across as a conspiraloon who sees the dark forces of the neo-con agenda everywhere. He has stood as a “pretty rubbish” (his own words) independent candidate in a parliamentary by-election. Oh, and he’s “hypersexual” (again, his own words).
Murray bangs on about the Quilliam Foundation being a tool of New Labour and has described redeemed Islamist Ed Husain as someone who decided he could “make more money and career progress by turning traitor” on his former mad beliefs and mad Islamist colleagues. Some of us call it ‘seeing the light’; Murray considers it ‘treachery’.
Murray has also suggested public money handed over to the Quilliam Foundation has gone AWOL (in a blog post that has landed him in trouble with the Quilliam lawyers).
Understandably Ed Husain and the Quilliam Foundation are pretty peeved at these allegations. Murray will now have to produce from underneath his tin foil hat lots of evidence to support his claims.
My instinct is to oppose well-funded organisations using libel law to shut up their badly funded opponents. However, considering the sensitive job they’re trying to do in winning the support of British Muslims and undermining the influence of Islamists, it’s clearly very important for Quilliam to safeguard its reputation. Therefore, I’m not sure what I feel about this case, but I will follow it with interest…
The BNP have agreed to amend their constitution so that they do not discriminate on the grounds of race and religion. Here’s a BBC News report on the story (complete with a video featuring that moron Richard Barnbrook talking into two phones at the same time in the background). The BNP were forced to do this because the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had brought a legal case against their constitutional ban on non-whites becoming party members.
Here is the EHRC press release:
BNP: Commission wins legal case over constitution and membership criteria
The Equality and Human Rights Commission announced today that it has won its legal case against the British National Party. The Commission has agreed to adjourn the case following the BNP’s confirmation that it will accept the Commission’s requirement that it change its constitution and membership criteria. The BNP has also agreed to not accept any new members until its new constitution comes into force.
In an order issued at the Central London County Court this morning, the BNP has agreed to use all reasonable endeavours to revise its constitution so that it does not discriminate, either directly or indirectly on any “protected characteristic” – for example on the grounds of race, ethnic or religious status – as defined in clause 4 of the Equality Bill. These changes must be carried out as soon as reasonably practicable, and no later than three months from today.
The order also states that from 15th October 2009, until the new constitution comes into effect, BNP Chairman Nick Griffin will close the membership of the Party to all new membership applications and prevent the Party from accepting into membership any new member.
The case has been adjourned until 16th January 2010.
John Wadham, Group Director Legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “We are pleased that the Party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the Commission’s requirements. Political parties, like any other organisation are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people.
“It is unfortunate that the BNP spent several months before conceding and dealing properly with our legal requirements. We will be monitoring the BNP’s compliance with this court order on membership, and its other legal obligations, including to its constituents.”
Background to the case:
The Commission has a statutory duty, under the Equality Act 2006, to enforce the provisions of the Act and to work towards the elimination of unlawful discrimination. This duty includes preventing discrimination by political parties.
The Commission sent a letter before action on 22nd June 2009 to the BNP setting out its concerns about the party’s constitution and membership criteria which appear to restrict membership to those within what the BNP regards as particular “ethnic groups” and those whose skin colour is white. This exclusion is contrary to the Race Relations Act which the party is legally obliged to comply with.
The Commission asked the BNP to provide written undertakings that it would amend its constitution and membership criteria to ensure and to make transparent that it does not discriminate against potential or actual members on racial grounds.
Following the BNP’s failure to comply with these requirements, on 24 August 2009, the Commission issued county court proceedings (under sections 24 and 25(5) of the Equality Act) against the Nick Griffin and two other party officials, Simon Darby and Tanya Jane Lumby.
Whilst I would be pleased to see the BNP lose a lot of money if it has to pay for the costs of the case, I’m not entirely comfortable with this situation.
As a fellow Paintbrusher has argued previously, the best way for anti-fascists to defeat the BNP is politically – through political activism amongst the communities where people are voting for them. Taking them on legally may have a place in these efforts (the Public Order Act 1936 is generally thought to have helped damage Mosley and the BUF) but should not be relied upon.
The headline at Yahoo UK is ‘BNP to accept non-whites’. People glancing at Yahoo’s summary of today’s news events could interpret that as the BNP voluntarily doing away with their racist rules. Even the BBC story’s headline – ‘BNP to consider non-white members’ – sounds like the BNP leadership choosing to moderate itself rather than being forced to comply with the law. Will people understand that a legal case had been brought against the BNP and that Nick Griffin is accepting defeat?
There is a danger that the outcome of the case will change the BNP cosmetically, allowing them to declare that they are no longer racist in the eyes of the law, but of course will not alter the racist political ideology at the heart of the party and will not undermine their popular appeal. Could this case in fact make the BNP seem more mainstream and respectable and make it harder to expose them as extremists?
On top of this, the BNP will claim to their supporters that the party’s internal affairs are being interfered with by the ‘Politically Correct elite’ etc who are sneakily using their legal power to damage the BNP because they cannot defeat them fairly in democratic debate. The BNP will bang on about the supposed legal double standard which allows the formation of organisations such as the National Black Police Association but does not allow a ‘rights for whites’ political party. Perhaps this will reinforce the sense of alienation and victimhood felt by many BNP voters.
In our democracy we cannot use the law to force racists to stop holding racist views. Political solutions are required for dealing with the growth of the BNP. Although this case has been a legal defeat for the BNP, we cannot be sure that it is politically an anti-fascist victory.
Interesting news today as everybody’s favourite unassuming heir to the throne became a barrister. Before we congratulate him on managing to fit in the law conversion and BVC in amongst his RAF training (or whatever it is he does which keeps him from getting hopelessly bored), I should stress he is merely an ‘honorary’ barrister. This is the use of the term ‘honorary’ which is synonymous with the term ‘non’ or ‘not really a…’
It is fairly similar to the ‘Honorary’ QC post bestowed upon the Paintbrush collective’s favourite Cabinet Minister, Harriet Harperson. It has made me think that these ‘honorary’ titles can be quite misleading. For instance, when Ms Harperson talks nonsense about ‘the court of public opinion’, I’m concerned people may think she expresses these views as a very senior member of the legal profession.
Fortunately we are told that the young Prince does not intend to appear in court, ‘except for the odd speeding ticket’. How many speeding tickets does he get and shouldn’t he just obey the speed limit for a change?
I subscribe to many views today considered ‘old fashioned’. One such view is that an Act of Parliament is designed so as to confer legally enforceable rights and obligations. Sadly, this view is now extremely out-dated. Recent years have seen a trend more towards using the statute book to extole the virtues of Mother Hubbard and apple pie. The panacea of this trend came with the now legendary National Health Service Act 2006. With no sense of irony, section 1(1) states:
1 Secretary of State’s duty to promote health service
(1) The Secretary of State must continue the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service designed to secure improvement—
(a) in the physical and mental health of the people of England, and
(b) in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness.
Not only would this use of ‘duty’ have Hohfeld spinning in his grave, it fundamentally undermines the Act. No person can sensibly ever bring a claim against the Secretary of State for breaching this duty and so the section serves no purpose other than amusing law students.
Keep watching the skies, however, because I am confident that the standard set by the National Health Service Act could be surpassed. The latest announcement from Minister for Mother Hubbard and Apple Pie, Harriet Harman has almost unprecedented nonsense-potential. Despite this Act being just the latest in a long line of Equalities legislation, Labour’s future leader (surely not!) promises that the bill would “narrow the gap between rich and poor and make Britain more equal”. Never one to duck an opportunity for hyperbole then! I have all fingers crossed that this will be imposed as a duty on a Secretary of State in section 1 of the bill.
Next we are told that the bill will aim to eradicate ‘unfairness’ in the workplace. If this is made into an enforceable ‘duty’ the opportunities for comedy litigation could be limitless. No longer will litigants be forced to struggle with the metaphysical and moral dilemma of how to sue God. Under the new Act we could bring a claim against our employers for all our misfortunes.
Saving the best til last, the bill aims to tackle discrimination against people from working class backgrounds. I am overcome with excitement at the prospect of seeing a legal definition of a working class person. I desperately hope the bill contains a Schedule listing key defining characteristics of a working class person. Perhaps we at the Paintbrush could compile a list for Ms Harman to include.
It seems that the ban on prison inmates voting is not approved of by the European Court of Human Rights.
I think there are sensible arguments both for and against giving prisoners the vote. Leaving these aside, what could the immediate electoral consequences be? Those wager-crazy political anoraks at PB have been doing some thinking here.
So it looks like I may soon be going canvassing at HM Prison Pentonville. Anyone else got prisons in their constituencies?