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Blunkett sets hopes on new hatred ban

by Bill Bowder


RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS — “from far-right Evangelical Christians to extremists in the Islamic faith” — are a scourge of modern society, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said this week.


Mr Blunkett hopes to revive his plans to introduce a law banning incitement to religious hatred.


“We have to face down extremism and racism in all its forms if we are to produce a positive, inclusive sense of British identity,” he told a conference on racial equality and community cohesion in London on Wednesday.


“We tried unsuccessfully to introduce an offence of incitement to religious hatred in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, but I hope we will now have the parliamentary backing to put this in law,” he said.


“I am very clear that some of the noisiest and most high-profile political and religious extremists in this country have no mandate to speak for the communities they claim to represent, and evoke a reaction which plays into the hands of racists,” he said.


The Government was consulting “on whether we need to extend the protection against religious discrimination”.


Mr Blunkett’s last attempt to introduce a law against incitement to religious hatred was twice voted down by the House of Lords.


The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, told a meeting of the British Council on Wednesday that British identity was rooted in a passion for liberty, anchored in a sense of duty and an intrinsic commitment to tolerance and fair play.


Forum proposed. The time is right for a national forum where Christians and Muslims can meet to share views, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been told.


The Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd John Austin, who chaired a group that reported the results of a listening exercise, said that the new forum was “necessary, timely and increasingly urgent”.


The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd David Gillett, is now to chair a group from both faiths which will work to implement the proposals.

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