Gay rights threaten freedom of speech

Well OK, not so much gay rights themselves as the pursuit of those that have alleged to breech them. On the back of an investigation by the Metropolitan Police of Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the Head of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, for telling the BCC Today Program that homosexuality was "not acceptable", in today's Guardian, Jonathon Freedland catalogues a number of similar cases.

This is very scary stuff. I've been willing to be convinced about the need for race and more recently sexuality hate legislation, assuming that the predictions of people being jailed for saying things was far fetched and that the law's primary purpose would be an educational one. Well it's clear that nothing could be further from the truth.

In an apparent effort to make up for years of neglect and abuse of the gay community, police forces around the UK are treating all allegations of homophobic speech as serious and investigating them accordingly.

This is of course for me a classic case of disagreeing with what's being said but defending the rights of Sacranie and others to say it. Freedland points out that Sacranie didn't quite appreciate this point when he fought for a law banning incitement to religious hatred, but two wrongs don't as they say make a right.

If anything, Sacranie's case clearly demonstrates the value in universally applied rights. Curtailing the right to freedom of speech might serve a groups short term interests but can over time undermine that group's ability to exercise its right to speech and arguably in this interest its right to practice its religion, assuming that the practice of religion includes sharing your religiously formed views with others.

Maybe Sacranie will be a founding member of a campaign for free expression?

I wrote to the Guardian on this issue and you can read my letter which they have published by clicking here.

For more information:

English Pen's Free Expression is No Offence Campaign