Outlawing “Islamophobia” – the folly of hate crime laws

According to Muslim News Ed Miliband has promised to make “Islamophobia” illegal: 

“We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime […]We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country,” Ed allegedly said to the editor of The Muslim News Ahmed J. Versi.

Now, I cannot be certain as to the veracity of this statement nor the accuracy of the quotations. I am not certain of the integrity or quality of The Muslim News so I am assessing this with some scepticism while using it as a starting point to discuss a broader theme.

For me, whether Ed Miliband really intends this or not, it is a reminder of the essentially morally corrupt nature of the concept of hate crime. Is it healthy that Muslims should rejoice that they will be recognised by a law identifying them as a separate group, worthy of a special law, to gain parity with Jews and homosexuals? I would contend that it would be better for the social fabric of our society that their sense of separation be eroded rather than made official by law.

Hate crime is identity politics in legislative form, it erodes the principles that uphold the common law; that all are equal before it, it is the law of the land and applies to all, rich, poor, black, white, Muslim, Christian, the government and the governed. Hate crime is divisive because it creates further barriers and aggravates the sense of otherness that minority groups feel.

The law should be blind to race. It is supposed to be a unifying and inclusive force; we are all British and subject to the same laws. Equality before the law is one of principles that made Britain a great and free country, hate crime laws do not conform to it. Hate crime laws say that crimes committed against certain groups are worse than crime committed against people not within those groups, this is unarguably not the case.

I do not deny that it is abhorrent that a Muslim should be attacked because they are Muslim, or that a homosexual is attacked because they are a homosexual; but in the eyes of the law that should simply be a human being and a British citizen being attacked, which results in the appropriate judgement and punishment.

Moreover, the rule of law in a free country judges the individual on what they do, not what they think. You should be condemned for you actions, but not your thoughts. The law cannot pretend to see in into the minds of the defendant. Assault is a violent crime, but when the law enhances the sentence if it is judged that the defendant was motivated by racism/Anti-Semitism/Homophobia/Islamophobia/transphobia/misogony etc. etc. etc. etc. then we have essentially put thought crime on the statute books.

If an individual of one race is mugged in the street by someone of another race who, while taking the victim’s property at knife point, uses a racial slur, does that constitute a “hate crime”? Is there a real moral difference between a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street, and a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street because he doesn’t like blacks/muslims/jews/gays? Is it really worse if one assaults a person because they are Asian, than if one attacks a person because they are old and vulnerable, and therefore an easy target? Hate crime laws muddy the waters. The criminal justice system should punish the act rather than speculating about the motive.

It may, of course, be necessary in some situations to ascertain a motive in order to build a case to prove guilt. That does not however mean that the punishment should be harsher based on that motive. It is not okay to assault someone. It is not okay to murder someone. It actually does not matter what the perpetrator was thinking at the time nor what emotional state they were in.

I have yet to see any evidence that hate crime laws bring any tangible benefit to the groups that it is designed to help. If someone is intending to viciously attack someone else because they are gay; it is a dubious that they will be deterred by the possibility of a longer sentence based on their motive.

Such crimes should have sufficiently harsh sentences regardless of motive, the criminal who isn’t deterred enough by the sentence in the first place won’t think twice because he is committing a hate crime as well as an aggravated assault. Unfortunately, the existence of hate crime laws have not been shown to prevent or deter actions that are deemed to be hate crimes, making them unfit for purpose and a failure on their own terms.

Pandering to identity politics may win votes, but “divide and rule” should not be the mantra of a party that believes it has a monopoly on social solidarity.

Again, it is of course wrong and disgusting for someone to be the victim of crime or prejudiced based on their race, sexuality or religion, but that does not mean we need separate laws when the end result of a racially motivated assault is the same as an assault not motived by race. In the interest of fairness and true equality hate crime laws should be repealed.

New legislation specifically addressing the concerns of Muslims is misguided and wrong. Exacerbating the sense of “otherness” that some Muslims feel will not help us assimilate them into our society, only inclusivity will do that and there is nothing more inclusive than equality before the law.

 

Red meat for the 35%

Well, that was a drab affair. There was not much energy or excitement around the Labour conference and this year Miliband was not able to find the same spark as he had in previous speeches; those that led to a resurgence of spirit in the Labour ranks and surprised the public, the punditry and the party. They were rife with big ideas, big slogans and door step friendly sound bite policies that led to a post-conference poll bounce. I doubt that there will be any significant movement in the polls as a result of this conference. Ed Miliband has consistently surprised me with his ability to give great speeches, and right when he is under pressure too. Not that his policies or ideology attract me but I had to admit to being impressed when he managed to enrapture an audience without notes and capture the attention of the public. This time he fell short, it was not a good speech and it revealed just how narrow an election campaign Labour plans to run. Gone was the whole notion of “one nation” or any attempt to meet issues such as the economy and immigration head on. This was all about throwing enough scraps of red meat to their loyalists, activists and core tribal voters; they are now the party of the 35%.

Ed Balls speech the previous day was even worse. It was uninspiring and did not address any concerns over Labour’s management of the economy. Ed Balls swung from left-wing populism, designed to get the seals to clap, to token disclaimers about the reality of Britain’s financial situation. It seems that the Labour Party is willing to nod its head towards the vast deficit and national debt but is not brave enough to explain what it plans to do about it. Ed Balls announced the already leaked plans to raise the minimum wage, axe the “bedroom tax” and put the top rate of tax back to 50p. Clear answers to the issue of “difficult decisions” were absent, he said labour would maintain the child benefit restrictions, saving a meagre amount of money in the grand scale of things. Given that the state of Britain’s finances is nothing less than a national crisis, making hollow concessions about the need to make ‘difficult decisions’ while planning to put in place new punitive taxes that will bring in meagre amounts of money is a pathetic response. The Raising of the top rate is a counter-productive populist policy for the electoral base, it might excite the 35% but could lose the treasury revenue.

Ed Miliband’s speech was chock full of the kind of fool’s gold idealism and flatulent progressive language that so excites the left. He used the word “together” an absurd amount of times, to convey the image of Labour as the party of social solidarity. They are the party for the many, and their movement is a collective endeavour… the usual socialist hot air. All eye rolling bilge of course, especially from a party with an electoral strategy to limp over the no. 10 threshold with only the votes of their core supporters and a few lapsed Lib Dems. The speeches highlights involved bashing the rich and the Tories, linking them all together with predatory big business and oligarchs. He played to the electorate’s perception of the Tory Party as being representative of the privileged few, contrasting the Conservative ‘leadership that stands for the privileged few’ with Labour’s leadership that fights for you’. Such lines hit the target but were drowned out amidst the tiresome anecdotes in an overlong speech of vague aspirations that failed to make Ed Miliband seem any more prime ministerial.

The Labour Party are on the retreat because Ed Miliband no longer seeks to unite one nation, instead he plans to cobble together a majority by pandering to the party faithful. Left wing populism for the 35% target that ignores thorny issues like the welfare state, spending cuts, immigration and constitutional reform. We now know that the key policies of the campaign will be the plan to raise the minimum wage and invest in the NHS through the “Time to Care Fund”, true Labour populism. Although raising the minimum wage will inevitably lead to job losses and increased difficulty in the job market for the young and unskilled, no matter, it’s a great sound bite and the activists will have a spring in their step when they knock on doors. Investing in the NHS and pledging to hire more nurses, doctors and midwives by clamping down on the tax avoidance schemes used by evil corporations, taxing properties worth more than £2 million and raiding the tobacco companies is a great red meat policy for the party base. Still, it is essentially a foolish avoidance of NHS reform; this behemoth of a health service, creaking and overstretched, that teeters along the edge of insolvency will eventually need more than cash injections from the tax payer.

Labour are ducking the most serious issues and this failure is thankfully likely to keep them out of power. Ed Miliband “forgot” the part of his speech when he was meant to talk about the deficit; basically he bottled it and instead clung to his comfort blanket. For this folly he will be ravaged in the in the media and rightfully so. The economy is the number one issue and the public are wary of Labour’s record yet Miliband was silent and Balls unimpressive on the topic. The potential future Prime Minister forgot to talk about the economy! This is not someone to lend your vote to; there is no sign that the £75 billion in spending cuts that are needed are being contemplated with any seriousness. Maybe I’m wrong, perhaps they will get away with it, perhaps by rallying their loyalist troops and benefiting from their fixed electoral advantages Labour will manage to form a weak majority government. Then we all get to see the British François Hollande swing into action, with his dismal cabinet behind him, ready to implement his ten year plan to realign Britain to Milibandism. Ugh.