After brooding last night, I've slept on the issue of my chance to lobby on the Racial and Religious Hatred bill and I have decided to go down with all guns blazing condeming the whole thing out of hand.
Strangely the clincher has been the proposed PEN freedom of expression amdment that nothing in the bill "shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytizing or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practicing their religion or belief system.
Let's imagine for a second how that would read to a pious Muslim for whom Islam would be to all intents and purposes synonymous with religion. Such a person would be entirely justified in reading the amendment as saying that nothing in the bill "shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of Islam or the beliefs or practices of their Muslims, or proselytizing or urging Muslims to cease practicing their religion or belief system.
Why on earth should we enact such a law? A law that by failing to prohibit or restrict, permits "expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse"?. Why can't the Government just shut up for five minutes? Putting such a thing on the Statute Book as an amendment is an act of lunacy comparable to the original tabling of the legislation. It is clear to me now that once one gets involved in the detail of drafting such laws, almost every wording carries a risk and threat like the unanswerable "have you stopped beating your wife?" question.
The Victorian prime minister Lord Salisbury's maxim on foreign affairs seems apt for this situation: "Whatever happens will be for the worse, and therefore it is in our interest that as little should happen as possible."