Hate crime against Christians is only slowly beginning to be recognised by the UK government despite significant acts of violence being committed against Christians because of their faith. This was one of the main conclusions of evidence submitted by Barnabas Fund in December to an inquiry by the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs. Our evidence identified three broad types of anti-Christian violence in the UK:
Acts of violence against Christians arising from a general contempt for Christians held by some sections of society. This is broadly similar to some forms of anti-semitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
Threats and sometimes actual acts of violence carried out against Christians and Christian property by a minority of gay rights extremists. For example, the arson and death threats received by the owners of Ashers Bakery in Belfast after they declined an order to bake a cake promoting the redefinition of marriage.
Attempts at forced reconversion back to Islam of Christians from Muslim family backgrounds. Such attempts may involve illegal imprisonment for days, weeks or even months in a room or garage, extreme physical and emotional abuse, attempts to lure the person overseas where they may be subjected to similar forms of “persuasion” and/or forced marriage to a Muslim. Despite the widespread existence of such violence and organisations such as Barnabas Fund repeatedly raising this issue over many years, the UK hate crime action plan still does not even mention it.
Barnabas Fund’s evidence also raised concern about the misuse of hate laws by Islamists and others to try to silence any debate critical of their own beliefs or lifestyle. In particular, it raised concern about the use of the term “Islamophobia” and suggested that it should be replaced by “anti-Muslim hatred”. Islamophobia is frequently used to refer to anti-Muslim hatred AND to any comments deemed to be critical of Islam. As such, it is in effect being used to promote the equivalent of an Islamic blasphemy law in the West. Indeed, as we report elsewhere in this week’s Christian Action, it is significant that Pakistani newspapers are now beginning to label false accusations made against Christians under that country’s Islamic blasphemy laws as “hate speech”.
Hate crime legislation needs to make a clear distinction between its proper role in protecting people and its misuse to silence criticism of beliefs or ideas. It must never be allowed to be used as a weapon to silence legitimate criticism of any belief or ideology, whether Christian, Islamic or humanist, however much that may offend the adherents of those beliefs. To read Barnabas Fund’s submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee on the UK parliament website click here.