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Letter writing campaign in response to British Muslims call for laws to protect Muhammad


9 February 2006

Three hundred Islamic religious scholars in the UK are calling for changes in the law to stop publication of any images of Muhammad the prophet of Islam. The Muslim Action Committee want amendments to the Race Relations Act to give Muslims the same protection as Sikhs and Jews. They also want the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to tighten their self-regulatory code of practice to prevent the publication of pictures of Muhammad.


Two more rallies have been planned in response to the Danish cartoons to take place on 11th February and 18th February next. Some 20,000 to 50,000 people are expected to attend the rally on 18th February.

Barnabas Fund is asking concerned Britons to write to their MP and/or the Press Complaints Commission to urge them to preserve our hard won freedoms of speech and expression.

Writing to your MP about the proposed changes to the Race Relations Act.

  • If you do not know who your MP is or which constituency you live in you can find out by clicking this link.
  • Please send letters to the MP at:
    House of Commons
    Westminster
    London, SW1A 0AA
  • Be polite, brief and clear.
  • Urge your MP to stand firm and not succumb to any pressure to change the law.
  • Use as many of the points set out below as you wish. It is more effective if you can use your own words rather than reproduce what we have written.
  • Ask your MP to bring your concerns before the appropriate department and to reply to you telling you what he or she has done. Please let us know their response.
  • The Muslim Action Committee has not specified how it wants the Race Relations Act to be changed but has indicated that its aim is at the very least to protect Muhammad. The suggested points below are made on this basis.


Letters are much more effective than email. However, if you wish to contact your MP by email you can find out the address via this link.

WHAT DO I SAY?

  • Make it clear that you are very concerned that the Government will be pressurised by the Muslim Action Committee and other Muslim organisations into reopening the debate on freedom of speech and changing the law again.
  • Say that the Racial and Religious Bill (passed on 31st January) strikes a right balance between maintaining freedom of speech and protecting individuals. You can make the point that the Bill was debated at length and all views were taken into account.
  • Say that there should not be different rules for Muslims. All faiths should be treated equally.
  • Make the point that if Muhammad's image is protected by amending the Race Relations Act it could lead to the suppression of any form of criticism of Muhammad and Islam with the imposition of legal penalties in the event of a breach. This could have severe repercussions for scholarly debate, preaching Christianity and other non-Muslim faiths and making known the needs of persecuted Christians.
  • The Race Relations Act has nothing to do with religion. It protects Sikhs and Jews (and other people) against discrimination on the basis of their race. It does not prevent theological criticism of Sikhism and Judaism. It has nothing to do with religious protection of faiths from caricature. Therefore it is inappropriate to try to use this law for protecting Muhammad from insult.
  • Because the Press Complaints Commission takes account of parliamentary comment, you may wish to raise some of the points below with your MP.

Writing to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) to ask them not to amend their Code of Practice (Code)

  • Please send letters to the Press Complaints Commission at:
    1 Salisbury Square
    London, EC4Y 8JB
  • Be polite, brief and clear.
  • Use as many of the points set out below as you wish. It is more effective if you can use your own words rather than reproduce what we have written.
  • By way of information, the aim of the Code is to protect the rights of individuals and the right of the press to know. It is self-regulatory and performs two functions. In the PCC's own words it"gives the industry a firm set of principles to guide it; and it gives the Commission a clear and consistent framework within which it can address complaints from members of the public".


Again, whilst letters are much better than email, the PCC's email address is complaints@pcc.org.uk

WHAT DO I SAY?

  • Say that the Code of Practice already includes guidelines relating to religious discrimination whereby the press "must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference" to an individual's religion.
  • Urge the PCC not to change its self-regulatory Code of Practice in order to protect Muhammad; say that Muslims should not be treated differently from those of other faiths.
  • Say that the PCC makes it clear on its website that it does not want to act as a censor. On that basis the Code of Practice should not be tightened up as to do so would create self-censorship and favour one religious community over the rest.
  • Say that the Code of Practice as it stands provides a successful self-regulatory system.


If you have time please also write to any contact you may have in any political party, the Press or anywhere else you think would have influence and urge them also to put pressure on the Government not to back down. Please see above for examples of what should be said.