Three years ago this month, on Monday 22 May 2017, twenty-two people were massacred, and 139 people were wounded by a suicide bomber at the Manchester Arena. The victims were mainly teenagers and young people. At the time, I wrote a post on my blog challenging the impact of Islam on the British way of life. As a matter of utter triviality compared to the carnage at Manchester Arena, I lost my job for speaking freely and critically about the religion of Islam and its pernicious effects on freedom and democracy. A British management consultancy, PA Consulting, decided that preserving its woke credentials was more important than living up to its ‘core values’ and so terminated my contract with them summarily. To criticise Islam publicly is to invoke opprobrium as I discovered.
Freedom of speech is a precious thing. Notwithstanding, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mr Humza Yousaf, is seeking to bring into Scots law a bill which is designed, inter alia, to criminalise unacceptable thinking. Had Mr Yousaf’s bill – the “Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill” – been on the statute books when I wrote my blog post in 2017, I would almost certainly have had a knock on my door from Police Scotland.
Like Sharks Scenting Blood
Last year I was attacked in the Scottish Nationalist press by a Scottish Labour Party Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mr Anas Sarwar. Mr Sarwar accused me publicly of being a criminal; specifically, of being an ‘abhorrent racist’. Racism is a crime. Mr Sarwar had no credible evidence of me committing a crime. However, he didn’t like something I’d written on this blog criticising the religion of Islam in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombings. So, casual application of the word ‘racist’ suited Mr Sarwar’s requirement. Incidentally, Islam isn’t a race, of course, but that’s another discussion.
Had I in fact committed the crime of racism I would have heard from Police Scotland by now (nothing yet). It’s convenient to call someone a racist if you don’t like their point of view because certain quarters of the media and other individuals and organisations round on the alleged racist in the same way that sharks react to blood in the water. In fact, what Mr Sarwar was trying to do was have me discredited as a Brexit Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) and removed from the political landscape. Working with a Scottish Nationalist journalist to see off a Brexit Party PPC was a marriage made in Jannah as far as Mr Sarwar was concerned.
What happened was predictable. Being publicly labelled a ‘racist’ is, at the best of times, a bit of a bummer and can result in media attention and unwanted and unwarranted grief. In the febrile atmosphere prior to the 2019 General Election, being publicly labelled a ‘racist’ was a sure-fire way to be let go by any political party and I was no exception (there were other PPCs like me suffering similar fates at the time). It doesn’t matter if one is in fact a racist, or not. I’m not a racist, of course. However, the mere act of accusing someone of racism is usually enough to impugn them and that was Mr Sarwar’s motive. Such are the virtue-signalling times in which we live.
Offensive Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
What interested me at the time was how easy it was for a politician (in this case) summarily to terminate freedom of speech. Instead of engaging me in a discussion about my arguably controversial views on Islam, Mr Sarwar, in collusion with a low-circulation, sectarian newspaper, was able to suffocate my contribution to political discourse in a trice. My views on Islam may have offended some but offensive, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. When the incident occurred, I was contacted by a number of Muslim women despairing that my voice had been silenced (by a male Muslim, funnily enough). One Muslim lady in particular was so upset by what had happened that I ended up agreeing to meet her privately in the south of England some weeks later. She was a charming, intelligent and formidable lady, and Mrs Moraymint and I spent a most enjoyable day in her company. She struck me as a woman of integrity; not an attribute one would associate with Mr Anas Sarwar MSP. The general rule is that discussing Islam in British society is a no-no. Certainly, projecting any kind of full and frank analysis of the compatibility of Islam with the British way of life is dangerous territory. Go further and have an irreverent or barbed pop at the religion of Islam (ie be offensive about Islam) and you’ll be labelled a ‘racist’ before you can say the Prophet Mohammed. Remember, like I said, Islam is not a race, but it’s extremely convenient to call Islam’s critics racists. I’m proof positive of that. The Muslim Council for Britain has been lobbying to have Islam treated as a race for some time now, in order to be able legitimately to criminalise people like me.
Incidentally, three months after the ‘abhorrent racist’ press incident, I had my management consulting contract with PA Consulting terminated behind my back. I was informed one day, out of the blue, over the telephone in a five-minute call, without any prior consultation, that my services were no longer required. When I challenged PA Consulting’s Chief Executive about my summary dismissal (effectively) I was told that I had been fired (effectively) because my views, as reported in the press, were unacceptable to PA Consulting. As I said, simply being labelled a racist without any evidence to support such an allegation usually means you’re stuffed. Again, Mr Sarwar and his journalist friend were well aware that casually slinging the sobriquet ‘racist’ at me would be an effective and efficient way of side-lining me in the arena of political discourse. Speaking freely about Islam, still less offending followers of that religion, must not be tolerated, including by PA Consulting.
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill
In keeping with the themes of making Islam largely untouchable and treating freedom of speech as an irritating feature of society, another Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mr Humza Yousaf (Scottish National Party), is now leading the introduction of new legislation in Scotland, namely the Orwellianesque ‘Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines hate to mean ‘an intense dislike for, or a strong aversion towards’. Mr Yousaf is moving us deftly down the thought-crime route here. It’s hard to see how hating something/someone or indeed encouraging others to hate something which you also happen to hate could be a criminal offence in itself, but that’s where Mr Yousaf is striving to take Scots law. If Mr Yousaf’s Bill is passed in the Scottish Parliament, it would be a criminal offence to ‘stir up hatred’ towards a random selection of targets chosen by Mr Yousaf and the co-authors of his Bill. For now, these targets have been identified as religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, transgender identity or variations in sexual characteristics, but the Scottish government would be able to pick and choose other protected species in the future.
This is very worrying in terms of freedom generally and freedom of speech especially. It’s one thing in society to threaten life, limb or property or, worse, to act in ways which take life, or harm people or damage property; those are and should be crimes. However, to make hating something/someone a crime, jointly or severally, is the stuff of fascism – increasingly a hallmark of politicians of the left, ironically. Now, I’m not a fan of hatred. I don’t even like the word and I choose not to use it in my everyday lexicon. Not quite true, I hate rhubarb and I inform Mrs Moraymint as such if ever she tries to serve me up a plate of the stewed stuff. However, the idea that we’re going to police people for holding ‘an intense dislike for, or strong aversion towards’ something, and who might encourage others to share that dislike/aversion is the stuff of nightmares. Where would I stand under such a new law if I got carried away expressing my hatred of rhubarb and, worse, stirred up a similar hatred in others? Would I get a knock on the door in the early hours of the morning? On the other hand, if rhubarb is an acceptable target to be hated by me and a group of rhubarb-hating fanatics, why is that? Who decides what we can hate and thereby avoid the long arm of the law and what we cannot hate and, therefore, be exposed to arrest and conviction? Under Mr Yousaf’s Bill, if you’re convicted of hating one of his ‘thou shalt not hate this’ targets then you could end up in prison for up to 7 years.
For an individual to hate something and/or to spend time with others sharing their hatred, whilst unsavoury in itself, can’t surely be a criminal offence, can it? Well, it would be under Mr Yousaf’s Bill. If hatred leads to hateful actions, then that’s different. However, we have laws to protect people from being the victims of hateful actions and to deter people from acting hatefully. But to make it a crime to think or talk or write hatefully, or to encourage others to share your hatred, is very sinister. Where do you draw the line with this sort of warped legislation?
Who decides what can or cannot be hated, and on what criteria? Think of me and rhubarb. After all, hatred in itself harms no third party as such. Whether one person or one hundred people hate this or that, is neither here nor there. How can we possibly, therefore, make the emotion of hatred a crime? Hatred is not very nice, like I said earlier. But this is the nanny-state going mad (again). In fact, being filled with hatred does most damage to the hater himself in my experience. People who devote energy to hating this or that are usually pretty sad in themselves but invariably harmless to others.
On the ageism front, for example, under Mr Yousaf’s proposed law, can we hate young people below the age of, say, 32 years old (hating them is OK), but be arrested for a criminal offence if we declare we hate people aged 74 years and above, and if we share our hatred with others and stir up such hatred? The latter would be deemed to be some form of age-related hate crime. Again, who decides what age is, or is not acceptable to be hated? My little group don’t do anything, as such, we just agree to hate people over 74 years-old and hope that there will be more of us over time. How can this in and of itself be a crime? After all, hatred is an emotion, that’s all. What’s the burden of proof for showing that I’m a hateful person and deserve to be convicted and sent to prison? Can I form a ‘Hate Rhubarb’ group through my blog here and stir up such hatred in others? If ‘stirring up hatred’ becomes a crime in its own right, why would a well-orchestrated ‘Hate Rhubarb’ campaign not be deemed criminal activity? Or, a ‘Hate Ginger-Haired People’ campaign; would that be an acceptable or unacceptable form of hateful thinking? Mr Yousaf will decide.
What if I write 850 words here on my blog having an irreverent and barbed pop at Islam (oops, I’ve done that in the past) and then below the post I start ‘Liking’ comments from readers who share my views? Am I then ‘stirring up hatred’? So what if I am? Has anybody been physically hurt? Has property been damaged? If someone having read my blog decided to go out and scrawl graffiti over a Mosque, there are laws to prevent that sort of behaviour and to criminalise the offender. However, under Mr Yousaf’s Bill, here’s the future:
Police Officer: ‘Why did you scrawl graffiti over the Mosque, Jimmy?’
Jimmy: ‘Because Moraymint seems to have a problem with the religion of Islam and its compatibility with the British way of life. I think he hates Islam’.
Police Officer: ‘Right, thanks Jimmy, we’ll nick Moraymint too – hateful, stirring bastard that he is. Thankfully, we’ve got Mr Yousaf’s new law now, Jimmy, which says people like Moraymint can’t express their intense dislike for, or strong aversion to Islam in public and get you to go along with him. He’ll go down for this one’.
You can see where Mr Yousaf is coming from. He doesn’t want people thinking the wrong thoughts or saying or writing the wrong stuff, still less being offensive towards individuals and groups Mr Yousaf thinks should be wrapped in cotton wool. In Mr Yousaf’s mind, we can’t be trusted to love this or hate that for fear of things getting out of hand. Therefore, it would be best if the Scottish government proscribed a range of targets which citizens can’t, jointly or severally, have ‘an intense dislike for, or strong aversion towards’ (ie hate) because then we’ll be able to co-exist in harmony (Orwell would love this stuff).
In this post I’ve taken an at times somewhat light-hearted approach to what is a desperately serious matter. However, I’m not the only one horrified at the implications of Mr Yousaf’s attempt to stifle freedom of speech.
Writing at spikedonline, Emma Webb, Director of the Forum on Integration & Extremism (FIDE) at Civitas said, ‘the instinct behind this Bill is ugly and misguided. In a free society, the state cannot be allowed to decide what we can say, think, read or share with each other. For its supposed good intentions, this Bill is taking us further down a dangerous road’.
Interestingly, a former Deputy Leader of the Scottish National Party, Mr Jim Sillars is on record as saying, ‘Scots are now locked in a woke chamber: virtue-signalling, pandering to perceived victimhood, punishing any who assert biological fact, placing a halter of criminality on free thought when articulated by speech, abandoning common-sense. It’s all there in [Mr Yousaf’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill]’.
The Scotsman newspaper argues that Mr Yousaf’s Bill ‘[would criminalise] language deemed to be offensive [not just as directed at an individual], but anything written, broadcast or performed and deemed to have the potential to inflame would be an offence’. The Scotsman goes on to point out that ‘the legislation states that it would be an offence if “the person intends to stir up hatred” or “if it is likely that hatred will be stirred up”. Therefore, it’s possible that even if it wasn’t the intention, a subjective judgement of likelihood could lead to charges. With this legislation the police are unlikely to have to go looking for cases because it opens up a whole new avenue for political activists to use their terms to close down their opponents’. Mr Anas Sarwar would have a field day on people like me under Mr Humza Yousaf’s legislation. Obviously, men from the same stable.
Also writing at spikedonline, Professor Andrew Tettenborn, Professor of Commercial Law at Swansea University said, ‘put bluntly, these are terrible proposals. The Scottish government has no interest whatsoever in freedom of speech. Instead, it wants to project a comforting, woke image to professionals and [its other supporters]. The Bill must be opposed. Not only is it appallingly illiberal in itself, if passed it would not be the last word. Indeed, the Bill itself envisages going further still: it contains a sinister power for the Scottish government to extend its effect … so as to criminalise misogynistic speech too’.
Chris Slogget at the National Secular Society said, ‘the Bill’s provisions on religious hatred risk enacting a de facto clampdown on freedom of expression’.
In The Spectator, Stephen Daisley said, ‘the Bill is drafted in such a way that in abolishing the old offence of blasphemy it threatens to introduce a new, more wide-ranging one. If you hate religion and want to encourage others to do the same, you’ll have to do it on the other side of the [England/Scotland] border’.
Finally, my own union, the Free Speech Union said this about Humza Yousaf’s Bill: ‘it will enable groups claiming to speak for people in the protected categories to lobby the authorities to prosecute anyone who challenges their ideology on the grounds that doing so is likely to stir up hatred. Under this new law, not only will those who challenge identitarian dogma be vulnerable to prosecution, but anyone who possesses “inflammatory material” will be too, as will theatre producers who put on plays expressing these forbidden ideas and the actors who perform in them. If the Bill passes, Scotland will become the most aggressive regulator of speech in the United Kingdom and one of the most belligerent in Europe. And it could easily become the basis of a similar law in England and Wales’.
Why Do Politicians Do This?
It’s depressing having to take on in this way one’s own elected representatives; men like Humza Yousaf who are minded to suppress our freedoms in law. One wonders why people like Mr Yousaf and Mr Sarwar seek public office in the first place holding as they do such regressive attitudes to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Riding on the backs of the 15,316 people (0.3% of Scotland’s population) who voted for him at the last Scotland Election, Mr Yousaf potentially wields staggeringly disproportionate power over our lives here in Scotland. It would be disgusting if Humza Yousaf’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill ever became Scots law, but there are plenty of people in Scotland who would relish its arrival on the statute book; Anas Sarwar would be one of them, no doubt. What do you think?
Opportunity to Comment on Mr Yousaf’s Bill
The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Bill was introduced on 23 April and is open to public consultation – a Call for Views – until 24 July. The Bill is, to all intents and purposes, a fascist’s charter and I intend to lodge a formal objection to the Bill becoming law. On reading this post, if you live and vote in Scotland, you may wish to respond yourself to the Call for Views. You may also wish to bring this blog post to the attention of your own Members of the Scottish Parliament accompanied by your own thoughts on Mr Yousaf’s Bill.
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See you down the pub … eventually.