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September 29, 2001

Need for law on incitement of religious hatred, says Met chief

Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John Stevens said Friday that he accepts there is a need for new legislation to cover the incitement of religious hatred, The Muslim News reports.
Speaking at a meeting at London’s Central Mosque, he said that evidence of hate e-mails being sent to Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in the US were being sent to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if prosecutions can be brought against the culprits.
When challenged by The Muslim News that as the CPS will not be able to prosecute the culprits as there is not legislation on incitement of religious hatred, the Police Chief replied he would see if this could be brought under the incitement of racial hatred. "We can't do much but test the system to the limits”, he said.current legislation. But he said he accepted that there was a need for the legislation to outlaw incitement of religious hatred.
Lord Harris of the Metropolitan Police Authority, who accompanied Sir John, also said that he was aware that Race Relations legislation was silent about religious hatred and that he would raise the issue in the House of Lords. He said he knew of "many Islamophobic" incidents against Muslims.
The Director of the Central Mosque, Dr Ahmed al-Dubayan thanked Sir John for the police support during the unprecedented backlash against the British Muslim community, saying that Islam was a religion of peace and against terrorism. But stressed that there was a need for greater protection.
The Commissioner agreed to a request to have CCTV installed in the Mosque’s ground and in adjacent areas. He said that he would also see what he could do to help with planning permission, which had been rejected, to have a fence built around the Mosque site because of its openness and vulnerability, especially at night.
In response to a parent, who gave examples of physically abuse outside a Muslim school in Brent, Sir John said that he would try to ensure that there were police presence near Islamic schools in future. With regard to complaints about the lack of protection, he said there were mechanisms in place following the Lawrence report to build up confidence with communities.
The Muslim community were “part of us,” the Met Commissioner said. “No one should take advantage” of the situation, all should abide by the law.

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