anti semitism UK 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The UK Jewish community reacted warmly to the British Home Office's announcement that incitement to religious hatred will now be considered a criminal offense in England and Wales under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, which became effective October 1.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust issued a a joint statement October 2 that noted that "the Jewish community has long been covered by the existing incitement to racial hatred provisions, but we welcome the additional protection afforded to others by the addition to the legislation."
"We also acknowledge the warning that the prosecution threshold will be high in order to deter attempts by religious extremists and sectarian interests to silence others with whom they disagree, as we had argued in our submissions over the years," the statement continued.
The legislation creates a new offense of intentionally stirring up hatred against people on religious grounds, closing a gap in the current legislation.
The incitement of racial hatred is prohibited under the Public Order Act of 1986. Jews and Sikhs have been deemed by the courts to be racial groups and are protected under this legislation. Other groups, such as Muslims and Christians, are considered to be religious rather than racial groups and have, therefore, not previously received any protection under the law.
The new law will give protection to these groups by outlawing the use of threatening words or behavior intended to incite hatred against groups of people defined by their religious beliefs or lack of belief.
"This act closes this small, but important gap in the law against extremists who stir up hatred in our communities," said Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker. "To be attacked or targeted because of your race or religion is wholly unacceptable," he added.
"We are committed to protecting everyone in our society and legislating against this abhorrent behavior. Our overarching goal is to build a civilized society where we can all achieve our potential free from prejudice," Coaker said.