Qaradawi calls for peaceful protests against Burn a Koran Day

Qaradawi2The International Union of Islamic Scholars has urged Muslims to react peacefully to the planned burning of copies of the Holy Quran by a small church in the US on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Saturday.

The head of the Union, Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, in a statement yesterday called on fellow Muslims to protest in a peaceful manner and seek legal recourse against the group. “The man who has given the deplorable call and his group must be prosecuted,” said Dr Qaradawi. “The call is against the teachings of Christianity.”

The Doha Centre for Interfaith Dialogue has also condemned the call and said it reflected extremism and ignorance and ran contrary to the basic tenets of Christianity. “Christianity preaches peace and peaceful coexistence,” said Dr Ibrahim Al Nuaimi, the centre’s chairman.

The Peninsula, 9 September 2010

The problem with Qaradawi’s proposal that pastor Terry Jones should be prosecuted is that the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech, has been used to prevent the introduction of laws against incitement to hatred. Indeed, in the US it is possible to incite not only hatred but even violence against Muslims, as long as the call to violence remains generalised. So opponents of Jones’s vile behaviour do not in fact have any legal recourse.

It’s also worth considering what would happen in the UK if someone were to repeat Jones’s actions here. The reality is that a successful prosecution would be impossible under the existing religious hatred law, as it would be necessary to prove that the individual intended to incite hatred against Muslims, which they would certainly deny, and that the words and actions should be threatening, which they would not be.

On the other hand, if someone were to incite hatred against the Jewish community in the UK by erecting signs reading “Judaism is of the Devil”, burning copies of the Torah and claiming that Jews are the agents of Satan, then that individual could be successfully prosecuted – because Jews are defined as a mono-ethnic faith group and are therefore covered by the law against incitement to racial hatred, which requires neither proof of intent nor that incitement should take the form of threats.