Criminal acts of revenge against local Muslims have prompted the British government to debate a toughening of their hate crime laws. Present law provides penalties for racial or religiously motivated destruction of life or property.
Home Secretary David Blunkett has proposed that the law be broadened to include "incitement" to hatred. Blunkett said that he was reacting to requests from the British Muslim community.
Opponents point out that any move in that direction requires a legal definition of religion and jeopardizes freedom of speech. Some Muslims even objected to the proposal recognizing that their ability to propagate their religion might be curtailed.
A recent furor over a Muslim guest on a British talk show illustrates the hazard. Show host Jimmy Young interviewed Muslim Abdul Haq, head of an organization that is sending British Muslims to Afghanistan to fight on the side of the Taliban.
Haq stated, "We will continue to struggle and strive until we see the flag of Islam flying over 10 Downing Street." He also declared that the aim of his organization was a world Islamic state.
A storm of protest from listeners has caused Scotland Yard to launch an investigation into whether any existing incitement laws had been broken.
For soul winners, also, this is threatening, since it sometimes becomes necessary to point out the errors of other religions such as Islam, Roman Catholicism or Mormons. Critics of Chick tracts have for years, tried to label the soul winning booklets as "hate literature."
So far, America's freedoms of speech and religion hold firm. But we must pray that the confusion over responding to terrorism does not cause unnecessary restriction on our ability to get the gospel out.