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CRE urges law against religious bias

Reconsideration of the law was urged by CRE chairman Trevor Phillips after a Muslim woman was subjected to "lynch mob" harassment.

india Updated: Oct 17, 2003 13:30 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality Trevor Phillips has urged MPs to reconsider their rejection of a law against religious discrimination after a Muslim woman was subjected to "lynch mob" harassment. He told the MPs that there was a growing trend of attacks on Muslims motivated not by race but by religion.

The 25-year-old woman has not been named because of fears for her safety. But according to the police she is an Iraqi who has been living in Britain for seven years. She complained that she had been threatened and abused since the Iraq war just because her headscarf marked her as Muslim.

In one of the recent attacks a mob of over 30 had gathered outside her house in the Buckland estate in Portsmouth. Her door was banged and hit several times with baseball bats. Bricks were then thrown through the windows. She is so frightened that she is now considering returning to Baghdad. She said she might feel more secure there despite the reported lawlessness in the city.

Phillips recalled that only a few weeks earlier some writings on the walls of the Central Birmingham mosque desecrated the centre of worship of Muslims and then there have been stories about some Iranians having been stabbed in Newcastle. "Iraqi Kurds were beaten in Plymouth. One of the things that is most appalling to me is the feeble response of Parliament on this."

A committee of the House of Lords has been considering whether the laws against blasphemy that cover only attacks on the Church of England should be changed now to cover attacks on all faiths.
But as far as the recent attacks on Iraqis or Iranians are concerned, sources said that they were motivated because of the Middle East situation and not because of any religious hatred. "Otherwise Muslims from other countries like Pakistan would have come under attack or abuse."

First Published: Oct 17, 2003 13:30 IST