Imam Syed Soharwardy pauses while talking to his fellow Muslims during a show for support against the attacks on Canadian soldiers
IN PHOTO: Imam Syed Soharwardy pauses while talking to his fellow Muslims during a show for support against the attacks on Canadian soldiers during their memorial service in Calgary, Alberta, October 24, 2014. The Muslims Against Terrorism and Islamic Supreme Council of Canada were holding a memorial service for the two Canadian soldiers killed this past week. Reuters/Todd Korol

With Britain going to polls in a week’s time on May 7, parties are wooing influential social groups for support. Latest in that practice is Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who has promised outlawing "Islamophobia" if he becomes the next prime minister.

The move has been dubbed by many critics as "utterly frightening" because it has implications on free speech in Britain. Political analysts see it as a renewed effort by Miliband to pander to Muslim voters in what is being described as "the tightest general election for a generation." British Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Labour in the 2010 general election and they have numbers that can tilt the outcome in many constituencies.

Miliband made this statement in an interview with The Muslim News, "We are going to make Islamophobia an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people's records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime. We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country,” Miliband said.

Reviving Hatred Law

Miliband appears to reopen the long-running debate in Britain over the so-called religious hatred law. Between 2001 and 2005, the Labour government led by Prime Minister Tony Blair tried twice to amend Part 3 of the Public Order Act 1986 to cover its existing provisions on racial hatred to religious hatred as well. In January 2006, the House of Lords approved the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, but only after amending it to make sure that the law would be limited to banning only "threatening" words and not any abusive or insulting words.

Muslim Blasphemy Law

Miliband's renewed promise that his party would make "Islamophobia"an "aggravated crime" signals an attempt to turn the 2006 Act, which has provision for seven years in prison, into a full-blown Muslim blasphemy law. British commentator Leo McKinstry noted that "Miliband's proposal goes against the entire tradition of Western democracy, which holds that people should be punished only for their deeds, not their opinions."

Paying A Price

Enraged critics have now urged Miliband to direct “Labour apparatchiks brainwashed about the joys of multiculturalism to root out the hate crime of misogyny.” They say Islamophobia is only an irrational fear and is being blown out of proportion, reports Telegraph. The report also points out that Denis McShane, former Labour MP for Rotherham having admitted that “misplaced racial sensitivity” or fear of being seen as Islamophobic prevented him from raising the widespread sexual abuse allegations and oppression of women in the Muslim community. It alleged that a group of influential Pakistani councillors in Rotherham had been blocking attempts to tackle the abuse cases involving Asian woman.

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