According to Wikipedia, at least, blasphemy laws were enforced at a very low level in the UK until they were recently repealed in England, Wales, and Scotland—though they remain in force in Northern Ireland. I’ve left the links in the excerpt below in case readers want to check.
England and Wales abolished their blasphemy law in 2008. On 24 April 2020, the Scottish Government published a new bill that sought to reform hate crime legislation to provide better protection against race, sex, age and religious discrimination, and also decriminalised blasphemy. This bill was approved by Holyrood on 11 March 2021 and the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 received royal assent on 23 April 2021. The abolition of the common law of blasphemy will take effect when section 16 of the Act is brought into force by commencement order Humanists UK, that had been campaigning for repealing Scotland’s blasphemy law since 2015, welcomed the bill.
Yet prohibitions against blasphemy are apparently still being enforced in England—but only in defense of a single religion, and in schools, not the courts (though the coppers get involved). Guess which religion?
Yes, you’re right. Here’s a BBC article about it, sent in by a British reader. Click to read:
Four pupils have been suspended from a West Yorkshire secondary school after a copy of the Quran was damaged by students.
Wednesday’s incident at Wakefield’s Kettlethorpe High School happened when a copy of the Islamic text was brought in by a Year 10 pupil.
Head teacher Tudor Griffiths said the book remained intact and there was “no malicious intent” from those involved.
He held a meeting with concerned community leaders on Friday.He said reports the Quran had been burnt or destroyed were untrue, and he had inspected the book himself during the meeting.
Independent councillor for Wakefield East, Akef Akbar, called the meeting after being contacted by people calling for more information.
Mr Akbar said he had been told the book had been taken to school as a dare by a pupil who lost while playing a Call of Duty videogame with other students.
While at the school it sustained a slight tear to the cover and smears of dirt on some of the pages.
Mr Akbar said he understood it had been kicked around on the school premises – a claim denied by the school.
Head teacher Mr Griffiths said in a statement: “We would like to reassure all our community that the holy book remains fully intact and that our initial enquiries indicate there was no malicious intent by those involved.
According to The Critic piece by Ben Sixsmith, here’s how the damage to the Qur’an occurred:
Apparently, one of the pupils [JAC: later described as “highly autistic”] brought the Quran into school after losing a bet. (This doesn’t make a lot of sense to me but kids make odd decisions.) According to the school’s investigation, it appears that one of the students dropped the book after being collided with. It also picked up a smudge of dirt — which will surprise no one who is familiar with the hygiene of teenage boys.
Somehow, rumours spread. Activists came to believe that the Quran had been kicked or spat on, which inflamed a “huge uproar” in the Muslim community. Some even suggested that the Quran had been torn up in front of Muslim students.
Had that taken place it would have been deplorable. (Just as if a Bible had been torn up in front of Christian students, or a Torah in front of Jewish students.) As far as I can tell, though, there is no evidence that it did.
But activists were unsatisfied — elected officials among them. Usman Ali, for example, a local Labour councillor, announced that the Quran had been “desecrated” and that the school, the police and local authorities should be taking “swift and appropriate action to deal with this grave situation”. “We all need to work together to make sure that this terrible provocation does not set back community relations,” Ali wrote — blissfully unaware that the people endangering community relations were those, like him, who were treating an incident of teenage rambunctiousness like a school shooting.
Here’s the damage that the kerfuffle caused: a slight smudge (from the BBC article):
More from The Critic (yes, they editorialize), which adds two more things. First, the police were involved—twice (in bold below). Second, the autistic boy has received death threats.
The school, after liaising with the police — because of course the police have nothing better to do than investigating slight cosmetic damage to a book — and “community leaders” — whoever the hell they are — suspended the boys.
Independent councillor Akef Akbar is playing the peacemaker in this situation. He has emphasised that “absolutely nobody should engage in any violence”, and that the kids who have been suspended should be “protected and safeguarded”. Well, that’s good.
But while I think Mr Akbar is sincere in his desire to stabilise community relations, the premises he works from need interrogating. He is asking local Muslims to be magnanimous enough to tolerate an outrageous provocation — when in reality it was a non-event that should not have caused a scandal to begin with.
In one video released on his Facebook page [see below], he addresses Wakefield residents alongside a woman who he introduces as the mother of the boy who brought the Quran into school. The boy, it turns out, was “highly autistic” — yet more reason to sympathise with him! But while Akbar is preaching peace — certainly better than the alternative — he is still behaving as if the boy committed some sort of monstrous crime. He was “rightfully expelled”, he says. His mother has “of course shown her remorse”. “Of course”! What do you mean “of course”!? Why should she feel remorse because her son brought a book into school?
Akbar tells us that the autistic boy has been receiving death threats and threats to beat him up. You might think this would be cause for fierce condemnation. “Passions do flare,” says Akbar, “And sometimes we let them out in the wrong manner.” Passions do flare? We’re talking about death threats — not someone using the f-word. Imagine the uproar if a Muslim child received death threats and a white politician shrugged “passions do flare”.
“The mother has had to inform the police,” Akbar says, but “to her credit” she doesn’t want the children to be prosecuted. Why shouldn’t she?
The video with the lucubrations of councillor Akbar is embedded in one of the tweets below. As the British reader noted:
There was a farcical “hearing” at a local mosque about it that tried hard to make itself look like a court, even though it’s no such thing and has no formal power [JAC: the FB page, which has sound, is here and in the tweet below.]
This quasi-judicial mosque hearing about the incident is extraordinary. The autistic non-Muslim boy was interrogated on how he must treat the Quran. Police aren't investigating death threats he received.
Who should be suspended or referred to PREVENT here?https://t.co/IP036rg6pO
— Adrian Hilton (@Adrian_Hilton) February 26, 2023
Personally I think this is crazy – my country doesn’t have blasphemy laws, I’m glad it doesn’t have them, I don’t want them introduced by the back door, and I’m amazed at how quiescent politicians are on this sort of thing. It’s cowardly, and the four kids clearly don’t deserve any kind of punishment at all. And of course some of the people who ARE willing to talk about the story are the skinhead brigade. Vacating the field like this seems both morally wrong and highly irresponsible.