Two stories from France today: first, that of Brigitte Bardot and her conviction by the Paris Tribunal Correctionnel for incitement of hatred towards Muslims. It wasn’t her first conviction, either. This time (the offence goes back to 2006) she wrote on her website, referring to Muslim method of slaughtering animals, to which she objects on grounds of cruelty:
Il y en a marre d’être menés par le bout du nez par toute cette population qui nous détruit, détruit notre pays en imposant ses actes.
The relevant legislation is article 24 of the law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press (seriously); it’s been amended recently to cover electronic publication. It punishes among other things incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence towards any person or group because of their origin, their belonging to or not belonging to any ethnic group, nation, race or religion. The maximum penalty is a €4500 fine or a year on prison, or both. Bardot was fined €1500.
I see this conviction as ridiculous, to be honest, and it shows why the National Secular Society among others were right to oppose our own government over its proposed racial and religious hatred bill a couple of years ago. That Bill did get through of course, but an offence is only committed if it can be proved that someone intended to stir up hatred.
Animal rights activists are a prime example of the kind of person who might legitimately want to strongly criticise religious practices – and I don’t see why they shouldn’t do so. This case illustrates how religious extremists and other misguided people are able to use legislation like this. I also wonder where are the prosecutions of mad Muslim preachers, many of whom, I’ve no doubt, often harshly criticise people for not belonging to Islam.
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