Monday, 17 October 2011


Suleman Nagdi's First Person column from today's Leicester Mercury:
Human rights must encompass all communities 
Intentions need to be clarified before a UK Bill of Rights is created, says Suleman Nagdi 
The Government is seeking to change our centuries old political tradition by changing our unwritten constitution into a American-style Bill of Rights. Such a proposal has a few creases which need to be ironed out. In a democratic society, justice demands a proper and measured response in strict accordance with rules of law which have been established over time and following centuries of experience and formulation. 
Our laws should afford every citizen trust and confidence in the system. Security is of paramount importance to preserve our rule of law and the fabric of our society. It is also essential to uphold civil liberties regardless of the circumstances and the crime in question, as this is the hallmark of our society. One does not exclude the other, and both are necessary for the future success of Britain. 
A proposed Bill of Rights seeks to rectify some of the perceived shortcomings within the Human Rights Act in order to repeal it. The main "interference" Prime Minister David Cameron wants freedom from is the prohibition on deporting foreign nationals to countries where there is a real risk they will be tortured. 
Numerous UN Conventions and the European Convention have been drafted to create a set of minimum standards by which all human beings can expect to be treated. Their right to life and freedom from torture is a basic and fundamental right which all nations agreed would be protected. We must contextualise a potential UK Bill of Rights within the framework of wider International Human Rights law so that the provisions which were established over six decades ago are not breached. 
A UK Bill of Rights must also tackle the inherent weakness of the Race Relations Act of 1976 which only gives protection to Jews and Sikhs as racial groups while excluding others, including Muslims, Hindus and other faiths from its definition. This policy is wholly inadequate and leaves groups such as British Muslims vulnerable to religious hate crimes, which are on the rise. This policy is even more obtuse in light of the fact that the governmental, media and other sources continuously refer to Muslims as a distinctive community.The rights and welfare of all British citizens, regardless of their beliefs, ethnicity, colour or gender must be considered. 
A Bill of Rights can provide a unifying force in a diverse society, but it will not do so if it ignores the contribution of many countries, and most cultures, to the human rights values recognised throughout the world today and turns its back on the international Human Rights treaties which virtually every modern Bill of Rights is based on. Furthermore, a UK Bill of Rights must be all encompassing applying universally to all four component countries of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales so as to ensure universal consistency.

Suleman Nagdi is spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organisations.

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