UK Christian group plans to highlight concerns about new law by using it to ban the Qur'an

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Saturday, October 15, 2005 Christian Voice, a UK-based Christian evangelical group has announced that it will press for the prosecution, under "hate speech" legislation, of bookshop staff who sell copies of Islam's most sacred text, the Qur'an.

The British government will shortly introduce a new law which is intended to ban incitement to religious hatred.

Christian Voice say that their campaign is actually a protest against this new law, which they believe could be used to stop Christian preachers criticising Islam or "explaining the horrors of Hinduism".

"If the Qur'an is not hate speech, I don't know what is", Christian Voice director Stephen Green told the Guardian newspaper earlier this week, arguing that the Qur'an incites the killing of non-Muslims.

Christian Voice has previously campaigned against the musical "Jerry Springer the Opera", believing it to be blasphemous.

According to the Guardian, the activities of Christian Voice, which it describes as a "fringe fundamentalist" group have "regularly appalled" other Christian groups. But some of the concerns raised by Christian Voice on this particular issue are more widely shared.

The British government says that the new law is needed in order to "draw a line in the sand" and protect religious people from attack.

But critics say that such protections already exist in British law, and fear that the new legislation, as currently designed, could end up being used inappropriately.

In July, the actor Rowan Atkinson (best known for his role in the television series "Blackadder" and "Mr. Bean") described the law as "a sledgehammer to crack a nut". Atkinson raised concerns that it could be used to suppress the satirisation of organised religion.

Lord Carey, the former head of the Church of England, has warned that the "hate speech" law "threatens civil liberties". Hundreds of Christians protested against the law outside Parliament earlier this week.

The government insists that the law is intended to "protect the believer, not the belief", and that it will not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".