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UK religious hate bill faces key Commons vote

[JURIST] British politicians, writers and comedians are urging members of the House of Commons [official website] to accept freedom of speech revisions in the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill [text; BBC Q/A], which returns to the Commons for a vote Tuesday. The bill was amended [official amendments; JURIST report] in the British House of Lords [official website] last year when peers voted to restrict punishable actions to "threatening words or behavior" rather than including words which may be insulting or abusive, which critics say would unfairly infringe upon comedians [JURIST report] and writers who satirize religion. The vote on the bill coincides with British police reports indicating that religious hate crimes in London have dropped [BBC report] below their level one year ago for the first time since the London bombings [JURIST news archive] last July. A Metropolitan Police [official website] spokesperson said the lowered number was due to police efforts to reduce faith , but a Muslim Safety Forum spokesman said the drop could be due to unreported incidents. BBC News has more.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Conferences (OIC) [official website, English version] and the Arab League [official website, English version] announced Sunday that they plan to request a resolution from the United Nations [official website] that would ban religious insults. The request has been immediately prompted by cartoons published in a Danish newspaper and a Norwegian magazine depicting the Prophet Muhammad [BBC profile], which many Muslim communities say is blasphemous [OIC press release]. Several Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Libya have publicly condemned the cartoons and have called for the media houses to stop publishing them. Libya said Monday it was closing its embassy in Denmark [AKI report] over the Danish incident. Media Line has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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