Democracy depends on freedom of expression. As the former attorney general of India has said, "We need not more repressive laws but more free speech to combat bigotry and to promote tolerance."
Sometimes religion needs to be criticised. This is where religious leaders have been less than frank in this debate; we have to admit that religion holds sway over people. Religious power is as corrosive as its political version: it must not be allowed to escape the scrutiny of public comment and criticism.
By trying to close a putative "small gap in the law", the Government will be opening a chasm into which the vulnerable, not least women and children, will fall and languish, because people will be hesitant to criticise either the specifics or the generalities of a faith for fear of being prosecuted under this new Bill. Is this what the Government really wants?
I put this point about the vulnerability of women and children to a government minister in a private discussion. The thoughtful silence showed the deep-down doubt about the wisdom of this legislation. Why is the Government so publicly impervious to persuasion?
Some think that it was a deal done at the last election to recover the Muslim vote wiped out by mythical weapons of mass destruction. It would be good to prove the cynics wrong by making a U-turn on this Bill.
The British have an unhealthy obsession with the Iraq War. The jihad is a cyclical phenomenon, dependent only on how seriously and literally Muslims read the Koran.