Britain should hold a debate on whether to introduce a law banning Holocaust denial, a senior government minister has said
Police and Security Minister Tony McNulty, was speaking exclusively to the Jewish News less than two weeks after Holocaust denier David Irving arrived back in Britain after serving 13 months in an Austrian jail.
Irving was arrested in 2005 on a warrant dating back to 1989 relating to comments he made in a speech and interview during a visit to Austria in which he claimed there had been no gas chambers at Auschwitz.
While Austria, Germany and France are among countries to have laws against Holocaust denial, there is currently no law outlawing this in the UK.
However, McNulty said: “David Irving is one to watch. There is a debate to be had on a Holocaust denial law, especially in terms of incitement to religious hatred or anti-Semitism.”
“But there is a danger of people becoming martyrs to the cause.”
Lord Janner, Chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, welcomed McNulty’s views. He said such legislation would be “great”. However he was pessimistic over the chances of such a law being introduced. “Holocaust denial is worse than libel, but it won’t happen. The chances of getting it in the UK are nil.”
McNulty, the MP for Harrow East, insisted those who deny the Shoah should be challenged and added his voice to the chorus of criticism of ultra orthodox group, Neturei Karta, after members attended the recent Holocaust conference in Tehran.
He said: “It’s strange to see orthodox Jews sitting side by side with Iran. Anyone taking part should be treated with contempt they deserve.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain has said that it will consult members of the Muslim community about whether to participate in January’s Holocaust Memorial Day for the first time. The organisation has not participated in the annual event since it was founded in 2001, arguing that it is too exclusive and does not lend enough weight to other tragedies.
But following a following a meeting last month, a posting on its website said: “MCB's elected Central Working Committee discussed whether or not to accept the invitation to this year's Holocaust Memorial Day. A vote was held and it was decided to undertake a wider consultation of British Muslims on this issue.”
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Karen Pollock said she was pleased the MCB are considering whether to take part. “Let's hope this next step will reverse what has always been in my opinion a misguided decision” she added.
McNulty added: “The MCB is wrong to boycott Holocaust Memorial Day, whatever they feel about other events in history, it misses the point. For all the other atrocities in history, the Holocaust was so mechanised, so formal in a way we have not seen before and happily not since.”
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