Friday, February 18, 2005


The hunting Act vindictive in its aim and discriminatory in its effect. It takes away liberties from law-abiding people, destroys a deeply-rooted way of life and confers no benefit on any person or animal. It permits the dogs of Labour voters to pursue their favourite quarry, and forbids the dogs of Tories to go after theirs. It reflects no understanding either of hunting or of wildlife, and was passed in defiance of the conclusions of the Government's own official inquiry..... When, why and how is it right to disobey the law? If it is never right to disobey, then tyrants have carte blanche. The racist laws of Nuremberg, the Hindu law of suttee, sharia that condemns adulterers to stoning and a thousand other cruelties become obligatory on those who are commanded to obey them.

So what should we do? It was in answer to that question that Gandhi developed the strategy of "civil disobedience", directed against the authorities in British India. Civil disobedience does not mean breaking the law and then trying to evade it. It means breaking the law overtly and peacefully, while surrendering yourself for punishment. In this way, Gandhi thought, you put a spotlight on the law, draw attention to its injustice, and emphasise that you yourself are no criminal, either by nature or by intention, but simply labelled as such by a sovereign power that has overstepped the bounds of legitimate government....

It seems to me that the crucial point is not the grandeur of the cause but the social impact of the injustice and the lack of an alternative remedy. In our society rules and regulations can be altered, and majority opinion will eventually have its way with them. However, minorities do not enjoy the benefit of majority opinion. Consider what a Muslim should do, when faced with a law that bans halal butchery. Majority opinion will never rescue him, for it is only the Muslim minority that is affected. A strategy of civil disobedience would make it obvious, even to the majority opposed to halal butchery, that you cannot go on sending law-abiding butchers to prison simply to satisfy your beliefs about a matter that does not affect you.

More here. For news on the law see here


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