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  Opinion   Columnists  05 Apr 2024  Farrukh Dhondy | Scotland makes ‘hate’ a crime… J.K. Rowling will test new law

Farrukh Dhondy | Scotland makes ‘hate’ a crime… J.K. Rowling will test new law

In his words: "I am just a professional writer, which means I don't do blogs and try and get money for whatever I write."
Published : Apr 5, 2024, 11:43 pm IST
Updated : Apr 5, 2024, 11:43 pm IST

J.K. Rowling's opposition to transgender policies has sparked debate over Scotland's new hate crime law.

J.K. Rowling poses for photographers upon her arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald', in London, Nov. 13, 2018. Police say J.K. Rowling didn't break the law with tweets criticizing Scotland’s new hate speech law and referring to transgender women as men. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP, File)
 J.K. Rowling poses for photographers upon her arrival at the premiere of the film 'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald', in London, Nov. 13, 2018. Police say J.K. Rowling didn't break the law with tweets criticizing Scotland’s new hate speech law and referring to transgender women as men. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP, File)

“O Bachchoo value other people’s dreams

Those stories full of passion -- and it seems

We live in parallel worlds in our sleep

What’s lost in light, the darkness then redeems

Bachchoo you dream, but can’t recall your own

Voyages and repetitions grown.

Those narratives fade away, though you know

The seeds of fantasy are daily sown.”

From The Rubaiyat of Joe Honaiwalla

Dedicated to and Tr. by Bachchoo

I don’t hate anyone or anything. OK, that’s not quite true -- I hate papaya, taste and smell!

Yes, like anyone else there are things I dislike, but hatred is an emotion that eludes me (So what about the papaya, then? --Ed)

The very concepts of civilisation and society implicitly include the provision of law. Thou shalt not... etc. Murder, assault, steal, libel... though the last one is a bit dodgy and always needs context and interpretation as murder, assault and theft don’t. And even that, as Proudhon said, may be open to question as he maintained that all property is theft.

But hate? The Scottish Parliament has last week passed a law which criminalises “hate”. Scotland’s First Minister Hamza Yusuf says the law against hate crimes was necessary because of the “rising tide of hatred” directed against individuals or groups on the basis of race, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, age, size, transgender… ah, there’s the rub.

Transgender!

Apart from very many liberals who contend that “hate” is difficult to define and that criminalising it is necessarily subjective and could be an assault on opinion and free speech, the most publicised opponent of the new law is J.K. Rowling.

She of the Harry Potter books/universe.

There exists in the UK, as there should, a law against incitement to hate on racial or religious grounds. Of course, a court has to decide that such incitement could lead to assault or to murder. When Hamza Yusuf says that there is a growing tide of hate, he probably takes into account the sort of threats and trolling that goes on over the Internet and on mobile phones. But the law his legislators passed needs strict interpretation and its woolly wording makes this extremely difficult. To combat this difficulty, the Scottish government has initiated online training for police officers to instruct them on interpreting the act. So far, one third of the police forces of Scotland have been subject to such training. Whether the training has been absorbed, or whether it has endowed the pupils with a strict knowledge of the limits of the act, will be as difficult to determine as the precise limits of the concept of “hate”.

We do, however, have one interpreted result. J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh. She was not in Scotland when the new law was passed but she immediately took to the social and then national media to say she would return to Scotland and defy the police to arrest her for her well-known, published and widely-trolled views in opposition to transgender men occupying women’s single-sex spaces.

As the law was passed, Rowling reiterated her belief that a man claiming to be a woman should not qualify as such and be admitted to women’s changing rooms. “Freedom of speech and belief are at an end in Scotland if the accurate description of biological sex is deemed criminal,” she wrote.

Rowling has in the past very clearly said that gender is determined at birth, or even at conception by the trillions of cells and the XX or XY chromosomes they contain. A man is a man and a woman is a woman and there’s no ghost in the machine which is of the opposite gender or even claims to belong to a different species.

The machine is the ghost.

Rowling has in the past been threatened on social media by trans-gender enthusiasts and activists. These trolls could perhaps be prosecuted for threats of rape and murder under the existing laws, but the new “Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act” doesn’t specify that hating someone called J.K. Rowling is an offence. Rowling herself said that if her views qualified as an offence, “I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

Her defiant statements have led the Scottish police to publicly state that the views which she holds are not subject to prosecution under the new law. Ms Rowling welcomed this clarification but Katie Neeves, a transgender man-to-woman whom JK, in previous statements on X, has said is not really a woman just because she asserts it, has publicly expressed her disappointment and said she wanted the police to take into account the fact that Ms Rowling has millions of followers on X and her posts about herself are clearly an incitement to hatred. She wants JK to be prosecuted under the Hate Act.

It won’t happen.

Before writing this column, I didn’t exercise the precaution of Googling to ascertain whether a papaya-growers or papaya-lovers association exists in Scotland. I have often visited the land of the Scottish Enlightenment, for TV festivals and for the Edinburgh Fringe, where I’ve had several staged plays. Oh dear, if such associations or groups do exist, I hope they don’t get hold of this column and lodge a complaint with the Scottish police. I do think Edinburgh is a charming city and I don’t intend to defiantly court arrest and prosecution when I visit. Who knows?

 

Tags: jk rowling transgender comments, farrukh dhondy, hate crime