Inciting religious hatred is to be made a criminal offence under plans unveiled by Home Secretary David Blunkett.
The government failed to get laws introducing the offence passed by Parliament in the wake of the US terror attacks in 2001.
In a speech in London, Mr Blunkett revived the proposals.
The following do not constitute religious intolerance:
He said he was returning to the plans as there was a need to stop people being abused or targeted just because they held a particular religious faith.
“Extending anti-discrimination law is only worthwhile if we actually change the processes on the ground,” he said in a keynote speech to left-leaning think tank the Institute of Public Policy Research.
Earlier he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the legislation would not curb people’s right to express their view of other people’s religions.
“The issue is not whether you have an argument or discussion or whether you are criticising someone’s religion. It’s whether you incite hatred on the basis of it,” he said.
There is already an offence of inciting racial hatred but this does not offer protection if someone is being targeted because of their religion.
The government is worried in particular about discrimination against Muslims.
The home secretary believes the law change would help tackle religious extremists who preach against other religions.
It is not yet clear exactly when the plans will go before Parliament.
It is thought likely the plans will be part of other legislation rather than forming a Bill on their own.
Tackling extremism, political and religious, was the central theme of Mr Blunkett’s speech.
He is also expected to praise the enormous contribution made by Britain’s ethnic minority communities.
He is keen to stress that the government does not want to create a single common culture but instead values Britain’s diversity.
But Labour peer Lord Desai believes there is no need for the proposed measures.
He told Today: “We will get into a real muddle if we take religion as a ground for prosecution, rather than ethnic stereotyping.
“When people insult Muslims they are not attacking the religion, they are attacking Muslims as a racial group. The protection required is already covered in law.”
Lord Desai suggested Mr Blunkett would have a “very tough time” getting the proposed measures through the House of Lords.
The anti-terror laws introduced in late 2001 after the World Trade Center attacks do include laws which mean courts can take religion, like race, as an aggravating factor when dealing with crimes of violence or intimidation.
But in a last-minute compromise to ensure the main bulk of his anti-terror plans were passed by the House of Lords, Mr Blunkett dropped the proposed incitement to religious hatred offence.
Life of Brian
Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said at the time they would have backed fresh moves to introduce the law away from the pressures of emergency legislation.
Comedians such as Rowan Atkinson raised fears the law change could have outlawed jokes about religion.
The Blackadder star suggested Monty Python’s Life of Brian would not have been made if the law had been in force.
At the time, Mr Blunkett said much of the criticism of the plans had been “nonsense”, adding that jokes would not fall foul of the proposed measures.