Why Britain Should Never Have Banned Geert Wilders
No one even pretends that a person expressing views similar to Wilders' with regard to Christianity or Judaism would be banned from entering the UK. (Also read Phyllis Chesler: Free Speech Under Siege in Britain, Canada, America, and India.)
February 14, 2009 - 12:00 am
For the last couple of years I’ve been holding out against those who claim the spread of Islamic extremism in Britain, the reluctance of the government to combat it forcefully for fear of offending Muslims, and the reluctance of the media, legal, and political establishments to even discuss the issue spell doom for the country. My argument was that while such appeasement and cultural self-loathing make it difficult for us to win the war against the extremists, we could never lose it.
Unfortunately, it looks like we just lost. Following the government’s decision to ban the anti-Islamist Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the country on the grounds that his presence might endanger “public security,” it now only remains to be seen what form the post-war settlement will take. The Islamists, I’d reasoned, could never defeat us with terrorism. But defeat us they have. Not by destroying buildings and subjugating the British people — but by destroying our values and subjugating our freedoms. Not since Munich and Hitler has a British government caved in so completely to the demands of extremists.
Our long and proud tradition of tolerance and free speech is in tatters. It’s doubtful that many of the ministers and officials involved in the decision to ban Wilders have even seen Fitna, the Internet film that shot him to notoriety. Foreign Secretary David Miliband, wheeling out the trope that “the right to free speech doesn’t include the right to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater,” claimed the film contained “extreme anti-Muslim hate.” If Miliband has seen the film, then he’s lying; if he hasn’t seen it, he’s guessing. There’s extreme hate, for sure, but it’s all coming from Muslims. Fitna uses the words of Muslims themselves, in the form of verses from the Koran and video clips of extremist preachers, juxtaposed with footage of terrorist attacks.
One person who certainly hasn’t seen the film is Labour MP Keith Vaz, who appeared on the BBC’s Thursday night edition of Newsnight to condemn the film, but then rather foolishly admitted that he hadn’t got round to watching it — even though, as the presenter reminded him, it’s only 17 minutes long. Undeterred, Vaz insisted that he didn’t need to see it in order to condemn it, and from the government’s point of view he’s quite right, because the ban has nothing to do with anything Wilders has said.
Although they won’t admit as much, government ministers banned Wilders not because they thought he would incite violence, but because they feared that Muslims enraged by Wilders’ views on Islam might react violently to his presence. And like the jittery saloon owner in countless Westerns, they don’t want no trouble, mister.
The government had reason to be worried after Muslim leaders made veiled (no pun intended) threats if Wilders was allowed to attend a screening of Fitna at the House of Lords. The Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed, reportedly claimed he would mobilize 10,000 of his co-religionists in protest. And, as we saw with the recent demonstrations against Israel, “peaceful” protests involving large numbers of young Muslim men, invariably supported by their hard-left allies, have an unfortunate tendency to end in violence and the destruction of property.