Two of the people behind a campaign against the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York have been barred from entering Britain to speak at an English Defence League rally in London this weekend, it has been announced.
The Home Secretary Theresa May has told Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, both of the anti-Islamic group Stop Islamization of America, that their presence in the UK would “not be conducive to the public good”. The decision, which they cannot appeal, will stand for between three and five years.
According to the Home Office, Mr Spencer and Ms Geller set up organisations “described as anti-Muslim hate groups” and, consequently, they have been told not to travel to Britain.
The decision follows pressure from anti-racist groups and chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz, who wrote to Ms May earlier this week asking her to consider a ban.
A spokesman for Hope not Hate, which led a campaign to ban the pair, declared himself “delighted”. Matthew Collins said: “There is enough hatred in this country at the moment; it is tense.
“There is a line in the sand between freedom of speech and the right to use hate speech. Freedom of speech does not guarantee you that right. We live in a democracy and we believe in free speech. People will now quote Voltaire but he never had the benefit of going to the gates of Auschwitz and seeing where unfettered free speech ends up.”
Ms Geller said: “In a striking blow against freedom, the British government has banned us from entering the country. In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam, the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead.”
Mr Spencer echoed her comments, and added: “This decision is a victory for the campaign of smears and defamation that has been waged against us in the UK since we announced we were going. In reality, our work is dedicated to the defense of the freedom of speech and equality of rights for all. If that is too hot for the U.K. now, then Britain faces a grim future.”
The news comes on the same day that it emerged a Mosque in Redditch was broken into and had Swastikas and the letters “EDL”, as well as other racist messages, daubed on it.
Earlier today, West Mercia Police issued an appeal for witnesses after a break-in at a mosque under construction in Redditch. Officers said that racist graffiti - including the initials of the extremist groups the English Defence League, the National Front and the Ku Klux Klan - was painted on the building.
Treasurer Mobeen Al-Hussain said it was thought the Mosque was broken into by people trying to steal drainage equipment. “It is sad but as a project it's not going to hinder our next phase. We're hoping to have some part of this mosque running by the end of the year, if not fully operational,” he told the BBC.
North Worcestershire police commander, Superintendent Kevin Purcell said: “For as long as I can remember the relationship between the Muslim community in Redditch, the Police and the wider community would best be described as excellent.
“Due to incidents happening nationally targeted patrols have been put in place and these will now be further increased as we will not tolerate mindless attacks of this nature.
“I will be arranging meetings with the chairs of the mosques, local civic leaders and the Independent Advisory Group to reassure them of our commitment and determination to do everything possible to prevent any further such incidents and track down those responsible for this attack.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that Pamela Geller is subject to an exclusion decision. The Home Secretary will seek to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.” EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – aka Tommy Robinson – did not respond to a request for comment.