A red carpet premiere missing its star

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As film premieres go it was hardly the Odeon Leicester Square. Lord Pearson of Rannoch had a red carpet for his screening of the anti-Islamic film Fitna yesterday but then again, crimson is the standard colour for all the flooring in the House of Lords.

What the UK Independence Party lacked for its 4pm debate was a star, after the far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders was turned back at Heathrow.

Two doorkeepers, resplendent in tailcoats and brass heraldic badges, were stationed outside the door to Committee Room 4 in their Lordships' house for the event deemed so controversial that Mr Wilders was banned from entry to Britain by the Home Office. Black Rod, the most senior of the "men in tights" in the Lords, even made an appearance in the corridor.

Inside the oak-panelled room, its yellow-papered walls and U-shaped desk more used to Lords committees and legal hearings, only 25 souls – not including a handful of reporters – turned out to see Mr Wilders' 17-minute film projected on to screens at either end.

It was preceded by a decade-old Dispatches documentary chronicling the radical Islamic activities of preachers such as Abu Hamza, who proposed a flying net laced with explosives to bring down aircraft.

A small ripple of applause broke out from the front row of red leather chairs after the end of Mr Wilders' film. A small panel discussed the images before the whole event was repeated at a press conference outside the Palace.

Fitna juxtaposes verses from the Koran with gruesome images of the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers, blood spattered corpses after the Madrid train bombings and the severed head of a victim of hooded kidnappers. To a brooding classical soundtrack, the film shows a graph of the increasing numbers of Muslims in the Netherlands and shows bloodied children and veiled women under the title "Netherlands of the Future?"

Baroness Cox, the peer who hosted the event, said she was "ashamed" Mr Wilders had been barred from Britain.

In the Lords Chamber, Lord West of Spithead, the Home Office minister, faced a stream of questions about the decision of his boss, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, to bar Mr Wilders. Lord Pearson accused the Government of "appeasement," challenging the minister: "Do you think this situation would occur if Mr Wilders had said ban the Bible? If it would not have occurred, why would it not have occurred?"

Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, said: "I certainly don't think we are guilty of appeasement in any way whatsoever."

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