The Home Secretary is understood to be considering a request to ban two of the people behind a campaign against New York’s "Ground Zero Mosque" from entering the UK.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are among America’s most notorious anti-Muslim campaigners, have been invited to speak at an English Defence League rally in Woolwich to mark Armed Forces Day and the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. But the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has written to Ms May expressing his concern and labelling them “incendiary speakers”.
In his letter, Mr Vaz wrote: “These individuals are infamous in America for inciting racial hatred, including sponsoring discriminatory advertisements placed on public transport.
“It is clear that the location, motivation and attendees at this march will incite hatred. Adding incendiary speakers such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer just fuels the fire.”
Ms Geller is notorious in particular because of her involvement in an advertising campaign which called some radical Muslims “savages”. Along with Mr Spencer, she runs the anti-Islamic Stop Islamization of America.
Mr Vaz’s opposition follows pressure from campaign groups like Hope not Hate, which also wrote to the Home Secretary. In its letter, the ant-racism organisation wrote that they believed the pair’s objective was to “incite hatred against all Muslims”. They also wrote that the “consequences of their very presence in the UK will give encouragement to racists and extremists, who seek to use the awful murder of Drummer Lee Rigby to further their hateful agenda”.
The letter added: “We believe that there is no place for such hate in the United Kingdom… by holding a march and rally in Woolwich the EDL is attempting to whip up racism and hatred against all Muslims. Having Geller and Spencer speaking at their rally will only give them additional attention.
“We believe in freedom of speech and the rights of people to hold and express different views. However, in a democracy there have to be limits on people abusing these freedoms to incite hatred and we believe that Geller and Spencer are seeking to do just that.”
The EDL plans to hold a march in Woolwich on Saturday 29 June. Anders Gravers, from Stop the Islamisation of Denmark will be the third speaker. The relationship between his organisation and the EDL was strengthened recently when senior figures in the latter visited mainland Europe to meet fellow extremist anti-Islamic organisations.
A government source indicated that the Home Secretary was looking into the proposal to ban the pair. However, a spokesman refused to confirm this, saying that it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases.
Mr Vaz said: “I am alarmed that the EDL is planning this type of march in Woolwich. Before we have to pay the costs for the extra policing required for this demonstration the Home Secretary should consider using her discretion to ban these two speakers from entering the country. A ban should be enforced properly and physically stop people entering our borders.”
Scotland Yard said that it was aware of the march and would have an appropriate policing plan in place.
EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – who also goes by the name ‘Tommy Robinson’ - said: “It is ridiculous. We want other extremists to be banned from entering the country. These two people have never been arrested, they are well-respected in America. It is fascism, to me.”
Mr Spencer said: "Keith Vaz is libeling Pamela Geller and me. Our work is in defense of the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all people before the law. We do not advocate discrimination against anyone or any kind of racial hatred (or any other kind of hatred). His attack is part of a larger and highly libelous attack against our work by those who wish to remove anyone who stands between Islamic jihadists and their goals."
Additional reporting by PA
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