Joan Smith: Free speech has to be for all, Home Secretary

We have to nothing to fear from listening to Wilders

Share
Related Topics

Let's start by getting a couple of things clear: Jacqui Smith is an idiot for banning Geert Wilders, and even more of an idiot to do it after the Government was lobbied to ban him by Lord Ahmed. The Home Secretary's argument for refusing to admit Mr Wilders again (he was here in December) is feeble; the only way his presence might threaten public security is if there was an intemperate reaction by people who don't like his views. Demands for a ban are based on the same perverse reasoning that led to Salman Rushdie's being accused of having "blood on his hands" – by Lord Ahmed – because some idiots chose to respond violently to his novel The Satanic Verses. According to this sophistry, it isn't someone's fault if he loses his temper and hits me; it's mine for upsetting him in the first place.

It's got so bad that when Channel 4's documentary Undercover Mosque showed imams preaching hate in British mosques, the Crown Prosecution Service and the West Midlands Police began investigating the film-makers, coming to their senses only when they found themselves on the wrong end of a libel action. I don't like Mr Wilders' politics, but he doesn't advocate killing people, unlike Sheikh Qaradawi, who was allowed into this country until someone belatedly noticed that he supports suicide-bombing. Nor does Mr Wilders have criminal convictions, unlike the boxer Mike Tyson who was allowed in despite his conviction for rape.

Until last week, Mr Wilders was a little-known Dutch MP who had placed himself in the illogical position of championing free expression while calling for the Koran to be banned. Now, thanks to Ms Smith, he is a free-speech martyr whose cause has been taken up by the BNP leader Nick Griffin. Additionally, Ms Smith stands accused of giving in to pressure from Lord Ahmed and the Muslim Council of Britain, an organisation whose leader refuses to condemn the practice of stoning. For a measured Muslim response to Mr Wilders' proposed visit, I recommend listening to Ed Husain, co-director of the Quilliam Foundation, who condemned Mr Wilders' politics and the Home Secretary's refusal to allow him into the country. "Drop the ban and start the debate," Mr Husain wrote last week.

In the past, Lord Ahmed has shown himself to be a selective friend of free speech, hosting a book launch at the House of Lords in 2005 for a notorious anti-Semite who calls himself Israel Shamir. Last month, a Pakistani press agency reported that a screening of Mr Wilders' short film Fitna at the House of Lords had been called off after Lord Ahmed and representatives of the MCB met government leaders. When Lord Ahmed discovered that the screening was to go ahead, he said he had received threats and asked the Government not to allow Mr Wilders into the country.

I told Lord Ahmed years ago that you can't demand respect for your religion and claim to uphold free speech. He and his friends are no more innocent than Mr Wilders, insisting on free expression for some with rebarbative views, while trying to limit it for others. This is tit-for-tat provocation: populist against populist, demagogue against demagogue. What a shame a Labour Home Secretary wasn't smart enough to see it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Implementation Consultant

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: How much difference does the wording of a referendum question make?

John Rentoul
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent