Friday, February 13, 2009

How the flying Dutchman was stopped in his tracks.

He had been told in advance that if he tried to enter Britain he would be turned back, so Geert Wilders' journey from Amsterdam to the UK was always political theatre of the worst kind. He had been invited by a member of the Ukip party, to show his controversial film, Fitna, in the House of Lords; a film which argues that the Koran is a "fascist book".

Yesterday, as he was inevitably turned away, he reached for the Churchill analogy.

"My message to the British Government is that I am sad that the ghost of Chamberlain still resides in Britain instead of the ghost of Churchill. I would say to [Britain], even if you don't like me, even if you don't like my thoughts, be brave and defend freedom of speech. If you don't then you are weak and you are cowards."

When the plane landed at Heathrow at 2pm, the circus continued. Two plainclothes immigration officers walked on to the plane and escorted Mr Wilders off for questioning – pursued by the media pack and bodyguards. "Is this how Great Britain meets a democrat?" the blond populist demanded.

He was sent back to Amsterdam on the next flight at 4.30pm. It is thought to be the first time Britain has refused entry to an elected European politician since the creation of the EU in 1993.

Mr Wilders seemed happy to have used the one-hour flight to rail against the British Government, which he accused of appeasing "Islamofascists" and stifling free speech. He repeated some of the criticisms of Islam that have made him so reviled.

This has actually got nothing to do with free speech; it has, however, got a lot to do with hate speech.

It is illegal in Britain to incite hatred and, by condemning an entire religion as "fascist", Wilders is certainly asking that we all should begin to hate Islam. It is for that reason which he has been refused entry. It was suspected that, whilst he was here, he might seek to commit a crime. Indeed, he was coming here purely for the purposes of inciting hatred against an entire religion.

And, of course, like most stupid right wingers, he sees nothing wrong in calling for the banning of books whilst protesting that his own free speech is being curtailed.
"I don't see a problem there," he said. "I'm talking about the Koran, I'm not talking about the people. Unlike in the UK, in Holland we have banned [Hitler's] Mein Kampf and I see a comparison between the two books. They are both books full of totalitarian ideologies and they both incite violence."
Hitler also banned and burned books, although that seems not to concern Wilders. Muslim groups in Britain have praised the government's decision to ban him.
Mohammed Shafique, director of the Ramadhan Foundation, a group that promotes interfaith dialogue, said: "Mr Wilders' film is all about demonising and attacking Islam and Muslims. He is a modern-day Hitler, his hatred on Islam is based on fiction and his presence in the UK may lead to community tensions. This is not about freedom of speech but about stopping the incitement to religious hatred this man promotes. The Government has been right in banning this man and there should be no let-up in letting him through."
I wish both sides would give up on the Hitler analogies, as neither has obviously ever heard of Godwin's law.

I personally think that most Brits would have survived his visit and that most of us are wise enough to recognise his hate speech as the rubbish that it was. By banning him we have handed him a publicity opportunity that he has now done his best to exploit. It would have been better if he was allowed to show his offensive film and the public were also allowed to protest outside as he did so. However, I do understand that the government were probably concerned about the level of anger he might generate as he did so. So one can find many arguments for and against him being allowed entry.

However, I do find it rather rich that people like Wilder are the very first to scream about their right to free speech whilst they seek to silence that same right for others.

Click title for full article.


Cecilieaux said...

Sorry, but free speech is, precisely, the freedom to say things some people, or maybe all people, deem ugly. To deport someone because he brings a particular message is yet another sign that the UK is not a democracy.

Kel said...

I know what you are saying Cecilieax, but with free speech comes responsibility. I am not allowed for example to shout fire in a theatre in case people are harmed in the crush.

In this case I think - I don't know as I've never heard their reasoning on this - but I imagine the government thought he might cause a public disturbance as his message is certainly highly controversial; writing off an entire religion in the way in which he did. And most of his points - such as Islam wants to take over the world - is true of all religions except for Judaism. They all want to convert the unbelievers.

Nor do I believe Britain is the only country to have these limitations. Didn't David Irving get jailed in Austria for denying the Holocaust?

And I don't think he was deported, he was simply refused entry, which he knew was going to happen before he ever boarded the plane in Amsterdam.

But I take your broad point. As I said in the article, I think he should have been allowed to visit and show his film. You can watch it by clicking the link in the article. It's actually using emotion rather than argument. I found it tedious and predictable rather than outrageous. It's clearly made for the "Islam's coming to get us" brigade.