Was Chris Huhne right to say Geert Wilders should be banned from the UK?

As the BBC reports:

A Dutch MP who called the Koran a “fascist book” has been sent back to the Netherlands after attempting to defy a ban on entering the UK. Freedom Party MP Geert Wilders had been invited to show his controversial film – which links the Islamic holy book to terrorism – in the UK’s House of Lords.

But Mr Wilders, who faces trial in his own country for inciting hatred, has been denied entry by the Home Office. He told the BBC it was a “very sad day” for UK democracy.

Interviewed on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, Lib Dem shadow home secretary Chris Huhne made clear his support of the Home Office’s decision to ban Mr Wilders:

Mr Huhne described the film Dutch MP Geert Wilders planned to show to members of the House of Lords as “revolting”, and said there was a clear dividing line, “complete freedom of speech up to the point where you threaten others”.

“Freedom of Speech is absolutely crucial. I don’t take lightly that you should ban someone coming into the country. I think though in any civilised society there is a dividing line between freedom of speech and incitement to violence, incitement to hatred. I’ve seen the film. It is revolting. It is inciting people into violence. I don’t think any minority should be out any position where potentially they could be harmed.

“The dividing line is very clear – complete freedom of speech up to the point where you threaten others. At that point society must step in, whoever you are, whatever your background.” (Source: PoliticsHome.com).

A number of bloggers have questioned whether Chris’s response is truly liberal. Here’s ‘Costigan Quist’, for example, at Himmelgarten Cafe:

Most famous for his hard-line anti-Islamic views, Wilders’ political philosophy blends libertarianism (small state, less regulation, lower taxation, less state welfare) with a tough line on crime (three strikes and you’re out) and on immigration. … if he wrote a column for the Daily Mail, it wouldn’t seem out of place. … on what grounds, precisely, does Chris Huhne think Geert Wilders should be banned?

I don’t know. I listened to Chris on the Today programme this morning and it left me none the wiser. He talked about there being a clear line between what’s acceptable and what isn’t in free speech (no there isn’t – there’s a staggeringly large grey area). He talked about Wilders crossing that line (how, exactly?) but he was very short on details.

This action by the Home Office is foolish, merely giving Wilders more publicity. Huhne’s cheer-leading is bizarre and misguided.

Tristan Mills at Liberty Alone is even less enamoured of Chris’s actions:

I hear that Chris Huhne was on the radio calling for suppression of speech today. I always thought he was an authoritarian at heart, and know I know it. … Its galling to be supporting such a bastard as Wilders. He is an authoritarian thug, but by banning him, especially due to threats, or the possibility, of violence caused by others, allows him to pretend to be the poor repressed western liberal who battles for free speech (something he opposes in reality, having sought to ban the Koran in the Netherlands for example). We are playing into his hands and the hands of the racists and bigots (on all sides).

And the ‘pro-libereration left’ blog Harry’s Place is seething:

Chris Huhne not only mistakes the Wilders affair for a free speech issue. He then seeks to defend the exclusion on grounds that are unsupportable. And he does it as a member of a party whose name, at least, contains the word “Liberal”.

What do LDV readers think of Chris’s statement – does it reflect what liberals and Liberal Democrats really think?

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204 Comments

  • I listened to the interview on the video on Politicshome; have not seen the film.

    Of course Chris was right to give his own views when invited by Today; are the critics saying that because we are called “Liberals” we should approve of anyone saying, or writing or filming anything?
    And do they in their own personal lives, behave with liberal freedom to hurt, harass or offend their own circle?

    The Daily Mail had a “liberal” article deploring the ban; but this is the same paper that makes such a fuss about Harry Windsor and Thatcher. Clearly there are mixed standards around.

    It seems that everyone has their own grey area.
    The most offensive aspect of the visit for me was that this group of Lords had actually INVITED him to come. Let him enter Britain on his own with what Chris describes as his revolting film, but let us not invite and entertain people with racist views. They must feel flattered and esteemed.

  • Stanley Theed 12th Feb '09 - 8:14pm

    As liberals we should be tolerant, but should we tolerate the intolerant? Maybe the government are simply trying to look tough but I respect Chris Huhne’s views on a film he has seen. I can live with the absence from this country of the individual concerned and the views he holds

  • Incitement to racial hatred is clearly not the issue. It would be religious hatred and having seen the film it doesn’t (IMO) meet the threshold for an offence (in the UK). However Bernard is right – if that was the concern then the matter should be reported to the police.

    If I’m correct then this case concerns someone in the UK for private screening of a film he made which contravenes no law. Furthermore it’s someone who has apparently previously visited the UK without causing any problems and has not been convicted of any offence (though is currently awaiting trial AIUI).

    That is setting a very broad precedent for reasons for banning someone from visiting the UK.

  • Liberal Neil 12th Feb '09 - 8:30pm

    I don’t usually disagree with Chris, but this time I do.

    I haven’t seen the film, but if it does actually incite violence then the people showing it should be arrested on that charge.

    If otherwise then it should be allowed to be shown and people associated with it should be allowed free movement.

  • Having spent yesterday following the very rigourous debate on this that flowed from a note I posted, I was heartened to see Chris Huhne pop up on the news to talk about this.

    And then he spoke.

    Yes, I think he’s wrong. Leaving aside the absurdity of an MP from another EU country being barred from entering the country, it is completely wrong not to take every opportunity to expose what the far-right really believes and challenge it.

    Any form of censorship is offensive and needs to be opposed on ideological grounds but is also really bad politics as it allows extremists to portray themselves as victims of “the establishment”.

    We should be taking this opportunity to show that liberalism is a real and distinctive force in political debate and to point out the absurdity of a law brought in by Labour that assumes individuals are so soft-minded that they even can be “incited to hatred” by an individual film, book or speech.

  • This is completely wrong. My opinion of Huhne, which had been very high, has taken a setback.

  • I think this is why some of us who are ‘liberal liberals’ are always a bit wary of ex social democrats – they mean well, but just aren’t instictive liberals and a bit prone to state intervention and banning things.

  • Stanley Theed wrote:

    As liberals we should be tolerant, but should we tolerate the intolerant?

    That’s exactly Geert Wilders’ view though – he thinks that he is the liberal whose tolerance has been pushed over the limit by the need to tolerate Islam, which he regards as entirely illiberal.

    Hopefully he serves as a warning of what happens when you follow that kind of logic to its conclusion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Feb '09 - 10:23pm

    Is the film any worse than say:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/oct/17/catholicism.religion

    That is quite a fierce and one-sided criticism of some aspects of Catholicism. Should Polly Toynbee be banned for stirring up religious hatred? I say no, and on the same grounds neither should this person.

  • Huhne’s comments were outrageous. It is utterly depressing that such a senior member of the Lib Dems has come out with something like this, but probably indicative of how little freedom of speech is really valued nowadays.

    I’ll tell you something else too; banning this odious little twerp is going to provoke far more anti-muslim sentiment than his ridiculous little film ever could have hoped to do. You mark my words.

  • I was bitterly disappointed with Chris Huhne.

    Totally pathetic decision. Should we have free speech and free expression in this country? Well obviously, would be my answer.

    What some people need to understand is that that gives people the freedom to say or express something you find abhorrant, as well as something you agree with.

    Jackie Smith has taken it upon herself to decide what opinions can and cannot be expressed in this country. That’s obscene, and she should be taken well and truly to task for it.

    For Huhne to agree with her suggests that he doesn’t quite understand what his party and the members stand for. Here’s a clue Chris, “Liberal” is in the name.

  • Interesting to contrast Huhne’s opinion on this man with anti-Muslim views with what he said about a holocaust-denier last October:

    “Dr Toben’s views about the Holocaust are offensive, ugly and wrong. But freedom of speech is the cornerstone of liberal democracy without which all the other freedoms flounder. We restrict that freedom at our peril and only in extreme circumstances (such as incitement to racial hatred and violence).”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/chris-huhne-holocaust-denial-and-a-case-that-shows-flaws-in-the-eu-971404.html

    Judged by Chris Huhne’s own standards, this equally odious Dutch extremist shouldn’t be excluded unless there is clear evidence that what he is saying constitutes “incitement to racial hatred and violence”. Huhne apparently thinks it does. Two posters above are clear that it doesn’t. Doesn’t sound very clear to me.

  • Bernard identifies the link above where Chris defends the right of Holocaust deniers to freedom of expression.

    I’ve absolutely no doubt that Fitna will be used by the far-right just as the work of David Irving is. However neither piece of work, in itself, constitues an incitement to violence so why support the rights of Holocaust deniers but not those of Islamophobic fascists?

  • Tristan Downing 12th Feb '09 - 11:39pm

    All the Fitna film does is point out where the violent Islamists use the Koran to justify their violent acts. That is ALL the film does. Is that a reason for banning someone? Of course not.

    The Dutch MP was banned for two reasons. First, Lord Ahmed and other muslim leaders threatened violent protest and so frightened the Home Secretary into doing what they want. Second, the vast majority of violent Islamists in Britain that actually vote, are Labour voters. Why would the PM or HS side with people who favour British freedoms when they most likely wont be voting for the most authoritarian government in modern history anyway?

    Free speech is fundamental to the British way of life. There are very few instances that should come in the way of it. The line should be drawn at abuse, and encouraging violence and calling for hatred. The film and the Dutch MP have done none of those things. At no point has the MP called for violence or hatred at all. With this film he has simply expressed a wish for muslims to themselves consider removing the violent aspects of the Koran, or at least to dismiss them as not relevant to our time. This is not a vile view, it is a peaceful one. He takes the view, as he in entitled to, that the Koran itself is incitement to violence and his evidence is the Koran itself. If people do not agree with that view, they should debate it, not ban it for fear of having to debate it. The aim of showing the film in the Lords is not for personal publicity, but to encourage the debate that should rightly take place. There is a very real link between the Koran and Islamic violence. It is after all the terrorists themselves that use the verses in the Koran to justify their acts.

    It is that last point that brings me onto the suggestion that a video showing western violence and violent passages from the Bible is the same thing and just as wrong. This suggestion has been made by one talking head on the news today, he said that if such a video were made, it would be just as bad and that it is only because the MP’s film is about Islam that he thinks it’s okay. Well, such a video does exist on the web. It shows Bible verses and scence of violence by western troops and seeks to be the opposite to Fitna. However, the problem with this is that as I have already said, it is the terrorists themselves that use the verses in the Koran to justify their own violence. It is not that the MP is using their holy book to show why they are violent. This is a mistake. He is only showing where the terrorists themselves draw on justification for violence.

    I totally agree that to be serious in calling for a ban on the Koran goes against the idea of free speech. That would be a silly stance to take. In Holland however, I believe that Mr Wilders has merely said that if Mein Kamppf contains hate speech and should be forbidden for that reason, the Koran, which also contains hate speech, should also be forbidden.

    So he has not seriously called for the Koran to be banned, but merely pointed out the inconsistency.

    The film absolutely does not promote violence or hatred. It does point to the violence and hatred of others. It also doesn’t give a balanced view of Islam, but that is not its aim. How often does a politician give a balanced view? Should we ban them all for that too? We must protect freedom of speech at all costs and I would hope that is something the LibDems could get behind. If we don’t like something someone says, we debate it, we do not ban it. People being offended by something is not a reason to supress it.

    We should not be giving in to the threat of violence. Doing so is a clear signal that terrorism works. Now people know that mobs rule and there is no reason to try peaceful means. It is obscene that in this country, the non violent MP gets banned but the violent extremists he opposes get protected. Violence, hatred and extremism has today won against our British values and freedoms. It is a very sad day for us all.

  • Tristan Downing 12th Feb '09 - 11:41pm

    Where did my comment go? You dont seriously censor/moderate comments on a liberalist site do you? How ironic.

  • “The film absolutely does not promote violence or hatred.”

    Actually, having just watched the film (it’s easy enough to find on the Internet), I’m in no doubt that the intention is to incite hatred against Islam as a whole. It’s a revolting and contemptible piece of work.

    But can a free society really ban something that is basically a montage of news footage – albeit a montage constructed as hate propaganda? I don’t think it can.

  • “Free speech is fundamental to the British way of life.”

    This is patent nonsense. Until the Human Rights Act there was no protection for freedom of expression, Until last July there were still laws preventing Blasphemy against Christianity (for which there were prosecutions as recently as 1976).

    It was only in the 1960s that theatre productions stopped needing the approval of the Lord Chamberlain who made extensive alterations to plays on occasion including once demanding the removal of the sound of a flushing lavatory as “that was not the sort of thing people wanted to hear”.

    By contrast the Americans have had constitutional protections for freedom of speech since the 1770s!

  • “I’ve noticed this problem myself recently – having to refresh a post several times before my comment appears. I’ll put it to the technical department.”

    You can get round it by adding “?[random string of characters]=[other random string of characters]” to the URL – that’s what I do now – but it’s bloody tedious, and if it is down to the way the server is configured it would be merciful if the problem could be fixed.

  • Tristan Downing 12th Feb '09 - 11:55pm

    Well thank you for that moderator. The same thing happens on other sites for some reason. It vanishes into the ether for a while. My apologies for the length, but I felt I had a lot to say!

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Feb '09 - 12:13am

    Articles picking out passages from the Bible which advocate or seem to advocate violence are commonplace. Wasn’t a link to a funny quiz about this going around liberal blogs just recently? Articles suggesting that Christianity has been a bad influence, and has caused wars and violence are commonplace. This sort of thing is a staple of the liberal press, though funnily enough they either single out Christianity to attack or make sure any attacks on Islam are buried within general attacks on all religion.

    If one’s only response to this sort of thing is to wish to ban it, it rather suggests it has a point and one doesn’t have a good argument against it. Any Muslim who wishes to ban this film is as foolish as the man who stood outside Westminster Cathedral after something the Pope said with a placard reading “Apologise for calling us violent, or we’ll behead you”.

    If Muslims believe the man is wrong, all they have to do is show that by rational argument. Explain those verses from the Quran in context, give others, state how the conclusion the man has drawn are invalid.

  • David Morton 13th Feb '09 - 12:23am

    A predictable,predicted and entirely avoidable PR disaster which ironically will have ordinary Muslims as its main victims.

    1. The Lib/Lab/Con consensus on this has left huge political space open to the BNP/UKIP. I think Lord pearson has actually been quite impressive on this today and wether you agree with him or not there is a ” Free speech” constituiency which we have handed to them.

    2. As is always the case with bans the silly film and its odious proponent have now had 1000% more publicity than they would other wise have had.

    3. This sort of media bubble always leads to increased tensions and heighten anti muslim sentiment. its ordinary folk on the ground that’ll get the stares and the cat calls. Not the professional lobbyists and appeasers who deal with this sort of thing in an entirely abstract identity politics sort of way.

    I very poor decision.

  • Very well written Tristan, you’re correct on all points.

    I watched some BBC programmes tonight, Question Time and This Week, missed Newsnight. I was saddened with how little knowledge of facts the guests spoke about the subject (being Geert Wilders and his views).
    I was appalled of the statements made by the guests, nearly all found the ban a good thing.
    In Question Time the only one left to defend freedom of speech was a muslima with a headscarf…

    With love, from Holland,

    Chris

  • I’ve just had a cabbie ranting at me about this on my way home, and he came out with this little pearl:

    “There’s a lot of people in this country who are nervous about Islam and fed up with bending over for the Muslims and if they’re not allowed to use words to fight back then they’ll find a different way”.

    Quite.

  • Why is it that Muslims can demonstrate racist, anti-democratic slogans anywhere they want to, but this Dutch guy can’t just show his film when he was invited to the country in the first place? For that matter, why are people so ticked off at his film? I’ve seen it, read the passages he pictured in the actual Koran, and nothing he put on that film is a lie. not. one. bit.

  • Mohammed Shafiq (who as well as being chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation is I think a Lib Dem Cllr in Rochdale said

    “This is not about freedom of speech but about stopping the incitement to religious hatred this man promotes.”

    That’s not an unsustainable view. However I don’t think the film (though distasteful) breaks our law in this area which requires “threatening words or behaviour”. (a phrasing I believe we supported in Parliament)

    There is a simple point. If people seeking to ban Geert Wilders believe Fitna is an incitement to religious hatred – then why hasn’t the showing of it been reported to the police as such?

  • You can find and watch the film easily enough by typing in

    “fitna english version”

    to the google video search. I’d include the link, but it’s very long and Miliband might have me arrested.

    Now I’ve watched it, I really can’t see what the fuss is about. It’s a one-sided presentation of facts, well produced with shocking imagery from actual events, and there are some good rebuttall videos from moderate Islamic groups worth watching to get the other point of view about taking passages of the Qu’ran out of context.

    I am hard pressed to find anything in the film that could be described as ‘revolting’ or even illegal other than the acts themselves which are disgusting and wrong but a matter of historical record from which we should not be shielded.

    Channel 4 should show both the film and reubttals together with commentary in a Dispatches documentary soon so people can judge for themselves.

    The Government and Chris Huhne have called this wrong. Had there not been this hysteria, I and most of you would probably have never heard of Geert Wilders or seen his film.

  • I’m going to join the chorus of people who’ve actually seen Fitna and are wondering, well, what’s the big deal? It’s just a montage of some of the more disreputable Suras with pictures of terrorist acts and recordings of several rabid imams. If it had finished with the phrase ‘Kill them before they kill us’, it would’ve been incitement to violence. It doesn’t, so it isn’t.

    The big surprise for me is that there hasn’t been any commentary detailing why the Suras mentioned in the film aren’t incitement to violence. That would be an appropriate response. Right now it’s far too easy for the BNP to say, “They’re not saying that the Quran ISN’T an incitement to violence, so it must be. That’s why they won’t let him in the country.”

    This really needs to happen, or it’ll be another victory for the extremists.

  • “Channel 4 should show both the film and reubttals together with commentary in a Dispatches documentary soon so people can judge for themselves.”

    Sorry, but that’s ridiculous. It’s one thing to support the right to free speech, but quite another to say this contemptible stuff should be broadcast on national television, with or without rebuttals.

  • Really Anon, why, are you against rational debate (and in that regard showing it with rebuttals is rather crucial for a public service broadcaster), or is that actually something in the film that breaks the law, we all couldn’t see, that means it should be banned? If so spell it out.

  • Neil

    I’m not against “rational debate”. I simply observed that the principle of free speech doesn’t require this rubbish to be broadcast on national television. Think about it.

  • David Morton 13th Feb '09 - 10:44am

    Since my comment up thread I have now seen the film. This in its self demonstrates the stupidity of the Government decision because I’d never have heard of it if they had just let the guy in.

    Its a nasty piece of work but I can’t believe there is a Jury in the country that would convict on a charge of incitement to violence or religious hatred.

    I’m more disturbed than ever that the party has gone along with the stance of the government.

  • I think on balance it was the right decision. Wilders compares all Muslims to Nazis. The Dutch courts have said:
    “In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to… draw a clear line,”
    Hywel -I agree with my colleague Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, and vice chair of EMLD,(not a councillor) when he says its the incitement to religious hatred he’s promoting.
    I think protecting community cohesion, however fragile in the UK, must take precedence. Out of interest, other people recently banned from the UK, courtesy of the BBC:

    Muslim cleric Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi refused entry in order to protect community cohesion. He has described suicide bombers as “martyrs” and homosexuality as “a disease”
    Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan barred on the grounds that his allegedly racist and anti-Semitic views could threaten public order.
    Martha Stewart and US rapper Snoop Dogg denied entry because of criminal convictions.

    Its not simply, as the Mail and others would have us believe, people who ‘attack Muslims’
    I agree with David Miliband on this occasion:
    “”We have profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land,”

  • I’m sorry Anon, if being ‘rubbish’ were the test for banning films from television the networks would be largely empty.

    And I’d love to ‘think about it’ but neither you, the Government or Chris Huhne have made a sensible case either for banning this film or preventing a documentary about it that showed it balanced with the other side of the case.

    And to correct you the principle of free speech does require that items can be freely dicussed or broadcast unless there are clear and compelling reasons of public safety not to do so. Easing the hypersensitive feelings of the easily-offended squad and their hysterical recation to criticism does not constitute such a reason.

  • David Morton 13th Feb '09 - 11:11am

    Meral,

    You must know that all this has achieved is to give the thing blanket, free and undeserved coverage?

  • Well, if we want people to agree that the ban was inappropriate, then they can view the film and thus become a little more informed on the issue.

    Putting it on television accomplishes this goal.

    Incitement to religious hatred is not a good offense to have on the books it would seem. People can hate Islam all they like. Provided it does not escalate into violence.

    I watched Question Time and was disappointed with the amount of applause that the audience gave to the tabloid guy after he said something like “Wilders just here to stir up trouble”.

  • Neil

    For heaven’s sake, I’m not saying the film should be _banned_! I don’t agree with what either the government or Huhne have said (not that they have banned the film, of course).

    I’m saying that just because you believe in free speech, that doesn’t mean you have an obligation to broadcast every pathetic bit of hate-propaganda on national television.

    Surely you can see the distinction. It’s hardly rocket science …

  • Watching Question Time it was entirely depressing that the only person defending free speech robustly, if at all, was a socialist from the Respect Party.

    If only, I thought, they’d invited a Liberal Democrat to demonstrate that this country does have a sizable group of people who do care about important abstract principles like free speech.

    So to read this endorsement of Labour’s typical thoughtcrime-enforcement and pandering to special interests, from our own Shadow Home Secretary, is the depressing cherry on the top of this whole depressing saga.

    Thankfully, I’m pretty sure that Huhne doesn’t represent the majority view of the Lib Dems.

  • David Milliband said, “there is no freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre”- but that analogy is both specious and offensive.

    Community cohesion is not so fragile in this country that the mere presence of a wacky dutchman on our soil can cause us to turn on each other in an orgy of atavistic racial violence.

    Give the British people some credit – we’re not idiots, we’re not secret racists just awaiting activation!

  • “[Meral] I agree with my colleague Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, and vice chair of EMLD,(not a councillor) when he says its the incitement to religious hatred he’s promoting.
    I think protecting community cohesion, however fragile in the UK, must take precedence.”

    The former is a legitimate position to hold. However to believe that this constitues an offence means you would have to support a change in the incitement to religous hatred legislation. This isn’t something we supported when it was going through Parliament.

    Otherwise you are advocating a standard that says that some forms of legal speech are to be prohibited. That is IMO a very difficult position for a liberal to be advocating.

    The idea that “protecting community cohesion” should be used as the standard for restrictions on freedom of expression is also a very nebulous standard to be using. If that is the standard which we are to adopt then it is next to impossible to see why Holocaust denial is to be permitted and Fitna banned.

    “[David Miliband said] ”We have profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land,””

    David Miliband might be right (shock!). However I do not see where this film contravenes the law as regardless religous hate speech [see above]

  • Anon, thanks for the clarification. I think the interesting thing about this is whether or not Wilder’s film is ‘hate propaganda’ is the subject of the prosecution against him that has not yet been concluded.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7842344.stm

    The problem with the position the Government, Chris and now Meral are taking is that they are prejudging the outcome of that trial on rather thin evidence, if the evidence is just this film.

    Meral for example suggests that Wilder compares all muslims to nazis. I’m not aware of everything he has ever said so that might be true, I’m not sure though how one can draw that conclusion from this film. Perhaps Meral can clarify.

    This is the point, it is not acceptable in a free society for some jumped-up bureaucrat or politician like David Miliband to decide on a political whim what is and is not acceptable speech. Such decisions should be evidence not ‘you offended my faith’-based.

  • we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
    we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
    we shall fight on the beaches,
    we shall fight on the landing grounds,
    we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
    we shall fight in the hills;
    we shall never surrender,

    Incitement to violence and hatred if I’ve ever heard it.

  • >> Thankfully, I’m pretty sure that Huhne doesn’t represent the majority view of the Lib Dems.

    Perhaps we could have a poll on the front page of the Voice to see what the results might be

  • Wilders is not a believer or supporter of freedom of speech, so am not going to lose any sleep over his bleating. He obviously relishes his new role as poster boy for extreme right wing extremists. Predictably, Melanie Phillips has jumped to defend his cause. He believes amongst other things that:
    “all immigration from Muslim countries be halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim ‘criminals’ stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported ‘back where they came from’
    We’re getting a bit bogged down with his ‘film’ and not the wider issues of what he is preaching.
    I don’t see much difference with this and someone preaching anti-semiticsm.
    David – its unfortunate that this has given him blanket coverage, but any news item with the words ‘Muslim’ and ‘banned’ seems to do that these days.

  • “I don’t see much difference with this and someone preaching anti-semiticsm”

    In law Jews are protected as a racial group whereas Muslims are not. It’s not an unreasonable position to say they should be treated the same (though technically problematic to actually put into legal effect).

    However that is not the position we took in Parliament when debating the law in this area so it’s inconsistent as a party to now argue that this should be the case.

  • Liberal Neil 13th Feb '09 - 1:26pm

    “Wilders is not a believer or supporter of freedom of speech, so am not going to lose any sleep over his bleating”

    Meral – surely we are supposed to be better than him. And we demonstrate it by allowing people people like him the freedom to put forward their odiouys views, confident in the knowledge that our arguments are better?

  • “…After a formal declaration of war, encouraging the defence of a sovereign state against invasion. I can’t see how that is relevant.”

    The thing is, if you look at the Koranic verses that tend to be quoted by these people, and if you examine the context, you’ll find that most of them relate to seventh-century conflicts, and sometimes even specific seventh-century battles.

    For example, the first one quoted in the film, put into context, reads as follows:
    Therefore, if you encounter them [unbelievers] in war, you shall set them up as a deterrent example for those who come after them, that they may take heed.
    When you are betrayed by a group of people, you shall mobilize against them in the same manner. GOD does not love the betrayers.
    Let not those who disbelieve think that they can get away with it; they can never escape.
    You shall prepare for them all the power you can muster, and all the equipment you can mobilize, that you may frighten the enemies of GOD, your enemies, as well as others who are not known to you; GOD knows them. Whatever you spend in the cause of GOD will be repaid to you generously, without the least injustice.
    If they resort to peace, so shall you, and put your trust in GOD. He is the Hearer, the Omniscient.

    Viewed as a historical document, not so very different from Churchill after all (except of course that Churchill insisted on unconditional surrender).

    And of course the viewpoint is considerably less bloodthirsty than that of the 137th psalm:
    O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

  • Andy

    You don’t think it would be a good idea to watch the film before telling everyone (including those who have taken the trouble to watch it) what the “concept” of it is, and how it’s “perfectly legitimate” to do that?

    You could probably have watched it – or enough to see it for what it is – in the time it took you to write that post!

  • “I don’t see much difference with this and someone preaching anti-semiticsm”

    Neither do I. That’s why I’m puzzled as to why Chris said it was wrong to restrict the views of a holocaust denier, but not this chap.

  • Richard Huzzey 13th Feb '09 - 3:06pm

    I’m somewhat bewildered as to how this differs substantially from the case of the odious Frederick Toben, where Chris was rightly on the side of defending free speech, even for offensive idiots.

    (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/chris-huhne-holocaust-denial-and-a-case-that-shows-flaws-in-the-eu-971404.html)

  • Martin Land 13th Feb '09 - 8:30pm

    We do beat ourselves up sometimes don’t we?

    Liberty of the individual is a fundamental liberal value. As is Freedom of Speech. We also believe that minorities have the right to protection from persecution and we have laws against racial discrimination. And so on.

    In other words we work to a set of principles that can be difficult to reconcile. Chris made a judgement call as all politicians have to do in often difficult circumstances. His judgement may or may not have been right. But it was his call to make that judgement.

    He’s not the first, nor will he be the last to be criticised for trying to square this particular circle.

  • “Chris was quite right to give his own opinion when invited by the Beeb. I am amused that some posters are prepared to condemn the man completely because he does not conform to THEIR view on this small matter.”

    Chris is a spokesman for the party and so he’s speaking on behalf of the party.

    I usually think it’s fair game to criticise someone if I think they’re wrong – what else should I do?

  • Sarah Ludford had quite a good letter in the Indy yesterday
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letters-freedom-of-speech-1608173.html

    With the exception that I wouldn’t concur that a conviction for hate speech related offences in another country should automatically be a bar (the test should be whether it would be an offence in the UK or else your back to the bans on Holocaust deniers)

    And JOhan Hari had an excellent comment piece
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-despite-these-riots-i-stand-by-what-i-wrote-1608059.html

  • @ Anonymous at 3.02pm:

    I would like to have watched it, but I have no internet access at the moment, and consequently I am reduced to using the internet at the pub on the corner of my road, where I am capable of writing long replies but not of watching videos on Youtube, at least not with sound. As such, yes, it might have been “a good idea” for me to have been able to watch the film before giving an opinion. I suggest that you take this up with Virgin Media.

    Otherwise, if you wish to take issue with any of the points I made, other than the question of whether I actually watched Wilders’s sodding film or not, be my guest…

  • David Cooper 15th Feb '09 - 8:25pm

    It is a black day for liberty when leaders of the Liberal party back the suppression of freedom of speech. I’ve watched Fitna. The soundtrack, and the hate, comes exclusively from words spoken and acts – beheadings, bombings and so on- undertaken by radical Muslims. Wilders’ video merely brings these vile words and acts together.

    Of course the selection is one sided, unbalanced, and unfair to Islam. The video is an anti-Islamic polemic, not an academic discourse. But the Muslims portrayed condemn themselves out of their own mouths; that is the power of the video, and its grain of truth. By acquiescing in the banning of Wilders, Chris Huhne shows himself unfit to speak on the subject of freedom and has disgraced the Liberal party.

  • Andy

    If you can’t see how stupid it is to lecture other people about what the “concept” of the film is, and how it is “perfectly legitimate”, when you haven’t even seen the thing, I don’t think I can do much for you.

  • Andy

    “Is anything I have written actually wrong?”

    Yes – your speculation that the “concept” of the film was to “make a point” about parts of the Koran, and that it was “perfectly justified”.

    If you’d seen the film, you would not have been under that misapprehension.

    And unless you have someone standing behind you with forcing you to post these comments, there is something you can do about it – wait until you’ve seen the film before telling people what its “concept” is and whether it is justified.

  • The reason why Mr Wilders asks for the koran to be banned has to do with the laws in The Netherlands. Mein Kampf is banned in The Netherlands, which is a book that incides numerous things to Jews and other minorties, however the Koran is not banned.

    According to him it shares the same invitation to hatred of jews/non-muslims, hence asks for the ban. He wants to prove that the law is applying a double standard.

    Though I do not agree with him on everything, I find him to be atleast worthy to have my vote in comparison with other party’s (PvdA, SP, CDA)

  • It’s not a fine line at all. You either have free speech or you don’t. We patently do not have free speech in this country. If you think we live in a democracy you are sadly mistaken. A democracy requires a free press and free speech…

    It might not be okay to shout out FIRE in a crowded cinema, UNLESS THERE IS A FIRE.

    Crish Huhne should be barred from describing himself as ‘liberal’, and your party if it agrees with him should be charged under the trade description act. (And yes I’m seriously thinking about contacting trading standards, your party name completely misrepresents what you are).

  • Andy

    Yes, I made an error. On the third time I repeated your phrase I got it wrong.

    You did indeed say that this film was “perfectly legitimate”.

    Take it from me, it may not actually be illegal, but it’s certainly not “perfectly legitimate” in any other sense of the phrase (and I don’t believe anyone reading your earlier post could believe that you were trying to make a narrow point about its legality).

    It’s a squalid little piece of hate propaganda. The “point” of it is quite obviously to arouse fear and hatred of Muslims, in precisely the same way that Nazi propaganda in the 1930s was designed to arouse fear and hatred of Jews.

    Of course it’s important to stand up for free speech, but it’s equally important to be crystal clear in opposing those who abuse free speech to foster hatred. Not to say their propaganda is “legitimate” – not to say it’s “not that outrageous” – most of all not to say “I might do it myself”. That kind of thing, coming from a professed liberal, is deeply disturbing.

  • Bernie Ranson 16th Feb '09 - 5:33pm

    This is really terrible news, I am so disappointed with the party and angry and disgusted with Chris Huhne.

  • I’m afraid to say that Chris had done serious damage to his reputation with this craven capitulation to political correctness.

    Our leaders need to be reminded (constantly and forecfully) that free speech means the freedom to say things that offend special interest groups.

    How a liberal can call for the gagging of a politician who is criticising a deeply illiberal belief system is a complete mystery.

  • Andy

    I’m not going to waste any more time on this, but if you had meant only that the film was “legal”, why on earth wouldn’t you have said that?

    You know perfectly well that the word “legitimate” has other connotations – “reasonable, acceptable, justifiable, logical, valid, sensible, recognized” according to a random online thesaurus.

    I shall say no more about it, but at the very least you’d do well to consider choosing your words more carefully, especially when dealing with such a sensitive subject.

  • Anon,
    entries in a thesaurus do not necessarily equate synonymous meanings to words; similar, but not the same – none of the similar meanings you list to ‘legitimate’ could adequately replace the use of it in the above comments.

    If you’d stop this game of point-scoring then you may have more success in arguing the issues. As it is you should be more candid about your intentions, which appear to be very much in the order of trollery.

  • Oranjepan

    So you also think that “perfectly legitimate” is an appropriate description of this film?

    Depressing.

  • Anon,
    if you wish to ask a question, then I suggest you also wait for the answer rather than putting words in other people’s mouths and dictating the words they must use.

    So I think it is worth referring you back to my comment on 13/2 at 3.48pm.

    Legitimate is the wrong word to use because it is easily confused with legal, and in this case where the debate is over the relationship between morality and the law that is most certainly unhelpful.

    I’m sorry to point out to you that your preemptive judgement of others says more about you than it does about anyone else.

  • Oranjepan

    Apparently we agree that “Legitimate is the wrong word to use”. Good.

  • Please explain which definition of “legitimate” disqualifies it from being applied to Fitna.

  • The banning of Geert Wilders from the UK has proven once and for all that we no longer live in a democracy.

    While extremists such as Abu Hamza (amongst others) have been allowed to preach hate and the destruction of the ‘kuffar’ for years, a man who dares criticize Islam is banned from our shores. And a democraticly elected politician at that.

    I’m wondering if my next vote should be for the BNP. I gain the impression they are the only political party who actually care about this country and its people. And from what i recently read in several newspapers up to 25% of votes are considering the same thing.

  • iainm:
    “Please explain which definition of “legitimate” disqualifies it from being applied to Fitna.”

    darren:
    “…a man who dares criticize Islam is banned from our shores. And a democraticly elected politician at that.
    I’m wondering if my next vote should be for the BNP.”

    I’m starting to find this frightening rather than depressing.

    Have either of you seen this film? Do either of you consider yourselves liberals?

  • Anon:

    Yes and yes.

    Now I’ve answered two of your questions perhaps you’d like to answer mine.

  • iainm:

    I should have thought it would have been obviously from my post above, that I don’t consider this piece of hate propaganda any of the following: reasonable, acceptable, justifiable, logical, valid or sensible.

    If you are the same “iainm” who posted above, characterising it as a “ridiculous little film” made by an “odious little twerp”, I find it difficult to understand how you can now be standing up for its “legitimacy”.

    What on earth are you getting at? And – as I am no longer a member of the party – are there no party members prepared to say, unequivocally, that they oppose this kind of anti-muslim hate propaganda just as much as they would oppose anti-semitic, anti-black or anti-gay hate propaganda?

  • “While extremists such as Abu Hamza (amongst others) have been allowed to preach hate”

    Abu Hamza is currently serving a seven year prison sentence for among other things “using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with the intention of stirring up racial hatred”, before that he was reduced to preaching in the street as no mosques would have him so I’m not sure in what way he was “allowed”.

  • I should have thought it would have been obviously from my post above, that I don’t consider this piece of hate propaganda any of the following: reasonable, acceptable, justifiable, logical, valid or sensible.

    You’re not answering my question. I asked what definition of “legitimate” you are using, but if you’re not going to answer it then let’s just move on.

    If you are the same “iainm” who posted above, characterising it as a “ridiculous little film” made by an “odious little twerp”, I find it difficult to understand how you can now be standing up for its “legitimacy”.

    Yes, I’m the same iainm. I’ll tell you how I can say that about the film and yet still stand up for its legitimacy: because I believe in freedom of speech, that’s how. Just because I dislike something or disagree with it, however strongly, it doesn’t automatically follow that I consider it ilegitimate.

    Evidently that’s a concept you struggle with, but I think you’ll find it’s oney dear to the heart of a great many liberals.

    What on earth are you getting at? And – as I am no longer a member of the party – are there no party members prepared to say, unequivocally, that they oppose this kind of anti-muslim hate propaganda just as much as they would oppose anti-semitic, anti-black or anti-gay hate propaganda?

    As it happens I am also no longer a member of the party, but I’ll tell you why I don’t oppose this film on your terms: because I don’t accept your comparison. Fitna is not an attack on Muslims, it is an attack on Islam. Islam is not a person or a race or a colour, it is an ideology, an idea, adhered to as a matter of choice rather than of genetics, and as such it is there to be shot at along with any other ideology or idea. I see no more problem in principle with a polemic against Islam than with a polemic against communism, or liberalism, or fascism, or christianity, or atheism, or any other political, social or metaphysical school of thought.

  • iainm

    Of course I’ve answered your question. Here it is again, in words of one syllable: the film is not “perfectly legitimate” in the sense that it’s not either reasonable, or acceptable, or justifiable, or logical, or valid or sensible.

    That doesn’t mean to say it should be banned. But it does mean to say that it should be condemned, and opposed, and exposed at every opportunity for the contemptible piece of bigotry it is.

    And don’t try to give me that nonsense about its being an attack on Islam rather than on Muslims. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that when someone shows me a bar chart demonstrating the increase in the number of Muslims in the Netherlands he isn’t making a philosophical point about religion. He’s playing precisely the same game that the Nazis played in the 1930s. And you know it full well.

  • Anonymous,
    FWIW the logic of the the film is perfectly reasonable, and the conclusions of it would be fair if the premises were agreeable, but they are not.

    Your disagreement with the conclusions presented by fitna is a waste of time unless you can effectively counter the argument – no amount of logic-denying amounts to opposition.

    It is in the preconcieved political notion of cultural conflict and his singular interpretation of his sources that Mr Wilders exposes the flaws and bias in his case and where it falls down, but we should nevertheless welcome his polemical contribution, which has initiated wider debate of the issues.

  • “Of course I’ve answered your question. Here it is again, in words of one syllable: the film is not “perfectly legitimate” in the sense that it’s not either reasonable, or acceptable, or justifiable, or logical, or valid or sensible.”

    Sorry, I must have missed your definition. I guess my mistake was looking for something that actually resembled a definition rather than an ad hoc list of other words you also don’t think apply to the film. Silly me.

    “And don’t try to give me that nonsense about its being an attack on Islam rather than on Muslims. I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that when someone shows me a bar chart demonstrating the increase in the number of Muslims in the Netherlands he isn’t making a philosophical point about religion. He’s playing precisely the same game that the Nazis played in the 1930s. And you know it full well.”

    Leaving aside your tediously shrill allusions to Nazi Germany, I’m affraid I can’t see what is so illegitimage (again, using the word as understood by people who speak English rather than according to whatever definition you’ve made up) about demonstrating the demographic inevitability of an increase in the influence of Islam in the context of a polemic against Islam.

    If his facts are wrong then demonstrate why they’re wrong. If his arguments are weak then confront them better arguments. Don’t just whine about the fact that he said it.

  • The above post labelled “Anonymous” was actually by me.

    Sorry about that.

    Butterfingers.

  • “Anonymous” wrote:

    “And – as I am no longer a member of the party – are there no party members prepared to say, unequivocally, that they oppose this kind of anti-muslim hate propaganda just as much as they would oppose anti-semitic, anti-black or anti-gay hate propaganda?”

    Poor old Anonymous has got his knickers in one heck of a twist!

    Islam requires that gays must be put to death. Is this something we are required to “respect”, Anonymous (along with arranged marriages and female genital mutilation)? Oh, sorry. You’ve just said you don’t approve of anti-gay hate propaganda… ???!!!

  • I never thought I’d see members of the Lib Dems queueing up to defend a piece of hate propaganda like this.

    I had hoped it was just a few cranks on the lunatic fringe, but if this is mainstream opinion in the party now, God help us!

  • And iainm – you know very well those bar charts showing the increase in the Muslim population were a straightforward attempt to arouse fear of an ethnic minority.

    When you try to excuse them by pretending they were to “[demonstrate] the demographic inevitability of an increase in the influence of Islam in the context of a polemic against Islam”, all you do is demonstrate your own dishonesty.

    Naturally you don’t like the reference to Nazi propaganda against the Jews, but this contemptible little film has precisely the same intent. I have often wondered in the past how it was that so many people in a civilised country went along with Nazi anti-semitism. But I think the way people in 21st-century Britain tolerate similar attacks against Muslims (on the spurious grounds that “it’s different, because they’re not a race”) shows exactly how it happened.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 9:29am

    Anonymous


    “That doesn’t mean to say it should be banned. But it does mean to say that it should be condemned, and opposed, and exposed at every opportunity for the contemptible piece of bigotry it is”.

    Yes, and no-one is saying the film should not be condemned. In fact the argument here is that its author should be exposed in terms of being permitted to travel so that he can expose his arguments and those who have arguments against them can put those arguments against them.

    I despair of Muslims, because they just seem so unable to grasp this basic issue. It is a fact that their religion is being used to justify a large amount of violence and abusive behaviour. Many terrorists are using it to justify what they do, in many parts of the world where it is dominant there are clampdowns on what people may do and cruel punishments in the name of Islam.

    In the light of this, yes, many people are thinking the sorts of things that are in this film, and are worried about the rise of Islam and would like to stop it. They won’t be stopped in thinking in this way by the ban of this film or its author’s travelling rights.

    They will be stopped in thinking this way if the reaction of Muslims to criticism like this is to show that there are other ways of interpreting Islam and that the cruel and violent interpretations of it which hit the headlines are not typical of it.

    But the reaction of Muslims to any criticism of their religion – even of Muslims who are members of the Liberal Democrats – seems to be that it is unacceptable, and that it is some sort of racist oppression which should be met by shrill denunciation of the persons responsible for it rather than a reasoned argument against the case they are making.

  • Matthew

    I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but I’m not suggesting that either the film or its author should be banned. (I would be somewhat reassured if some of the comments above were made by people who hadn’t read the previous comments and didn’t understand that.)

    What I object to is people saying that the film is “perfectly legitimate”, and portraying it as “a polemic against Islam”, when in fact it’s obviously an attempt to arouse fear and hatred of Muslims.

    And you may not have seen it, but the argument with Andy Hinton arose when I explained the context of the Koranic verses (which is precisely what you had advised). His response to that was simply to dismiss it as “fatuous waffle”. Quite why he thought it was “fatuous” to view a historical text in its historical context, I can’t fathom. But that seems to be the level of the response to reasoned argument.

    By the way I have to wonder whether you would feel quite comfortable about saying “I despair of Jews”, or “I despair of blacks”. I think the great danger is that the more acceptable this kind of anti-Muslim propaganda becomes, the more pervasive are its effects, even among those who view themselves as its opponents.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 10:31am

    I despair of Jews who believe that any criticism of Israeli action is “anti-semitic”. I despair of blacks who cannot see that certain aspects of black urban culture are damaging the prospects of their children.

    Does that help?

  • Matthew

    I’m sorry, but that tends to confirm what I thought.

    In your post above you said “I despair of Muslims, because …”

    That’s not at all the same as saying “I despair of Jews who …” or “I despair of blacks who …”

    There’s a lot of difference between despairing of a whole group of people and despairing of a sub-section of that group who behave in a certain way or hold certain beliefs, isn’t there?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 11:42am

    So what did you think that was confirmed?

    I really would like to see Muslims in general develop an attitude whereby the response to criticisms of their religion is to gently put the counter-argument rather than just aggressively claim the attack is “Islamophobic” without considering its claims. I’m very happy for you to put the Koran verses in context, I think that sort of thing helps a lot. I’d like to see more of that and less of “it offends me” and “ban it” and certainly less of “withdraw it, or we’ll behead you”. Now I know the latter is the lunatic fringe, but if you let the lunatic fringe speak for you it damages your case.

    I write as someone whose own religion is frequently attacked in one-sided and biased ways in liberal circles. Why is it acceptable to attack my religion in these ways, when it would be considered unacceptable and racist to attack Islam in the same ways?

  • “So what did you think that was confirmed?”

    I suspected that you wouldn’t be comfortable speaking of Jews or black people in the same way in which you had just spoken of Muslims.

    In fact, your reaction to the film seems to consist almost entirely of further blanket criticism of Muslims. I think I was too hasty in assuming you would view yourself as an opponent of anti-Muslim propaganda.

    In fact, from what you’ve said, I wonder whether you’ve even seen the film. Have you? If so, are you willing to say, simply and straightforwardly, “I condemn this film”? Disturbingly few people on this thread have been willing to do this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 1:27pm

    OK, fair enough, though I will note “Jew” and “black” are words for a race, whereas “Muslim” is a word for a belief set, so it’s not an identical case.

    You say that I should view myself as “an opponent of anti-Muslim propaganda”, but what do you mean by this? That I should oppose any attempt to argue against Islam? What do you mean here anyway? Since you condemn me for using just the word “Muslim” meaning I am not allowed to ascribe any attitude to Muslims in general, then how can there be such a thing as “anti-Muslim”? By the same token, surely I can only be “anti Muslims who ….”.

    I have not seen the film, I have read descriptions of it here and elsewhere. As I have already said, from these it seems to be to be one-sided and nasty, but in those ways not that much different from one-sided and nasty anti-Catholic stuff which seems to be considered perfectly acceptable as broadcast and published commentary and even as entertainment.

    What do you mean by “condemn”? If I were asked to give my own views on Islam, they wouldn’t be these and they wouldn’t be put in this way. If I were asked was this an acceptable film to be broadcast on public television, I’d say “no”. If I were asked “Would you prefer that this film had never been made” I’d say “yes”. If I were asked – and that was the question I was replying to – “Should the author of this film be banned from entering the UK?” I’d say “no”. But I accept, that’s a provisional “no”, and if I really had to make the decision I’d want to see the film first. It’s up to you to convince me of the case for banning the man. So far, you haven’t.

    If someone were to write “I despair of Catholics” would anyone complain and accuse them of being bigoted? No, I don’t think so. I think you are asking for Muslims to be given special treatment in this country which Catholics do not get. If not, explain why not.

    You accuse me of making “blanket criticisms of Muslims”, but I did not mean it that way, though you prove my point by your assumption that I did. I despair because I would like to see Islam accepted and respected in this country, but I see the way Muslims so often react to issues like this to be a barrier to that acceptance and respect. I meant what I said as friendly advice, not an attack.

  • Bruce Wilson 17th Feb '09 - 1:27pm

    Chris should explain his support for censorship to a group of Liberals. Unless there is clear incitement to violence, he would have a rather hard case to defend. Is he turning into a conservative?

  • Matthew

    “It’s up to you to convince me of the case for banning the man. So far, you haven’t. ”

    Look. I’ve already said:
    “I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but I’m not suggesting that either the film or its author should be banned.”

    If that’s not clear enough for you to understand, I don’t see what I can do about it.

    And after all that, as I suspected, you haven’t even seen the bloody film!

    What a waste of time.

  • “What I’m sensing from you, though, is not a concern about semantics, but about the apparent lack of moral outrage coming from the posters about the content of the film. Is that fair?”

    The point is that people have been very clear that the film shouldn’t be banned and its maker shouldn’t be banned. Good. I should just like people to be as clear that they oppose this kind of hate propaganda.

    A lot of the statements above are anything but clear. But as most of the people holding forth on this don’t even seem to have taken the trouble to watch the film, perhaps that’s not surprising.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 3:04pm

    Anonymous,

    Go and read the article on which this is a comment. The article is not on whether this is a good or bad film, it’s one whether its author should be banned from this country.

    If you don’t wish to comment on the issue of whether the film and its author should be banned, don’t write in a comments section which is on that issue.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 3:16pm

    Anonymous


    “I should just like people to be as clear that they oppose this kind of hate propaganda.”

    You have not answered the question about when a point of view which says “I don’t believe in this religion” or “I believe this religion has harmful effects” or “I believe people who subscribe to this religion are dangerous” becomes “hate propaganda”.

    Neither have you explained what you mean by “oppose”. Do you mean “disagree with its message” or “disagree with the way the message is put across”? Do you mean “disagree but accept someone should be allowed to distribute it” or “disagree to the point where it should be banned”.

    I cannot be clear in the way you ask until you are clear. I have asked you to clarify, you have avoided doing so.

    People hate my religion. Dr Ian Paisley, for example, will explain in detail why he thinks it is wrong and why he thinks it is dangerous. So, from a different perspective, will Professor Richard Dawkins. Would it be acceptable for me to describe the writings of either of these gentlemen as “hate propaganda”? If I asked you the question “Do you oppose this kind of …” when I meant what they wrote, what would you say? Would it be a leading question if I did put “hate propaganda” where the … is? How could you answer the question if you hadn’t seen their writing so couldn’t say for sure whether “hate propaganda ” was an appropriate word for it?

  • Matthew

    Seriously, is there some reason that you keep asking me whether I think this film should be banned, however many times I make it clear I do not?

  • Andy

    Assuming you mean the point about the bar charts, I did make that point in the post immediately before the one by Bunc. In fact I had assumed that’s what prompted him to mention it. Though maybe not.

    The reason you “wouldn’t have reached this realisation talking to you” is evidently that you weren’t actually reading what I was writing.

    I think we are mostly going round in circles – particularly as it sounds as though you still haven’t seen the film. But again, I hoped I had made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t suggesting the film was illegal. Of course, that would require something beyond various documentary footage spliced together with the intent of arousing fear and hatred of Muslims. But that clearly was the intent.

  • Andy

    “My original post was essentially meant to invite an explanation of what it was that made the film so terrible, since there seemed to have been a lot of condemnation of it but not much explanation of why. Since I was unable to watch the thing myself, I was curious what I was missing.”

    Well, anyway, can I suggest that if in future you want to ask people to explain what they find offensive in a film you haven’t seen, it would be a good idea to say something like “Unfortunately I’m not able to watch this film; what is it that people find offensive in it?”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 4:36pm

    Anonymous


    Matthew, Seriously, is there some reason that you keep asking me whether I think this film should be banned, however many times I make it clear I do not?

    Reason 1 – you are posting in response to an article which asked the question should the person responsible for this film be banned from entry. That is the point I was addressing.

    Reason 2 – you are asking whether people “oppose” this film. If by oppose you do not mean “want to ban” what do you mean? If you don’t mean “ban” then I have already answered your question, so why do you keep asking it?

  • Matthew

    “If you don’t mean “ban” then I have already answered your question, so why do you keep asking it?”

    You seem to be very confused. I didn’t ask any question. I responded to “Lonely Wonderer” by saying I would like people to oppose this kind of hate propaganda.

    For reasons best known to yourself, you apparently felt compelled to ask whether that meant banning it, even though I had repeatedly made it clear I wasn’t in favour of banning it.

    Anyway, I hope you’ve finally got the message. I am not in favour of banning the film. I am not in favour of banning its author from the UK. I want people to be clear that they oppose it.

    And I do not have the time to waste on discussions of “it depends what you mean by oppose” with people who spend their time posting endless comments about the film but can’t even be bothered to watch it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 9:25pm

    Anonymous,

    You are asking people to “oppose” this film, but when I ask you what you mean by that you refuse to say and you get angry. I asked you did you mean “ban” and you say “no”. Fine, so what do you mean? How can you ask people to do something then refuse to say what that something is?

    You say this film is “hate propaganda”, but you refuse to tell me what you mean by “hate propaganda”. If I am asked to oppose “hate propaganda” I should like also to know when something is classed as “hate propaganda”. Do you believe people do not have a right to hate a belief with which they do not agree? Do you believe people do not have a right to passionately argue against those who hold a belief with which they disagree?

    If you believe this film is “hate propaganda” you should tell me what it is that makes it this, and how that is distinguished from other works which also condemn beliefs and criticise the people who hold to those beliefs as bad or dangerous.

    If you can do neither of these things – neither tell me what you mean by “oppose” nor tell me what you mean by “hate propaganda” then what you have requested of me and others is meaningless. You might as well have said “I should just like people to be as clear that they wibble this kind of wobble.”

  • “by saying I would like people to oppose this kind of hate propaganda.”

    I have visions of standing there chanting “Down with this sort of thing. Careful now”

  • Hywel

    OK. Fine. I get the message.

    It was stupid of me to expect Liberal Democrats to oppose this kind of thing.

    If I needed any reassurance that I made the right decision when I left the party, I’ve just been put in no doubt of it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Feb '09 - 10:04pm

    Anonymous,

    There you go again:


    It was stupid of me to expect Liberal Democrats to oppose this kind of thing

    but you do not say what you mean by “oppose” except that you do not mean “ban”. If by “oppose” you mean “disagree with its message and the way it is presented”, well then, yes I oppose it. If you mean “wish to see it banned” then I do not oppose it.

    I think I have been very clear in what I have said. I am sorry, Anonymous, but the more I hear from you the more I think you are a very stupid person.

  • Matthew

    “If you mean “wish to see it banned” then I do not oppose it.”

    In all seriousness, if you really don’t understand what I’ve said to you, in very simple language, about half a dozen times, I think you must have a medical problem of some kind.

    If on the other hand, you’re just trying to provoke me by repeating this over and over again, even though you know full well it’s not what I’m saying, then you’ve succeeded. Go to hell!

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Feb '09 - 9:03am

    Anonymous,

    You write

    “It was stupid of me to expect Liberal Democrats to oppose this kind of thing”

    and I am asking you what you mean by this.

    You have said you do not mean “ban”, so fine, I accept that, so I’m going on to ask what you do mean by “oppose”. As I have already said, if you mean “disagree with the message of the film and the way it is presented” then I oppose it and so do most people who have commented on it. I do so on the basis of descriptions of the film, not having seen it. But you cannot mean this, otherwise you would not have written in a way which suggests most Liberal Democrats have not “opposed” it, at least in the way you want them to oppose it. So what do you mean by “oppose” here? Is this really too much to ask? You are asking people to do something, but when they ask for clarification on exactly what they mean you become angry and refuse to say. I’m sorry to be rude, but isn’t this rather stupid behaviour on your part?

    I also want to know what you mean by “this kind of thing”. At what point does criticism of a religion on the lines of “I don’t believe what this religion claims to be the truth” or “I feel this religion encourages its followers to do bad things” and so on become “this kind of thing” which you also call “hate propaganda”?

    It is at the heart of liberalism that we believe in free speech, so we must support the right of people to say things which others disagree with, even to express views which others find hurtful or disrespectful. That does not necessarily mean we “support” or do not “oppose” those views.

    I have already hinted that I feel some sympathy with where you are coming from because I find much comment in liberal circles on my religion to be negative, one-sided, ignorant of what its followers really feel and do, and over-emphatical on unrepresentative extremists within it. So that is one reason why I am particularly interested in establishing boundaries on what is acceptable as free speech in this sort of matter, and also in establishing how these negative anti-religious attitudes can best be countered by those who have a more positive attitude towards religion.

    I am sorry that my attempts to get some sensible comments from you on these matters do not seem to be having any success.

  • Matthew

    Well, until your final comment last night you hadn’t even said you disagreed with the film’s message.

    But let me make this clear, for once and for all. If you can’t even be bothered to watch the film – despite the fact you are spending so much time commenting on it – then your views are of no interest to me whatsoever.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Feb '09 - 12:14pm

    Anonymous,

    What extra would I learn from watching the film? I’ve heard enough to know I disagree with its message and its presentation.

    I was more interested in discussing the general principles of when does acceptable free speech criticising a religion become unacceptable “hate propaganda”.

    I am sorry that this general principle of liberalism is not something which interests you whatsoever. Personally, I think it is a mark of intelligence to be able to abstract from specific examples to more abstract principles. Actually, I know it is. You are unable to do this, it seems. This confirms my impression of you.

    Goodbye.

  • Matthew

    Apparently you’re still not getting the message.

    I’ll try again. It’s a waste of time trying to have a discussion with someone who can’t be bothered to acquaint himself with the facts, and who – apparently – is incapable of understanding basic English unless it’s repeated to him half a dozen times.

    And please don’t make me repeat that half a dozen times…

  • 134 comments on this thread. Wow! Haven’t we got better things to do, like rescuing our broken economy and our broken planet for example?

    The decision was clearly finely balanced. I would have been inclined to let Wilders in, but I don’t know what the police advice would have been. If letting Wilders in had sparked off riots, nobody would be complimenting the government on its principled stand for freedom of speech.

    There are many reasons to condemn Labour for their blatant disregard of civil liberties. This isn’t one of them.

  • I think it’s quite simple:
    The question we are supposed to be addressing is “Was Chris Huhne right to say Geert Wilders should be banned from the UK?”
    - Almost all posters here also say no.

    Another question is “Should the film be banned?”
    - Almost all posters here also say no.

    A third question is “Should we oppose the film?” By “oppose” here, I mean “disagree with the film’s message”.
    - Every poster here says yes. That’s whether they’ve seen the film or heard enough about the film second-hand not to need to see the film.

  • Of course, if it had been true that every poster had said he/she opposed the film, I wouldn’t have raised the issue in the first place.

    As I’ve already pointed out, Matthew Huntbach didn’t even say he disagreed with it until his final comment last night. He still hasn’t said he opposes it.

    But if people are just going to make things up like this, it only underlines the futility of attempts at sensible discussion.

  • If you all think Wilders must have freedom of speech, the right to say anything however distasteful, why not Abu Qatada?

    And yet the latter has been in detention to shut him up and is now being deported.

    We must be consistent. Discuss.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Feb '09 - 9:33pm

    If Mr Wilders was involved in the organisation of terrorist action against Muslims or even actively advocated it, I’d have no hesitation in saying he should be banned from this country.

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 18th Feb '09 - 10:50pm

    Dear Elizabeth,

    Let me explain why Abu Qatada should not be allowed in the UK, and why the banning of Geert Wilders was so shameful, especially for the liberal party. The heritage of the liberal party includes the insights of the great philosopher John Stuart Mill, who explained the issue clearly in his essay “On Liberty”, where he wrote: “the sole end for with mankind are warranted in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self protection”.

    Abu Qatada actively promotes the violent overthrow of the current system of government in the United Kingdom. Therefore it is the duty of the UK government to protect us from this man. Since he is not a UK citizen we can, and must, keep him out of the UK.

    Geert Wilders does not seek or in any way the violent overthrow of the UK. Action taken against him is not self protection. And nowhere in the film Fitna is there a suggestion that violence should be directed against Muslims- indeed the film is notable for the fact that the only voices heard are Islamic voices, demanding violence against atheists such as myself.

    Second, JS Mill insisted that freedom to express opinion is absolute, EVEN IF THESE OPINIONS ARE DIAGREEABLE. He writes: “However positive anyone’s persuasion not only of the falsity but of the pernicious consequences, but of the immorality and impiety of an opinion, [if] he prevents the opinion being heard, he assumes infallibility”.

    Wilders opinions are indeed impious, since they transgress the key tenets of that infallible creed of the our time, multiculturalism. But again, the film doesn’t actually contain much of Wilder’s opinions: what he has done is produce a very unflattering (and possibly unfair) collage of extreme voices of Islamic opinion, interspersed with extracts from the Koran. At the end of the film he gives a few facts and figures, and presents his conclusions (which are hostile to Islam) in a forthright, but measured, way.

    I have presume that Abu Qatada’s opinions are indeed pious. It is not his opinions that are the problem: it is his and his followers’ actions.

    As I wrote earlier, the film is a polemic. JS Mill has something to say about that, as well: “undoubtedly the manner of asserting an opinion, even though it is a true one, may be very objectionable… but [graver] is to suppress facts or arguments”. Wilders film is indeed gratuitously offensive; consider the silly animated sequence which features the Mohammed cartoon exploding. However he does have a point to make, which is this: Islam is incompatible with the rough and tumble of a free society, and we have the choice: we must reverse or at least put a stop to the rise of Islam in Europe, or we must give up the idea that we can continue to be free society. On that question, the jury is still out.

  • “Since he is not a UK citizen we can, and must, keep him out of the UK.”

    As a matter of fact, he’s been in the UK for the last 16 years, and will remain in the UK until his appeal to the European Court of Human Rights has been heard.

    I agree his case is quite different from that of Wilders. But it does raise concerns of its own. If I understand correctly, the judgment in support of his deportation was based on an assessment of how likely he was to receive a fair trial in Jordan. It was considered he would receive a fair trial despite the fact that the evidence against him might have been obtained using torture, because (Lord Phillips) “The prohibition on receiving evidence obtained by torture is not primarily because such evidence is unreliable or because the reception of the evidence will make the trial unfair”. That seems completely illogical and wrong in principle, and I’m not surprised that Amnesty International has said it is “gravely concerned” by the implications.

    To his credit, Chris Huhne has spoken out quite forcefully in the past on Qatada’s case:
    http://www.chrishuhne.org.uk/news/000389/charge_qatada_or_release_him.html
    http://www.chrishuhne.org.uk/news/000438/governments_terror_policies_not_working.html

    But curiously there doesn’t seem to have been any statement by Huhne, or any other party spokesman, on the latest judgment. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, he says.

  • “I would have been inclined to let Wilders in, but I don’t know what the police advice would have been. If letting Wilders in had sparked off riots, nobody would be complimenting the government on its principled stand for freedom of speech.”

    Wilders was “let in” a few months before (and post Fitna and all his other objectionable comments) – there was no such violence on that occasion.

    What there were on this occasion were threats of demonstrations, which include allegations that Lord Ahmed said he would mobilise 10,000 muslims to prevent Wilders entering the upper house (Melanie Phillips in the Spectator so I’m not prepared to claim it as correct without further confirmation).

    If a speaker is met with threats of violent protest then is the liberal response to ban the speaker or ban the violent protest.

    To put it in another context, suppose Howard Deans visit to our conference next month is the subject of a concerted protest by anti-abortion campaigners who talked of using mass protests to stop him speaking. What should be our response then?

  • Elizabeth Patterson 19th Feb '09 - 9:02am

    David Cooper.

    “It is not his opinions that are the problem; it is his followers actions”

    Surely the same could be said of both Qatada and Wilders?

  • There still doesn’t appear to have been any comment from Chris Huhne about the Qatada case. I checked both Huhne’s website and the party’s. Ironically, on the party site there is a letter by Ed Davey, complaining about “complicity in UK co-operation with torture and extraordinary rendition” …

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Feb '09 - 10:59am

    If Wilders were not let in purely on the basis that there’s real concern about serious disorder if he is, then I can accept that as a pragmatic decision. But the shame then falls on those making the threat of disorder.

    Let us suppose someone threatened to bring 10,000 liberals to scream abuse and forcibly block entry to any mosque which invited some preacher who had forthright views against liberalism and the western way of life. Who is more to the wrong there, the speaker, or the person who threatened to organise the disruption?

    We know that there are many films circulating in the Muslim world showing things like devastation caused by war in Gaza or Iraq or elsewhere, suggesting that what happened there is a direct consequence of western beliefs, and expressing concern at the growth of western influence in some part if the Muslim world. Do those responsible for such films never enter this country? Are such films not equally “hate propaganda”?

    Regarding Abu Qatada, there is a very great hypocrisy that he and many others like him claim the western world and western values are evil and no Muslim should have anything to do with them, and then flee to the western world asking for the protection our liberalism gives to them against what they experienced as persecution in the Muslim world.

  • “Regarding Abu Qatada, there is a very great hypocrisy that he and many others like him claim the western world and western values are evil and no Muslim should have anything to do with them, and then flee to the western world asking for the protection our liberalism gives to them against what they experienced as persecution in the Muslim world.”

    The implication being that those who don’t themselves support “Western values” should be excluded from the protection offered by the rule of law?

    Isn’t that exactly the argument that was put against Wilders – that he was intolerant, and therefore shouldn’t be tolerated? The argument that was roundly rejected on liberal grounds?

    The only difference being, apparently, that liberals aren’t so bothered about human rights when the humans in question happen to be Muslims?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Feb '09 - 8:27am

    Anonymous,

    Can you point out where in what I wrote that you quoted it says that Abu Qatada should be excluded from the protection of the law?

    The fact that I call him a hypocrite for accepting it does not mean I would wish to withdraw it from him.

  • Matthew

    I can see you didn’t say it explicitly. That’s why I asked whether that was the implication of your comment. Surely you know what implication means?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Feb '09 - 9:05am

    As the Prophet Issa put it (paraphrasing)

    “If you wanna go round dissing Caesar, you’d get a lot more respect if you didn’t have his money jingling in your pocket”

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 20th Feb '09 - 3:42pm

    Dear Elizabeth,

    You have difficulty making a moral distinction between the followers of Wilders and the followers of Abu Qatada. I shall try to help.

    Abu Qatada and his followers explicitly aim to inflict death and injury to those that do not follow their beliefs. Wilders and his followers have no such aim, and to my knowledge have not killed or injured anyone.

    Wilders does vilify Islam. But it is easy to distinguish between vilification and murder: in the former case, you know you are being vilified, and can defend yourself. In the latter case, you are dead.

    Vilification can of course precede murder. For example, Hitler during the 20th century vilified Jews and Communists, and then proceeded to murder them. But before murdering the Jews, Hitler had to set up a police state in which debate and the open expression of views was impossible. The first step in that direction is suppressing the free expression of views. That is why Chris Huhne’s words are so shameful.

    The length that Abu Qatada has been resident in the UK is irrelevant. If he were a UK citizen, we would be justified in treating him as a traitor. Since he seeks to do as much damage to our society as possible, he forfeits any moral right to the protection provided by these shores. Insofar as he has the legal right to stay in the UK, this reflects bad law. We have no duty of care to him. Expel him and let him take his chances elsewhere.

  • “The length that Abu Qatada has been resident in the UK is irrelevant.”

    Its relevance to your previous claims that he “should not be allowed in the UK … Since he is not a UK citizen we can, and must, keep him out of the UK.” is pretty obvious!

    But I think you are missing the point about Qatada. What is at issue is whether he will be given a fair trial in Jordan, and whether there is a risk that he will be tortured there. I’d have hoped people could agree that everyone should have the right to a fair trial, whatever allegations have been made against them. I’d hope that even the most fervent “anti-Islamists” in the Lib Dems would agree that even Muslims have that right.

    Specifically, it’s alleged that part of the evidence against him has been obtained by torture, and what the Law Lords appear to have ruled is that this would not be an impediment to a fair trial. That’s what concerns me most. It amazes me that a senior British judge could consider that evidence obtained using torture could be relied on.

    In his past statements on the Qatada case, Chris Huhne has been very clear that it would not be safe to rely on evidence obtained using torture. His silence on the matter since the ruling by the Law Lords is very strange.

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 20th Feb '09 - 10:09pm

    Of course Abu Qatada has the right to a fair trial in whatever country he goes to, although whether we owe a duty to him to ensure he gets this right is another discussion. The point I was making that Qatada and Wilders are not morally equivalent.

  • David

    The trouble is that if you say that anyone who has been accused of crimes in another country “forfeits” the right to protection against an unfair trial, it all becomes rather meaningless.

    People who haven’t been accused of anything don’t need protection against an unfair trial!

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 21st Feb '09 - 9:58am

    He forfeits any claim to our protection against anything at all by his criminal incitement to violence against our society, not due to accusations of crimes in another country. Although he is accused in Jordan, perhaps on false evidence obtained by torture, we have no duty to protect him against a possible unfair trial.

  • Criminal incitement – what happened to innocent until proven guilty?

    As to Anonymous who think people should be more worked up about the content of the film, well why should we? What is the benefit to society?

  • David

    But what do you mean by “his criminal incitement to violence against our society”? As far as I know he hasn’t been charged with any offence in this country, let alone convicted of one.

    Please don’t make any mistake about it – I’m not defending anything he’s alleged to have said or done. From what I’ve read he sounds like a very unsavoury individual. But surely the point is that people can’t “forfeit” their rights without some kind of due process of law.

  • Voter

    I just take it as axiomatic that if a film is made with the intention of arousing fear and hatred of a minority, then Liberal Democrats – and in fact reasonable people from all parties – should condemn it, even if it’s made in such a way that it falls within the law.

  • There are more important things in life than condemning every single silly utterance, even if its goal is to arouse hatred of a minority.

    With the Lib Dems not seriously opposing the ban on extreme adult stuff and a financial crisis still ongoing, there is plenty to do.

    Electoral reform is important too

  • “There are more important things in life than condemning every single silly utterance, even if its goal is to arouse hatred of a minority.”

    What worries me is not only that people here don’t seem to think condemning hate propaganda is a priority, but that many of them – including you, apparently – simply cannot bring themselves to say “I condemn this film” or “I oppose this film”.

  • I was thinking of the posts immediately before the one you quote – by “Oranjepan”, “iainm” and “Sesenco” – and of course Andy Hinton’s “perfectly legitimate”.

  • Oranjepan

    It’s not a question of “cannot condemn enough”, it’s a question of “cannot condemn at all”. Saying something is “based on a false premise”, disagreeing with a “false characterisation” and “highlighting inconsistencies” aren’t the same as condemning the film, by any stretch of the imagination!

    Why can you simply not bring yourself to say “I oppose this film”, or “I condemn this film”, or something clear and unequivocal like that? That is what concerns me.

  • Oranjepan

    Have you seen the film? I know a lot of the people who have been commenting on it haven’t.

  • Anon,

    The reason no one is willing to use the precise form of words you are fixating on is that you have signally failed to explain what you think they mean, in spite of having been asked several times. You have said that to oppose the film isn’t the same as calling for it to be banned, but you have also said that it is distinct from merely disagreeing with it. If you can see a meaningful positive definition lurking in between those two negative ones then please point out where, because I can’t see it and from the evidence of this thread I’m not the only one.

    Or do you just think we have a duty to make your declaration out of a sense of platidudinous politically correct good form?

  • iainm

    Your misrepresentations of what I am saying are getting very tedious, and very transparent.

    I’m not asking you to use any particular form of words. Just something “clear and unequivocal”. But you’re right that I am looking for something stronger than “I disagree” or “I wouldn’t have put it that way myself”. I don’t believe you’d respond to racism or antisemitism like that – at least I hope not. This is the equivalent directed at Muslims, and I don’t accept the argument that it’s fine because Muslims are not a separate race.

    Look at it like this. Your first four words on this thread were clear enough: “Huhne’s comments were outrageous.” What I don’t understand is why you’re unwilling to make an equally clear statement against the film.

  • “Anonymous” is now accusing me of “defending a piece of hate propaganda”.

    Wrong, Anonymous. I am defending someone’s right to broadcast a film. That doesn’t mean I agree with the contents of the film.

    The fact that you have to support your case with a dishonest misrepresentation of my position says everything.

  • Sesenco

    This is the comment by you that I was referring to:
    “How a liberal can call for the gagging of a politician who is criticising a deeply illiberal belief system is a complete mystery.”

    It certainly sounded to me as though you were defending – and even approving of – Wilders’ film by characterising it in this way. It sounds as though you were suggesting that Huhne and Wilders should be on the same side. If it were only a matter of freedom of speech, why would you need to mention what the film was criticising at all?

    And I note that you don’t even seem to be willing to say you disagree with the film, let alone anything stronger.

    Have you seen the film, by the way?

  • Anonymous, you seem to have forgotten that the reason the film was censored is precisely because it is critical of Islam.

    FACT: Islam is a deeply illiberal belief system.

    FACT: Islam is intensely intolerant of dissent, and countries where Moslems are a majority do not permit criticism of their religion.

    FACT: A film critical of Islam has been censored by the British government because Moslem leaders exercised the heckler’s veto by threatening to bring their followers out on to the street.

    FACT: Relativists and casuists such as yourself claim that (i) criticism of Islam is racist and (ii) Islam isn’t really illiberal.

    Some questions for you, Anonymous:

    (1) Do you consider that Islam is illiberal?

    (2) Do you favour (a) arranged marriages, (b) female genital mutilation, (c) the putting to death of (i) homosexuals, (ii) adulterers and (iii) appostates?

    (3) Do you consider that different standards of behaviour apply to different groups of people based on their preponderant skin colour?

    (4) Do you believe that criticism of Christianity should be prohibited along with criticism of Islam?

    (5) Do you feel guilty about having freedom?

    This is not the first film critical of Islam that the UK government has tried to ban. Anyone remember “Death of a Princess”? Anyone recall Lord Carrington prostrating himself at the feet of the Saudi king begging for foregiveness? I remember the late Dr Jesse Dickson Mabon MP telling us on “Question Time” that we in the West have no basis for claiming that our values are better than Saudi values. I guess you would agree with that, Anonymous.

  • Sesenco

    You ask me a lot of questions, but you don’t answer the one I asked you.

    Have you even seen the film you are holding forth about?

  • Have YOU, Anonymous?

    The reason I ask is this.

    Those, like yourself, who advocate censorship, say that ordinary people cannot be trusted to view material/hear views of which they disapprove. But the censor CAN be trusted. Mrs Whitehouse explained that she had special protection from God, thus enabling her to spend all day looking at dirty pictures which would turn lesser mortals into monsters.

    If the answer to my question is “yes”, Anonymous, I take it that you, too, enjoy special protection from the Almighty?

  • Yes, of course I’ve seen it. I’ve said that a number of times.

    Now – have you seen the film, or not?

  • Anonymous, if you haven’t seen the film, on what basis do you call for its censorship? Oh, right. The fact that it offends Moslems is sufficient. You couldn’t be more servile if you tried.

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 22nd Feb '09 - 3:28pm

    Dear Anonymous,

    You demand that any Liberal express at least disagreement with this film, and indeed condemnation. But with what should we disagree or condemn?

    Most of the film is factual. It contains verses from the Koran, an unflattering selection of film cuttings, and a few statistics. The verses do exist, the events portrayed did happen. So in this aspect there is nothing to disagree with or condemn.

    Finally it concludes with its major premise: “Islam seeks to destroy our western civilization… now the Islamic ideology has to be defeated”.

    I neither agree nor disagree with that premise, and certainly do not condemn Wilders for proposing it. I hope it is untrue, but at present there is a battle within Islam to determine its future direction. Islamic fundamentalists, for example Abu Quatada, do seek to replace our civilization with a worldwide caliphate. Other Islamic thinkers oppose this idea. Which side will gain the upper hand only history will tell. Wilders is convinced that the former trend will dominate.

    There is the “exploding” prophet animation sequence. This is offensive and in bad taste, but if I condemned all things that are offensive or in bad taste I’d have to spend all day in condemnation.

    However I certainly condemn Chris Huhne for colluding in the suppression of free speech.

  • Sesenco

    Read my last comment again. I’ve just told you that I have seen the film. I have said so a number of times already in this discussion.

    And, as I’ve said about a dozen times, I am not calling for it to be banned or censored. Nor, as far as I know, is the government trying to ban the film, as you seem to think.

    Now, I’ve asked the question three times already. Please will you please give me a straight answer? Have you seen the film or not?

  • David Cooper

    Do you honestly not believe that the film was made with the intention of arousing fear and hatred of Muslims?

    If you don’t believe that, for what purpose do you think it was made?

  • Anonymous, what I choose to read or watch is my business, not yours. Unlike you, I am not so egomaniacal as to presume to know what people can or cannot be trusted to watch. I presume against censorship unless there are overwhelming grounds to justify it. If you don’t want the film banned, then what are you trolling about?

  • Anonymous, it is what a film actually shows that matters, not the motivation of the people who made it. The motive of the film-maker could easily have been to warn people of the dangers posed to Western civilisation by Islam. Frankly, I don’t care. Unless you can show overwhelming justification for banning the film, and for restricting the entry of an EU national into this country, then I suggest you go away snd shut up. Or join he National Viewers and Listeners’ Association.

  • Laughable.

  • Sesenco

    “Unless you can show overwhelming justification for banning the film, and for restricting the entry of an EU national into this country …”

    As I’ve just explained to you, I am not in favour of banning the film. And as I have said umpteen times in the above discussion, I am not in favour of banning Wilders from the country either.

  • Anon:

    “Your misrepresentations of what I am saying are getting very tedious, and very transparent.”

    In what way am I missrepresenting anything you say? YOU keep demanding that we all “oppose” or “condemn” the film, but you you yourself have narrowed the definitions of those words down to meaninglessness. I’ve conceded that this might just be a failure of imagination on my part and so I’ve repeatedly offered you the chance to show me the meaning that I am missing, and you have repeatedly refused to do so.

    “I’m not asking you to use any particular form of words. Just something “clear and unequivocal”. But you’re right that I am looking for something stronger than “I disagree” or “I wouldn’t have put it that way myself”. I don’t believe you’d respond to racism or antisemitism like that – at least I hope not. This is the equivalent directed at Muslims, and I don’t accept the argument that it’s fine because Muslims are not a separate race.

    I don’t give two hoots whether or not you accept it, it is a FACT. Criticism of Islam is qualitatively different from criticism of blacks, or Jews, or homosexuals, and if you are too dense or too stubborn to recognise why then that is your problem and is neither here nor there to me.

    So, no, or course I wouldn’t react to racism or anti-semetism this way. That’s because they simply aren’t comparible. Duh.

    “Look at it like this. Your first four words on this thread were clear enough: “Huhne’s comments were outrageous.” What I don’t understand is why you’re unwilling to make an equally clear statement against the film.

    My fourty-forth through sixty-seventh words in this thread were “banning this odious little twerp is going to provoke far more anti-muslim sentiment than his ridiculous little film ever could have hoped to do.” If that is not clear and unequivocal enough for you then that’s just your tough luck, because that is the top and the bottom of how I feel about it. I’m unwilling to say simply “I condemn/ oppose this film” on demand because that would be an idiotic and meaningless simplification of my feelings towards it.

  • iainm

    At least your statement about the acceptability of the equivalent of anti-semitism, directed at Muslims, because they are not a race, has the virtue of clarity.

  • At least your statement about the acceptability of the equivalent of anti-semitism, directed at Muslims, because they are not a race, has the virtue of clarity.

    Now who is misrepresenting? I didn’t say that the equivalent was acceptable, I said there is no equivalence in the first place.

  • iainm

    Well, what are you saying? Are you saying it’s OK to be prejudiced against Muslims or not?

  • Anon:

    Are you still beating your wife?

    I don’t accept that criticism of Islam amounts to prejudice in the sense you clearly mean it, any more than criticism of fascism or criticism of communism or criticism of libertarianism amounts to prejudice against those who espouse those world views.

    I’ll tell you what equivalence I do see though. I see striking similarities between your desperate and rather pathetic attempts to imply racism on the part of anyone who criticises Islam with the tactics of those supporters of Israel who respond to any criticism of that country with immediate accusations of anti-semitism.

  • iainm

    I’m not asking you about “criticism of Islam”. If I asked you whether anti-semitism was OK, you wouldn’t say “I don’t accept that criticism of Judaism amounts to prejudice”, would you?

    What I’m asking is whether you think it’s OK to be prejudiced against Muslims. What’s the answer?

  • Come off it Anon, the central thread that ties your contributions in this discussion together has been an attempt to paint criticism of Islam as prejudice against Muslims, so how you have the brass neck to claim a distinction between the two now is beyond me.

    In the precise sense you mean “prejudice”, there is no such thing as prejudice against Muslims.

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 22nd Feb '09 - 5:52pm

    Dear Anonymous,

    Was the film was made with the purpose of arousing “fear and hatred of Muslims”?

    I am not privy to Wilder’s thoughts, but I would not deny that it arouses hatred of a certain type of Muslim, namely the extreme fundamentalist. The fear it arouses, certainly in my own mind, is that the ideas propagated by charismatic fundamentalist preachers will eventually dominate mainstream Islamic thought. If this happens in Europe then there would be a large minority that would be deeply inimical to the ideals of liberal democracy. I care deeply about these ideals.

    Is this fear justified? I don’t know. This film makes a case that it is.

    Are only the religious allowed to express hatred? The Koran says “Allah… has made hateful to you unbelief and transgression and disobedience”. As an unbeliever, I have every moral right to return the compliment should I so wish.

  • iainm

    On the contrary, whatever you may pretend, I have never said there is anything wrong with criticising Islam. Of course there isn’t.

    What I am criticising is the attempt to arouse fear and hatred of Muslims.

    But if you won’t even say that prejudice against Muslims is wrong – and indeed if you go so far as make bizarre statements like “there is no such thing as prejudice against Muslims” – you really are proving my point.

  • David Cooper

    I realise you can’t be absolutely certain about Wilders’s intentions, but what I’m asking you is whether you believe the intention was to arouse fear and hatred of Muslims.

    Of course, I mean Muslims in general, not Muslim terrorists or extremists. You may remember those bar charts showing the increase in the Muslim population. That was the whole Muslim population, not the population of Muslim terrorists or extremists.

    Towards the end of your comment, you seem almost to be advocating a new right – the right to hate Muslims. Can you reassure me that wasn’t really what you meant?

  • Oranjepan

    Of course, I haven’t said half the strange things you attribute to me. I suppose I should be used to it by now.

    But I asked you above whether you’d actually seen the film, or whether you were in the position of all the other people who were commenting on it without having bothered to watch it. You didn’t answer.

    Have you seen it?

  • David Allen 22nd Feb '09 - 8:07pm

    Hywel (rather late response, sorry!),

    “If a speaker is met with threats of violent protest, then is the liberal response to ban the speaker, or ban the violent protest?”

    Well, it depends. The Orange Order used to have a clever trick of parading in pomp through Catholic areas while beating their deafening Lambeg drums. The liberal response, in my view, was not to rely on neutering any potentially violent response from the Catholic side, but to ban the “speaker”.

    Now I do think that it is arguable that Wilders trying to enter the House of Lords was provocative in much the same way as the Orange marching down the Falls Road was provocative. It was a primitive grab for physical territory, and for the centre of power. A response to that from Muslims (if not a violent one) was quite understandable.

    This issue just is not black and white. It’s grey! There is no philosophical line of inquiry that can demonstrate as a piece of objective truth that banning Wilders was right, or that it was wrong. Welcome to the real world!

  • Anon

    On the contrary, whatever you may pretend, I have never said there is anything wrong with criticising Islam. Of course there isn’t.

    What I am criticising is the attempt to arouse fear and hatred of Muslims.

    Jesus Wept. That’s the whole point, innit? Any attempt at the former is open to accusations of the latter, which is exactly the justification used to block Wilders, and is exactly the brush with which you’ve spent the whole thread trying to tar anyone who won’t unreservedly “oppose” the film, and is exactly the implication that everyone else has spent the whole thread rejecting.

    You really are tying yourself in knots here.

    But if you won’t even say that prejudice against Muslims is wrong – and indeed if you go so far as make bizarre statements like “there is no such thing as prejudice against Muslims” – you really are proving my point.

    Again with the misrepresentations. I did not say that there was “no such thing as prejudice agianst Muslims”, I said quite clearly “In the precise sense you mean “prejudice”, there is no such thing as prejudice against Muslims”. The precise sense it which you meant it was to equate it with racism or anti-semetism, and as I have already said I reject the suggestion that there is any equivalence at all.

    I’m quite certain that you understand the distinction I am making, but if you really are going to make me spell it out then here it goes:

    Anti-semetic, racist and homophobic “prejudice” is against what someone is, purely as a matter of personal happenstance, a category bestowed upon them from the moment of conception and completely immutable until the day they die no matter what they think, say or do throughout their lives, and it tells us absolutely nothing whatsoever about them as individuals. Criticising them as a group is therefore nonsensical and irrational.

    That is completely different from “prejudice” against Islam or Muslims. Being a Muslim is not in any way shape or form an immutable characterstic of one’s being. It is a political and spiritual belief system that is learned and adhered to BY CHOICE. It tells us absolutely nothing about a person’s genes, or language, or cultural origins, it tells us only what they believe.

    Criticism of Islam has far more in common with criticism of communusm than with racism, with the obvious caveat that communists don’t often find blind, misguided liberals rushing to their defense with shrill cries of “prejudice!” whenever someone shines a light on the failings of that belief system.

  • David Cooper, Newbury LDP 22nd Feb '09 - 8:37pm

    Dear Anonymous,
    It is pointless to speculate on what Wilders intentions were.

    But regarding a “new right to hate Muslims”. This is not new. Individuals have a right to hate whoever they please. They have no right to do harm. As the great songwriter Tom Leher wrote…
    “Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics,
    And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
    And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
    And everybody hates the Jews…”

    It’s a great song.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Feb '09 - 10:28pm

    David Allen


    The Orange Order used to have a clever trick of parading in pomp through Catholic areas while beating their deafening Lambeg drums. The liberal response, in my view, was not to rely on neutering any potentially violent response from the Catholic side, but to ban the “speaker”.

    I disagree. The Orange Order have a right to disagree with Catholicism, to express their disagrement with it, and to commemorate those occasions on which freedom to worship in the Protestant style was established. The streets are free for everyone in the UK – Catholic or Protestant – it is outrageous to say “this is a Catholic area, the expounding of Protestant views is forbidden”. Just as Catholics have a right to express their support for their own religion where they like.

    I remember as a child the open-air Corpus Christi procession we had through the main street of the town where I lived, with full Catholic pomp, singing Catholic hymns, past an evangelical chapel, close to a Baptist church and the Anglican church. Provocative? Well, maybe if they saw it that way.

    Sinn Fein managed to wind up outrage over these things and turn them into an occasion for a fight. The liberal response is to tolerate the expression of views with which you disagree, and to tolerate also the celebrations of cultures with which one is not enamoured. Now, a once-a-week Orange Order parade would certainly be wrong, once a year is certainly not.

    As a Catholic, I dislike the evangelical/pentecostal Christian groups who so often play music expounding their theology (which I despise, for I feel it to be a completely wrong interpretation of Christianity) and hand out pamphlets in the High Street where the church in which I worship stands. Is it offensive? Well, yes, actually, it is to me, it offends me that I think they have this thing wrong. I really do find the “prosperity theology” which is growing in these circles (pray to God and he will give you lots of material success) offensive.

    But I have to accept they have a right to their own interpretation, and a right to promote it and celebrate it.

    If someone were to say to me do I “oppose it” or “condemn it”, I would have to ask what they mean. In the sense that I disagree with its message, I oppose it. But I do not know what “condemn” might mean? That I wish them to suffer some penalty for pushing this message that offends me? No, in that sense I do not condemn it.

  • Matthew,

    Bet you didn’t grow up in Northern Ireland, then!

    Admittedly nor did I – though it’s where my mother came from and her sisters lived. They were Protestants (so you and I seem to be on opposite sides, yet again…!)

    During the Troubles, Orange marches were, rightly, often permitted. They were permitted in places like city centres, including majority Catholic cities, where the Orange had every right to stand up for their beliefs and their strength. A line was (often) rightly drawn in banning deliberately provocative coat-trailing when the Orange picked on ghettoised Catholic estates to march through.

    It’s never easy to decide where to draw that line, but it’s vital not to shirk the task, or take the ultraliberal view that you never ban anything. Fortunately Mosley didn’t get a free hand when he tried to march throught the Jewish East End. I don’t know my 1930s history that well, but I suspect there were plenty of German ultraliberals around who thought Hitler’s brownshirt activities should never be banned.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Feb '09 - 9:56am

    David,

    While I did not grow up in Northern Ireland, I have followed the news on this, and it seems to me that Sinn Fein – a political party I regard as every bit as contemptible as the BNP (or more, given its direct endorsement of violence) – has quite deliberately wound up the provocation issue in order to play the usual “beat the moderates” game. While I appreciate if one lives in Northern Ireland one has to deal with Sinn Fein endorsed thugs, I hope that if I did I would have the courage to follow my Christian and liberal principles on this matter.

    As a Christian the message is “turn the other cheek” and refuse to respond with violence. As a liberal the message is freedom of speech. If the response to any attempt by the Orange to provoke me and claim that I am not a Christian is to refuse to be provoked and to act in the way my Christianity tells me to act, what a magnificent response that would be, and how the wind would be taken out of the Orange Order’s sails.

    Winding up provocation, provoking back, and pretending to act as the “defenders” of the community against the provocation one has oneself helped inspire is the standard trick in the terrorist/extremist rule book. You then denounce the moderates on your own side who don’t get so wound up and who condemn the violence and extremism as “traitors”, “cowards” etc. That is how Sinn Fein came to win the majority of the Catholic votes in Northern Ireland, something of which as a Catholic I am deeply ashamed.

    With any sort of parade, of course the route has to be sensible. So while deliberately parading around backstreets to cause provocation should not be allowed, the main road between two churches which sponsor the parade most certainly should be allowed. Pragmatically, of course I accept the necessity to disallow a parade either because opponents to it threaten violence so overwhelming it cannot be policed against, or because the parade in the past has involved actions by its participants which is beyond mere promotion of views and celebration of their own heritage. But the pragmatic ban here would quite clearly be on the grounds of the illiberal behaviour on either side rather than because the expression of views with which others disagree is not to be allowed.

    So I am not saying never ban anything, but I am saying banning because of the threats of violence from opponents brings shame on those opponents, banning because of violent behaviour by the paraders brings shame on the paraders.

    This clearly has a direct relevance to the Muslim issue. How dearly I wish that those with influence in the Muslim communities would react in a sensible and liberal way to those who criticise Islam. How much I fear that instead the game of the extremists amongst Muslims enjoying the provocation and using it to squash decent liberal people on their own side is being played, and if played as successfully as it was by Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland will lead to horrible and divisive consequences.

  • “Winding up provocation, provoking back, and pretending to act as the “defenders” of the community against the provocation one has oneself helped inspire is the standard trick in the terrorist/extremist rule book. You then denounce the moderates on your own side … That is how Sinn Fein came to win the majority of the Catholic votes in Northern Ireland”

    Yes indeed, and it’s also how the Paisleyites supplanted the more moderate Unionists.

    The ultraliberal never-ban-anything approach (which neither you nor I entirely support, Matthew) has the big drawback that it plays into the hands of these extremists. A more repressive approach of course has its own drawbacks, but may be justified if it is racist rogues that a government has to deal with.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Feb '09 - 9:31am


    “Winding up provocation, provoking back, and pretending to act as the “defenders” of the community against the provocation one has oneself helped inspire is the standard trick in the terrorist/extremist rule book. You then denounce the moderates on your own side … That is how Sinn Fein came to win the majority of the Catholic votes in Northern Ireland”

    Yes indeed, and it’s also how the Paisleyites supplanted the more moderate Unionists.

    Not only that but the “more moderate” Unionists who were supplanted had themselves risen to dominance over more moderate Unionists by the same means. Northern Ireland shows a depressing pattern of this process being repeated and repeated on both sides of the unionist/nationalist divide.

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