Chris Huhne writes … Geert Wilders is best ignored

Back in February, the Home Office’s decision to ban Dutch MP Geert Wilders provoked controversy – not least here on Lib Dem Voice, after the party’s shadow home secretary Chris Huhne backed the government’s decision. This week an immigration tribunal overturned the government ban, so we invited Chris to set out his views …

The Home Secretary’s decision to block Geert Wilders from entering the country was controversial for all sorts of reasons. For libertarians, it was appalling to deprive anyone of freedom of speech. For many Moslems, it was astonishing that anyone could fail to see the need to stop someone quite so offensive to their beliefs. It is not always easy to draw the distinction famously attributed to Voltaire: I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

No-one doubts that Mr Wilders’ views are odious and repugnant for any liberal, but the issue is whether they edged over the line to incitement to violence. Even someone as impeccably liberal as John Stuart Mill recognised that freedom of speech has to be qualified when there is a serious risk of harm to others (such as calling fire in a crowded room). Having seen Mr Wilders’ film Fitna, it is not just offensive, intolerant and misleading but has the effect of inciting hatred and violence against Moslems. Indeed, Mr Wilders is facing just such a charge in a pending court case in his home country, the Netherlands .

That was certainly my thinking when I said that, on balance, the Home Secretary was right to stop him entering the UK . Nevertheless, I think the asylum and immigration tribunal has now taken the right decision to let him in. In retrospect, the furore created by the Home Secretary’s refusal merely stoked interest in Mr Wilders’ populist opinions that would otherwise have been ignored. I did not realise at the time that Mr Wilders had already been in and out of the United Kingdom without anyone noticing him, and the best chance of once again plunging him into a deserved obscurity – at least in the UK – is to avoid giving him the oxygen of controversy.

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24 Comments

  • For me, you’ve missed the most important issue and one the UK government and the UK authorities are deliberately ignoring. We’re part of the European Union. We have the right of freedom of movement within that European Union. The British government should not be making any decisions about who can come to Britain from another European Union member state or whether any of those of us who are already here can leave. Yet under labour border controls have become more and more onerous, border officials more nasty and threatening. Whatever you think of Geert Wilders there should have been no more question of stopping him coming to London from the Netherlands than there would have been of stopping him if he’d started his journey in Guiildford.

  • Andrew Suffield 17th Oct '09 - 11:46am

    And as a final blow, we should not be using border controls as extra-judicial punishment. If he is planning incitement to violence – fine, that’s a crime, arrest him and try him in a court, where due process can be assured. I strongly dislike the notion that any person who would normally have right of entry can be punished for a crime they have not been convicted of in any court. It smells like the government knows they couldn’t secure a conviction, and are trying to do an end-run around the legal system.

  • ‘That was certainly my thinking when I said that, on balance, the Home Secretary was right to stop him entering the UK ‘

    And I thought you were meant to be a Liberal.

  • Generally I much prefer Chris Huhne to Nick Clegg.

    But on this, he was wrong, and I am very glad he has changed his mind. Wilders film was not directly inciting violence – he was just being disgustingly Islamophobic.

    Freedom of speech should be a totemic issue for any Liberal Democrat.

  • I think Chris Huhne should heed his own argument.

    If he wants to regain any credibility at all on the subjects of human rights and freedom of speech then he’d be best advised to avoid mentioning the Wilders issue at all in the hope that we all forget his original reaction to it.

  • Ali Abdul Rimmer 17th Oct '09 - 1:28pm

    Will Lib Dems support the introduction of islamic laws in areas such as Bradford where local laws don’t suit us culturally.

  • “as already happens in many areas”

    And is an approach (in that parties can agree to resolve disputes in any way they see fit) that has been recognised by English law for a very long time.

    Other than that no, Abdul

    “the effect of inciting hatred and violence against Moslems”
    My understanding was that some people found this spelling offensive so it was advisable not to use it.

  • I get the impression that an awful lot of people think ‘inciting violence’ and ‘provoking violence’ are the same thing.

  • Liberalism is a political ideology that developed by the middle of the nineteenth century in England, western Europe, and the Americas, which provided a coherent vision of how society should be organized. Central to the liberalism of the nineteenth century is a commitment to the liberty of individual citizens. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly were core commitments of liberalism, as was the underlying conception of the proper role of just government as the protection of the liberties of individual citizens. Also central to liberalism was a commitment to a system of free markets as the best way to organize economic life.

    I’m quite sure you don’t fit within this description. You sir, are a populist, a statist, nothing more.

    By the way, John Stuart Mill was not a liberal. He was, like you, a populist hiding under the banner of liberal. When one starts making a distinction between “positive liberty” and “negative liberty”, there is no doubt that this person is no liberal.

  • I do hope that nasty Richard Dawkins chap isn’t allowed into the UK either – his views are quite offensive to Christians you know. i.e. offence is not an excuse.

  • Absolutely, Ali Abdul Rimmer.

    I am sure you can persuade politicians such as Chris Huhne to support the introduction of Islamic laws in areas such as Bradford and elsewhere, if as in the case of the Wilders ban, you threaten, as did Lord Ahmed, to have 10,000 Muslims protesting on the street outside parliament.

    Threaten to foment a sectarian riot and short-term trimmers and populists such as Huhne will do everything in their power to buy you off, no matter what the cost to the body politic. That’s the lesson of the Wilders ban.

  • John Stuart Mill was pro-slavery, and argued that slaves were genetically inferior. Additionally, Mill was not in favour of free markets. He believe in in a regulated free market, or in a mixed economy.
    He was also, as I mentioned in my previous post, an advocate of the distinction between positive liberty and negative liberty. Which such a distinction in mind, Mill was able to put things he agreed with one the side of “positive liberty” and all those things which he didn’t approve of as “negative liberty”. To make such a distinction automatically renders you authoritarian, as you approve only of certain liberties whilst rejecting others.
    He argued for things in term of their utility, rather than on the fact that they were right or wrong.
    Worse than all the rest, the fact that he was hypocritical about it all makes it even worse. If your not a proponent of liberty you don’t go around spreading your collectivist message under the banner of liberty.

  • Richard Huzzey 21st Oct '09 - 7:01pm

    Bastien: Where are you finding pro-slavery views in Mill’s work?

  • The guy who wrote this is a typical liberal idiot who tries to appease to all cultures even though they might be worse. Name one country under sharia law that acts in a democratic or humane way. This is impossible because Islam is a barbaric, homophobic, woman-hating religion. That goes for all the other religions of the world. All religion is evil and there are evil verses in all the books. The difference is where christians choose their verses and mainly accept that that some of the bible can be taken metaphorically, muslim people think that the Quran is the word of god. Islam was also a religion by the sword, Mohammed was a warrior who spread is religion by killing his opponents.

    Let me ask you, do you honestly think that sharia law is equal to or better than the western rule of law? If you do then you are a fascist. Geert Wilders was merely pointing out that Islam is a violent, homophobic religion where men and women are not equal and you assholes wont even let him in your country when at the sane time you allow muslims protestors to say fascist things like “freedom can go to hell, Britain under sharia law”.

    Finally, it is also very ironic that this country puts people like richard dawkins and christopher hitchens on bus posters yet frown upon geert wilders. These people have the same view of Islam. I am an atheist and I think that all religion is evil and a hinderance to society’s development but Islam is especially evil and one should have the right to express that without the PC police at his door.

  • The premise of Fitna is quite simple: –

    1. It shows quotes from the Koran that mandate the killing of unbelievers.
    2. It shows clips of Islamic leaders preaching the killing of unbelievers based on the Koran.
    3. It shows clips of Muslims killing unbelievers.

    Does it mean that every Muslim will wage Jihad or is an Islamic supremacist? No; and if you watch the speeches of Geert Wilders, he makes that very clear. Political Islam is however, very real and he is merely holding a mirror up to it.

    You won’t solve the problem of Koranic inspired violence and Islamic supremacism by attempting to gag those who bring it to our attention or by calling them Islamaphobic.

    Chris Hulme would do well to inform himself better about the Islamic threat and argue against the theocrats, rather than providing cover for them. An article condemning those Muslims in London who called for the death of Geert Wilders would be a start.

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