Gimmickry, the Last Refuge of Appeasement
by A. Millar
It is the Home Office's prerogative to ban individuals from entering the UK if they pose a security risk to the nation. Free speech needn't extend to welcoming extremist Muslim clerics, neo-Nazis, or other sorts of radicals. But naming of 16 banned individuals last week was no more than a cynical exercise, meant to mask over the government's incompetence, and to provide moral justification for more of the same. We shouldn't let that happen.
Free speech, "hate speech," and immigration have – at last – started to be more hotly and widely debated in Britain, prompted by the banning of Dutch MP Geert Wilders, the declining economy, and now this latest act of governmental buffoonery:
Does a country facing recession really need mass immigration? Should a country facing the growth of radical Islam allow in well-known hate preachers? Should critics of Islam be silenced by "hate speech" legislation? Why is the answer 'no' usually so controversial? And why is controversial speech becoming criminal speech?
Of the 16 named and shamed, "shock jock" Michael Savage seems the odd man out. I haven't heard his radio show, but he has reportedly made some unpleasant remarks about Muslims, autism, and swine flu. And on this basis alone he has been barred from entering the country. Savage's comments may not rise to the level of high art or philosophy. They may be offensive and stupid – that's what makes him a shock jock, after all. But, I think you'll agree, his rhetoric doesn't exactly sink to the level of crime either.
Indeed, by this standard hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of people should be prevented from entering Britain.
It's partly this that makes the list of 16 individuals so absurd.
Another element is its obvious multicultural composition, calculated to please or appease various voting blocs. It is manifestly not part of a serious approach to countering extremism. It's yet another gimmick. Yes, most people will be pleased to see a few radical clerics barred. Many young Muslims won't be, but will be placated by the inclusion of Mike Guzovsky – apparently a Jewish extremist. And, of course, the remaining named and shamed add all-important weight to the argument that Muslims aren't being singled out.
But the banning of the 16 individuals distracts from contradictory, abnormal and – frankly – much shameful behavior inside the country.
In probably a far more serious blow to Britain's traditional liberties, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor, Jack Straw, is currently putting all his effort into removing a free speech provision amended to the 'gay hate' law in 2008. The law already prohibits incitement to hatred of, or violence against, homosexuals, while the provision allows for the criticism of homosexuality, and for admonitions to refrain from a homosexual "lifestyle," etc. If the provision is removed, mere criticism of homosexuality will become an offense. Indeed, as Christopher Biggins – probably Britain's most flamboyant, gay actor and entertainer – has rightly said, the measure will "[…] override the basic requirements of freedom of speech, one of the pillars of our democracy."
Apparently Biggins has a much better understanding of democracy than do our elected representatives.
Then there is the sticky subject of immigration. Despite having been little more than a free-for-all for much of the last decade of Labour rule, the government is still attempting to deport Gurkha (Nepalese) soldiers, and to ban others from entering to live in Britain. Having laid their lives on the line, fighting courageously for Britain (and Gurkhas have fought for Britain for nearly two centuries, by the way), the authorities treat them with less respect than terrorists, whose human rights we worry so very much about.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has stated the government's position in the last few days, apparently unaware of the perfect irony:
"They [the Gurkhas] may be a special case morally, but legally you cannot legislate on [that] basis. I can't say 'let the nice people in and the nasty people not'. We have to have a law."(On the same day that Woolas said this, a Gurkha was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.)
Neither the Gurkha Justice Campaign, nor the public – which overwhelmingly supports the Gurkhas – are arguing that "nice" should be the criteria for entry, even if the government is arguing that "nasty" is justification for banning a few token people. But to what end, if any?
Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard Stephen Donald Black may now be barred from entering the UK, but this is a country to which Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivered an alternative Christmas message, courtesy of Channel 4, in 2008. Ahmadinejad, by the way, invited former KKK imperial wizard David Duke to speak at his Holocaust denial conference in Tehran in 2006.
A single Hamas MP may be named on the list of 16, but thousands of Hamas supporters can run through the streets of London, chanting "bomb, bomb Israel," as the police run for cover [video].
The government and authorities have fallen prey to the atmosphere of fear and self-censorship that they have done so much to create.
No doubt the naming of Savage, for his controversial radio show, was meant to infer that the banning of Geert Wilders for his film Fitna [video] was part of a long-term strategy in "community cohesion," rather than a simple act of cowardice – which it so obviously was.
And no doubt the Home Office was hoping to invoke the banning of a Jewish extremist to appease radical Muslims, next time the media and public outrage forces it to ban some well-known Islamic extremist – as occurred recently with Hezbollah spokesman Ibrahim el Moussaoui.
The government can't bring itself to speak honestly about the problem, apparently. So I'll put it as plainly as I can:
From Ahmadinejad to pro-Hamas supporters in London acting out blood libels against the Jews, this Islamist movement is the new fascism. And it must be faced.
Banning a few extremist clerics, a Hamas MP, and a few neo-Nazis – though certainly almost identical in their beliefs – isn't going to help. We are not fooled by gimmicks. And we are not impressed by appeasers.
We need free speech to preserve the freedoms we enjoy in the West. And, we must insist upon it. For if our elected officials will not represent us, then we must represent ourselves to them.
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