What a difference a year makes…
On the 8th February 2008 following the refusal by the Home Office to grant a visa to Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Inayat Bunglawala on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told the BBC that the decision had:
“worrying implications for freedom of speech”.
“Whatever one may think of some of Qaradawi’s views, the way forward is surely to allow them to be aired and then, if appropriate, to challenge them openly.”
Given a year ago that the MCB were keen advocates of free speech – ‘the way forward is surely to allow [views] to be aired and then, if appropriate, to challenge them openly’ – it seems quite bizarre that they now seem to have undergone a sharp u-turn.
Following an alleged meeting between Lord Ahmed, the Government Chief Whip, the Leader of the House and representatives of the MCB and British Muslim Forum, the MCB now appear to support the Home Office’s decision and by default, restrictions on the right to free speech. As their website states:
“Geert Wilders has been an open and relentless preacher of hate, there is little difference between his views and those of the far right…Mr Wilders’ xenophobic and repugnant views have been identified by a Dutch court, and are now confirmed by his official exclusion to the United Kingdom.”
It goes on:
It is now time to ask why Peers of Realm who promote such demagogues without any censure are allowed to be regarded as mainstream, responsible leaders in our community.
I wonder if the MCB would agree with their opponents when they describe Lord Ahmed in similar ways?
As noted in the post about the twentieth anniversary of the Satanic Verses fatwa, one of its legacies has been for:
“…arguments and debates about freedom of speech [to be] typically inconsistent and result in double-standards of attitude and application being applied alongside charge and counter-charge of what is and is not acceptable.”
For ‘inconsistent’ and ‘double-standards’, feel free to insert ‘hypocritical’ instead.
Interestingly, the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ website shows that 85% of its readers believe that Geert Wilders should be allowed to enter the UK. They believe that a ban goes against the principles of free speech.