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Wednesday, February 11, 2009 

Cowardice over Wilders.

The decision to bar entry to Geert Wilders ought to be completely baffling, but is instead indicative of the general cowardice which we have come to expect from the Home Office. Wilders is, above all, a crashing bore: someone who thought there was a need to physically connect passages from the Koran with terrorists and fundamentalists, as if the correlation were not already so obvious. Fitna was the sort of film which the average YouTuber can better and which still gets voted down, such was both its amateur production and message. You don't like Islam, and especially not the extremists; we get it.

Wilders is in fact typical of the majority of the European far-right: despite their own contempt for free speech, or freedom of thought, they pose as martyrs being persecuted for saying the unsayable. In Wilders case he actually is being persecuted, or rather prosecuted for just that: he's set to be tried for his anti-Islam sloganising and general bullheadedness. The irony is that Wilders himself believes that the Koran should be banned for being a "fascist" book, the man from the "Freedom" party who wants to deny religious freedom purely because of his own bigoted views.

The obvious response to those who want to hang themselves on their own personal cross is to deny them the opportunity to do so. All Wilders wanted to do was to visit the House of Lords, which was to show his film, and then take part in discussion about it. The Home Office claims that Wilders' mere presence would be enough to "threaten community harmony and therefore public security", when such a claim is clearly abject nonsense. It's quite apparent that it's not Wilders whom the Home Office is scared of, but rather of the protests his presence might well attract. Whether it fears a repeat of the Dutch embassy protests or not, this is clearly an excuse rather than anything even approaching an actual reason. Wilders himself meanwhile can add a further notch of self-satisfaction to his belt.

Rather than showing any sign of "Dhimmitude", as the jihadist watchers love to throw about, it instead shows New Labour's own authoritarian stance on where the boundary between freedom of speech and the freedom to offend and abuse lies. The government talks of challenging extremism in all its forms, but by taking such a provocative stance and banning Wilders from visiting it has only inflamed the situation far beyond what it would otherwise have been. Despite Lord Ahmed's claims that temporarily stopping the showing of Fitna in the House of Lords was a victory for the Muslim community, it seems highly doubtful that few if any would have turned up to protest against his visit: he just simply isn't worth bothering with. Wilders can now instead further boast of how he's banned from another European country which in his eyes is abandoning its values in order to appease its unruly minorities. The sad reality is that New Labour never had any values to abandon in the first place.

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I've watched the film and it just consists of (for all I know) real footage of muslims doing or saying bad things.

I wonder what the best way to react would be if a film were made showing the KKK and implying all white people are like this. Hiding it away, refusing to allow people to see it, and deporting the film-maker would rather smack of a cover-up and make people wonder what there is to hide. Surely it would be better (and rather trivial) to make the obvious point that most people are not like that and just move on?

Apparently the Lords are still going to watch his film anyway, so it just makes everybody look stupid. It would have been better if they'd let him travel all the way there and then walked out as his film played to an empty room. The film isn't so much offensive as pointless, because the point it implies is not valid. It certainly, in my opinion, falls short of the level of inciting hatred – there should remain a very high bar before someone's views can be silenced.

I'm not comfortable with the reaction of top muslims to this. It will only strengthen the perception that muslims want to use the law to silence criticism of Islam. Was this even newsworthy before people tried to censor it?

And do we even have the power to ban a Dutch citizen from coming to the UK?

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