Terrorism

Censorship and Double Standards

The United Kingdom's selective intolerance of free speech

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Last month, the Dutch government commenced legal proceedings against a sitting member of parliament, Geert Wilders, for engaging in "hate speech."  Wilders' primary offense was producing the short film Fitna, which juxtaposed sanguinary passages from the Koran with grisly scenes of Islamist violence.

A three-judge panel in Amsterdam ruled that the film—and some of Wilders' more intemperate public statements, like his comparison of the Koran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf—warranted criminal prosecution, for he was making "one-sided generalizations" about Islam and was, therefore, "insulting Muslim worshippers" in Holland.

If it was Wilders desire to provoke liberal governments into revealing a veiled intolerance of freedom of speech—while mollycoddling religious extremists—his mission has proved a gargantuan success.

Last week, after being invited by a group of parliamentarians to screen Fitna at Westminster, Britain's Home Minister Jacqui Smith dispatched a letter to Wilders, declaring that he was persona non grata in London and would be prevented from entering the country.

But Wilders, sensing an opportunity to further highlight the British government's illiberalism, travelled to London anyway, where he was swiftly detained and sent back to the Netherlands.

It is hard to overstate the corrosive effect such rulings have on free speech—a point which seems so obvious as to barely merit further comment—but it is just as important to note that, in Britain, there exists an organized campaign to criminalize views critical of Islam.

It began with the furor surrounding Salman Rushdie's "sacrilegious" and "anti-Islam" book The Satanic Verses. Indeed, the campaign's success is demonstrated by the uneven application of government crackdowns on offensive speech.

The drive to prevent Wilders entry into the United Kingdom began with Lord Nazir Ahmed, the first Muslim member of the House of Lords. But Ahmed has had few problems with welcoming extremists of a different stripe into the country.

In 2005, he invited the extreme anti-Semite Jöran Jermas—a man whose views are so noxious that Palestinian rights campaigners have specifically warned followers from mislabeling his racism as "anti-Zionism"—to hold a book release party from his offices in Westminster. In 2006, he invited Mahmoud Abu Rideh, an accused al-Qaeda funder previously imprisoned by British authorities, to Westminster to "hear the detainees complaints."

The former Mayor of London, left-wing firebrand Ken Livingstone, admitted to a BBC interviewer last week that he hadn't seen Wilders' film, but had it on good authority that it was propaganda of the vilest sort. Because of this, Livingston agreed with Ahmed and the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown that Wilders should be denied entry into the United Kingdom.

But like Ahmed, Livingstone's standards of hate speech are malleable. As Mayor, he invited the Muslim preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London, whom he defended as a "moderate" active in the battle against Islamic extremism.

When it was revealed that al-Qaradawi defended suicide bombing, female genital mutilation, the killing of Israeli civilians, and the stoning of homosexuals, Livingstone sputtered that his critics were spreading "lies and Islamophobia" and that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was engaged in a campaign of misinformation against al-Qaradawi.

In Britain, even criticizing Islamic extremism can attract the hate speech police. In 2005, independent television station Channel 4 broadcast the documentary "Undercover Mosque," which caught spittle-flecked imams advising followers to "kill" the "animal" gays of Britain and to "Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain."

As a result, the West Midlands Police ended up investigating the documentary producers for potentially misrepresenting the views of the preachers it profiled, stating that it was "The priority for police has been to investigate the documentary and its making with as much rigout as the extremism the program sought to portray." They found no evidence of malicious documentary-making.

While it is doubtless true that Wilders reductionist views on Islam should be opposed, the British government's one-sided attack on free speech only serves Wilders cause. Indeed, in many ways, British authorities have themselves internalized his views of Islam.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's letter to Wilders argued bluntly that his presence would "threaten community harmony and therefore public security." In other words, stay out or Britain's Muslims might resort to violence.

Michael Moynihan is a senior editor of Reason magazine. This article originally appeared in the Washington Examiner.

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  1. Blah blah blah Moynihan blah blah Israel blah blah hypocrite…

  2. Is that a scratch? Or a pick?

  3. CAPTION CONTEST:

    “When I said ‘Obama will stick it where the sun don’t shine,’ that’s not what I meant.”

  4. OH MY GAWDS! So, let’s see, so some highly ideological people have different standards that they apply to those within the happy happy collective of joy and to the evil, triple minus ungood beasts in the cold, dark outer reaches of unenlightenment?

    In the worlds of a great philosopher, the deuce you say! 😀

    I haven’t laughed this hard since I watched Persepolis.

  5. Hey, I didn’t want Beavis in my country either, but he was born here.

  6. The West Midlands Police actually investigated people for “malicious documentary-making????” PLEASE tell me this was a Monty Python skit!

    “Calling all cars…calling all cars…suspect filming documentary at 4th and Main…spitting Imams present…approach with caution…SWAT team dispatched…

  7. He has that pen so crammed up his nose that one of his eyes is bulging out! OOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!

  8. Great read as always, Moynihan. Thanks.

  9. Is that something they do in the Dutch parliament? You know, similar to the Italians grabbing their junk or doing the mal’occhio devil horns thing.

  10. “The Dutch parlimentarian Geert Wilders might have an ACCURATE view of Islam”

    There. FIFY

  11. Wasn’t the punch line to all this that the supposed hate speech whereby Islamists were depicted as violent extremists mostly just quotes from various Islamists?

  12. Why doesn’t someone like the Rev. Franklin Graham invite Wilders to address some audience in the United States so we can see if our State Department will deny him a visa?

  13. He looks like TV’s Frank.

  14. Why doesn’t someone like the Rev. Franklin Graham invite Wilders to address some audience in the United States so we can see if our State Department will deny him a visa?

    It would never happen. Seriously. Just google news “Europe, free speech,” or “Europe, anti-Semitism,” to get a quick feel for the ocean that currently separates our respective cultures of speech.

  15. Since Moynihan is fixated on hatemongering politicians in small countries Americans have no reason to give a shit about, when will we be treated to his scathing indictment of Avigdor Lieberman? Or would AIPAC frown on that?

  16. He looks like TV’s Frank.

    We got censor movie sign!

  17. One thing we have pretty good in the US is free speech. With the exception of over the air broadcasts and political campaigns, one really can publish or say pretty much anything. Not perfect, but pretty damn good in many ways.

    The Europeans seem to think that everything will be OK if they can just manage not to piss off Muslims too badly.

  18. If british police have such a three monkeys view of violent people, how well does organized crime do there? It’s the same MO, I’m thinking.

  19. Tis a nice article by Michael Moyihan.

    You Libertarian,rhoemite anti-Semites should take heed. It’s not just us Jews (the descendants of apes and pigs to your Muslim buddies) that will die, but you perverts will die at their hands, too.

    Homosexuality may be a deadly sex addiction, but I am not like your Muslim heroes — you Ernst Rhoem wannabes. I don’t want bad things to happen to them. I wonder even if Orthodox Jews were in charge of Israel whether they would kill homosexuals? I am inclined to doubt it.

    Someone should tell you Libertarian Rhoemites that the fun of humiliating and killing us Jews cannot be a basis for foreign policy or any policy — especially since the homosexual anti-Semites of the Libertarian party are also on the chopping block by their Muslim heroes.

    There are, of course, moderate Muslims. In fact a Moderate Muslim beheaded his wife, moderately.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here!”

  20. It is unfortunate that the UK denied him entry (in apparent violation of the EU charter). It might give anti-free-speech sharia advocates momentary satisfaction. But in the long run, they can not suppress Wilders’s message or prevent people from knowing the truth about Islamic extremism. In anything, this calls more attention to his film and the ideology it depicts:

    On the flight back, Mr Wilders vowed to appeal against the ban and make another attempt to visit Britain soon. But it became clear last night that Jacqui Smith’s prohibition order had brought Mr Wilders massive publicity in Britain and many more online searches for his controversial antiIslamist film, Fitna.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5721239.ece

    At some point I intend to actually watch the film Fitna. I don’t know if he unfairly paints with a broad brush, or if he acknowledges that there are a significant number of moderate Muslims who are in favor of freedom and human rights. But the extremists depicted in descriptions of the film really are enemies of freedom and reason, and it doesn’t hurt to condemn them frequently.

  21. What happened to MNG? Shouldn’t he be in here denoucing Moynihan for supporting Israel or something?

  22. You Libertarian,rhoemite anti-Semites should take heed. It’s not just us Jews (the descendants of apes and pigs to your Muslim buddies) that will die, but you perverts will die at their hands, too.

    You know not all Libertarians a homosexuals, right? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

  23. But it became clear last night that Jacqui Smith’s prohibition order had brought Mr Wilders massive publicity in Britain and many more online searches for his controversial antiIslamist film, Fitna.

    Utterly predictable. If they had just let him give his speech, it wouldn’t have made even the local news.

    As it is, worldwide publicity.

  24. Someone said on a previous Israel / Palestine thread that they suspected Underzog was actually a Palestinian trying to undermine the Israeli side of things by being a hyperbolic clown, as well as a colossal asshole. I’m really starting to think that’s true.

  25. “Since Moynihan is fixated on hatemongering politicians in small countries Americans have no reason to give a shit about, when will we be treated to his scathing indictment of Avigdor Lieberman? Or would AIPAC frown on that?”

    You haven’t thought through what point you’re trying to make. Is Lieberman the analogue to Wilders or the Imams?

    If the former, then Moynihan would be standing up for Lieberman’s right to free speech. Which makes no sense given that Lieberman is apparently unfettered in his speech. (And why would AIPAC object to a Moynihan article on that?)

    Is Lieberman the equivalent of the Imams? He’s certainly not demanding that anyone be punished for criticizing Judaism. And I don’t know that AIPAC goes around insisting that Judaism’s critics be jailed, fined, beheaded, etc.

    So, there’s no free speech issue here. Keep in mind that Moynihan is an opinion writer. He is writing about issues that interest him. Such as freedom of speech. Avigdor Lieberman may bear many personal similarities to Geert Wilder. Or he may not. Either way, it really doesn’t matter.

  26. …undermine the Israeli side of things…

    ugh. “…undermine Israeli positions…”

  27. Baked
    I sometimes think that too, but now more I think he’s one of these extreme right wing Jewish guys, he links to the Horowitz/Robert Spencer, etc, stuff and all quite a bit.

    But either way he’s great fun.

  28. At least Geert is still free to move about.

    Writers Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle stand convicted of violating modern British laws against “stirring up racial and religious hatred” for publishing,an allegedly anti-Semitic comic book called “Tales of the Holohoax”and a called “Don’t Be Sheeple”.

    It is an interesting paradox that both extreme Islamic and Jewish clerics can openly advocate genocide against the other side, but these guys can’t do satire.

    On their web site called ‘Herectical.com’, Shepard and Whittle (who writes under the pen name, ‘Luke O’Farrell’) have published satires, as well as numerous scientific papers and ‘general interest’ material.

    But it all ended last year under the heel of a British court, who was about to slap them with a jail sentence.

    Outraged at what they consider politically based persecution, the two dissenters chose instead to seek political asylum in America. Then the US Dept. of Homeland Security had them arrested.

    On July 14, 2008, Whittle and Sheppard delivered themselves to US authorities at Los Angeles International Airport upon their arrival from Europe.

    But instead of sanctuary they were incarcerated in the Santa Ana jail; despite the fact that they entered the US legally and the contents of their published works violate no US law.

    Despite this, an American judge presiding over their asylum case has refused to grant them bail.

    Sheppard and Whittle remain in police custody under the watchful eye of the US Dept. of Homeland Security.

    The mainstream media has shown persistent indifference to this noteworthy 1st amendment violation. Once you are labeled a neo-nazi holocaust denier, you have no rights to due process even, let alone free speech.

  29. MNG – He’s pretty much the Lonewacko of Israeli topics. Comes in here, has absolutely one topic one which he’s prepared to discuss, insults everyone regardless of their arguments (unless they are in slavish agreement with him), and thinks that will actually change anyone’s mind.

  30. Douglas Gray-

    This is an issue that many libertarians just do not want to touch. Instead, they would prefer to expend far more energy denouncing those that question the extent of the WW2 era jewish holocaust than protesting hate crime/hate speech laws. That is disgusting.

  31. Undy really, really has a thing for Ernst Roehm.

    Maybe it was the boots and such…

  32. Baked-the Hebrew Hammer did not find your comic as hilarious as I did it seems.

  33. to get a quick feel for the ocean that currently separates our respective cultures of speech.

    which culture is that? the one that jails people for selling TV broadcasts?

  34. Some libertarians actually fear being called an anti-semite. Thus, they tread lightly when it comes to criticizing Israel or AIPAC or ADL.

    What I find particularly nauseating is the lack of criticism of the pathetic group think spawned and perpetuated by the spectre of hate speech laws. So what if Bishop Williamson does not cow tow to the WW2 holocaust narrative of Elie Wisel or Abe Foxman? Not exactly something over which a libertarian should get his panties in a bunch.

  35. The judenhass types are out in full force now.

    If any of them are pissed off by anything I have said or done, then goooood!

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here.”

  36. a-

    Ever notice how quick the Zionophiles brand one a neo-nazi or a jew hater when one points out that Israel is an aparthied regime? That plays the parasite to the american taxpayer’s host? That has a propensity to committ mass murder?

    Those groupthink Zionophiles have a hard time dealing with the truth. So, it must be that the critic is anti-semetic-the old Dershowitzian claptrap.

  37. There is one useful lesson to be learned from the Rwanda Holocaust; that if someone who is perceived as an authority tells one group of people it is their duty to exerminate another group of people, a lot of people will do what is being suggested.

    So, satire, ridicule, slurs, etc. are one thing; offensive, but harmless exercises in free speech. Saying its your duty to go out and kill others; if there is such a thing as stifling free speech, that’s the place to do it.

  38. Underzog-

    Do you know that I abhor Muhammadism? As well as Mohammedism? And sharia law? As well as jihadism? And Ramadan? And the DIShonorable Elijah Muhammed? And Cassius Clay falling for it?

    Just thought you would like to know. It may upset the narrative-you know, how could a Judenhaus have such nasty things to say about the Saracens.

  39. You Libertarians are just the creme de la creme of the intellectual elite, eh? The word is JUDENHASS (jew hate) — not judenhaus (jew house).

    I’ll keep that in mind next time you blast us holohoaxers again, bub.

    “Anti-Semitism is the intellectualism of stupid people.”

    Mary McCarthy

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here!”

  40. Fitna’s probably a good film

    The real reason why Wilder?s is a cock is that he thinks that jews and christians are less retarded than muslim?s

    A fanatic/fundamentalist/terrorist is anyone who actually does what it tells you to do in the bible/koran

    You’d think that if they really are in touch with some angry god fairy, they’d be happy just to know that they anit goin to angry devil fairy land when they kick the bucket

    but no

    they need to believe in their gaybolickjesusmohamedscrotumdevilhairybeardedmonkeyfairy
    and make reasonable people’s live shit too by trying to control us

    like seriously if the cocaine whisky and sex outside of wedlock is gonna send me to hell then what?s it to you?

    and man what’s so bad about hate that they made it a crime?

    I hate Pearl Jam
    I hate brussels sprouts
    I hate hangovers
    I hate religion

    And i fucking hate Jaqui fucking Smith
    That authoritarian communist ho

    Its my right to hate anything I wanna hate

  41. Undy really, really has a thing for Ernst Roehm.

    MNG, you know what they say about closet cases. I’d say NTTAWWT, but closet cases often develop pretty severe pathologies.

  42. What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel!
    EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!What? TEH MUSLIMS! You must hate Israel! EURABIA!

  43. a | February 18, 2009, 4:29pm | #

    Since Moynihan is fixated on hatemongering politicians in small countries Americans have no reason to give a shit about, when will we be treated to his scathing indictment of Avigdor Lieberman? Or would AIPAC frown on that?

    The US has plenty of reason to care about what happends in the UK and the Netherlands. First there’s the culture connections we have and the fact that authors like John Locke first became popular in the UK and Netherlands. Second, both countries are some of our best allies if you measure by the number of troops they commit to US lead missions and the diplomatic support they give us on the world stage. Third, American academia looks to European universities as role models, and today’s academic views become next decade’s public policy.

  44. How in the world did Israel come up in a post about the UK and the Netherlands? It seems to me that mentioning Israel has become the default way to stifle any debate about Islam.

  45. CAPTION CONTEST:

    If that was a coke straw rather than a pencil he’d be smiling.

  46. I personally hate anything which causes some people to think they they have the right, or duty, to violate the rights of others. Religion does this, whether it is Islam or Judaism. So yes, despite there being moderates in both, I hate them both. Does that make me an anti-semite?

    As Bill Maher said in Religulous, would you belong to a club with the laundry list of atrocities that any religion has under its belt? I guess the same could be said replacing “religion” with “state”, but that is a different issue.

  47. “While it is doubtless true that Wilders reductionist views on Islam should be opposed…”

    Really?? Not “discussed” but “opposed”?? That’s not a very reasonable approach to speech you don’t like.

    And, BTW, sometimes the reason a point of view is “reductionist” is because it really is that simple. How complex of an explanation do you need in order to understand Stalin or Hitler?

  48. In my county, it’s illegal to sell most things on Sunday. Democrate librals are the biggest supporters of these blue laws. They don’t love religion, but they dislike commerce enough to outlaw it once a week. In a given year and place, you can find some belief systems that threaten liberty more than others. In the long run, any belief system can be an excuse for violence or a supporter of tolerance. Right now, a significant portion of Islam is pushing for violence. However, it is possible for Muslims to promote a tolerant version of Islam. I’ve read the websites of many Muslims groups that promote freedom and coexistance.

  49. Excellent article, Mr. Moynihan. Most of the British newspapers are saying similar things about Jacqui Smith and Geert Wilders.

  50. “While it is doubtless true that Wilders reductionist views on Islam should be opposed, the British government’s one-sided attack on free speech only serves Wilders cause”

    yet again you destroy your credibility and any idea we have that you are actually committed to free speech when you write things like this sentence.

    Every time you have written about Wilders, you make sure to throw in a few sentences about how horrible he is. Why not just stick to the topic of free speech?

    Is it because you are afraid of being labeled racist or anti a certain religion? and so seek to distance yourself from him? I can understand that, but then I am not a writer/editor, you should get over it. I remember you attacking Wilder before you saw the film.

    Or is it because, as the sentence you wrote above implies, you think the UK and Europe should just impose speech codes more equally, rather than not at all? I don’t really think you believe that, but it often the things you write make me wonder if that’s indeed what you do believe.

  51. It never ceases to amaze me how liberals will condemn Christians left and right for their “hate speech” against homosexuality, etc., but give Muslims (who actually act upon their “hate speech”) a total pass.

    If someone were to make a movie analogous to Fitna about Christianity the liberals wouldn’t care at all…in fact it would be liberals making the film.

  52. As Bill Maher said in Religulous, would you belong to a club with the laundry list of atrocities that any religion has under its belt?

    As opposed to the mass murdering atheistic secularism imposed by Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao?

  53. I think the Libertarians — not just the Liberals — like the Muslims so much because they believe the enemy of my enemy (the Jewish state) is my friend.

    This enemy of my enemy stuff doesn’t work too well with Muslims, but the frission type enjoyment of sticking it too the Jews outweighs this or any other fact 😐

  54. There have been countless provocateur politicians in all European countries these last decades, whose specialty was to invoke free speech for some aspect of their “program” while vehemently arguing against it for other aspects. (I.e. leave me alone whilst I tell you what to do.) Where was Reason Magazine when Jean-Marie Le Pen was ostracized in France because of his anti “everything-not-French” in particular Muslims rhetoric?

    Geert Wilders is just one of them, and I find it hilarious that he should be the subject that unites Davis Horowitz’s FrontPageMag and Reason Magazine.

  55. As Bill Maher said in Religulous, would you belong to a club with the laundry list of atrocities that any religion has under its belt?

    As opposed to the mass murdering atheistic secularism imposed by Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao?

    Well I wouldn’t want to be in a club that espoused a communist ideology/belief system either.

    However, “atheistic secularism” is not a belief system any more than not believing that there are teapots in space is a belief system.

  56. The RAF should have stayed on the ground in 1940. At least the English would have been conquered by relatives.

  57. It’s OK – they’re consistent – they just refused entry to Fred Phelps.

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