Last week, the unjust exclusion of Pamela Geller and me from entering the U.K. was upheld by two judges who didn’t even bother to consider our counter-arguments. The fight is not even close to over, however; we are renewing our appeal at the next level, and will fight on. Meanwhile, one of our British attorneys, Abhijit P. G. Pandya, explains what’s at stake:
“The End of Free Speech in Britain,” by Abhijit P. G. Pandya, January 18:
In a virtually empty courtroom off Chancery Lane last week the very existence of free speech in Britain was being decided by two judges. They decided to uphold the Government’s exclusion on Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller from the UK. If they were allowed to speak in the UK it would increase, in the Government’s own words, the chances of ‘inter-community tension’, and Muslim violence.
This decision says a lot about the country in which we now live. Robert Spencer has written a number of critical books about Islam, and a biography of Mohammed explaining that perhaps the creator of the Islam was not as saintly as many who follow his faith have been lead to believe.
The key question Spencer raises in his work goes to the heart of whether reform of Islam is possible and whether denunciation of certain interpretations of the Prophet’s life are feasible considering the empirical evidence. It is a key part of the debate of the viability of a reforming movement in Islam, and important with respect to determining whether the religion is compatible with modern Western values adumbrated by our basic civil liberties, including the right to dissent. His works constitute some of the most stark criticisms ofthat religion system since Gibbon, and are an important, if not a fundamental, part of Western literature on Islam. Yet they cannot be espoused by the man himself in Britain, for the fear of an uprising by a third world minority. That seems to entirely vindicate Spencer’s thesis that Islam and its adherents cannot accept dissent. It follows that the issue of reform and discussion is absolutely vital. Obliquely, the Government’s message is thus clear: Islam is not compatible with a Western democracy as you cannot discuss it without provoking violence.
In not allowing Spencer to speak in the UK, this is a country that has blatantly forgotten its own history, its bloodied road to toleration and accepting dissenting groups into the mainstream in society that took several centuries and finally occurred in the 19th under the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. There is no state covenant that can rationally uphold the idea that the protection of minorities from dissent has to be held above the protection of freedom of speech. Such an idea would not just be inimical to the ability of those minorities to integrate and reform. It would also go against the very idea of democracy. Democracy can only succeed where people are able to disagree and tolerate opposing views. The decision also constitutes a blanket indictment of Muslims and non-Muslims. Our Government is convinced not only that somehow we have all forget how to exercise that important right to peacefully protest; but also that it is a right that can be taken away on political preference. Worrying indeed. The importance of that right has been diminished and destroyed by two lazy judges, who are blind to both history and their own ineptitude.
The decision sends a very clear message that the system of our Government and its courts cannot protect the most important civil liberty, that of freedom of speech. This is a sign that we live in dangerous times. If the state does not protect basic civil liberties, then it falls upon the citizen to do so. The guarding of the guardians ultimately falls upon the Cives as their duty to do so. That is the road to violence that the Government is misguidedly seeking to avoid.