Theresa May's ban on Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller reveals a troubling relativism
The British Home Secretary's ban reveals a bias in the United Kingdom's approach to tackling extremism. Here's why...
Let me clarify something from the outset of this blog, so you are not confused by what I am about to say. I am no fan of Pamela Geller (Sorry Pam).
I find her to be shrill, abrasive and her work to be overly concerned with the controversy it attracts rather than the merits of its own arguments. Her comments about the Srebenica massacre are spurious at best.
Robert Spencer, while sadly recently attracted to the thuggish English Defence League (that I have denounced on previous occasions) and indeed a good friend of Gellar, has a far more academic and rigorous approach to his work. Don't get me wrong, flirtation with the EDL reflects ignorance and rightly arouses suspicion - but does it require a curtailment of the freedom of travel and freedom of speech? I don't think so.
Even an Imam had to recently admit that Spencer knew his stuff. Don't believe me? Listen to this interview of his with the BBC Asian Network last week. And also, weep at how uninformed Nick Lowles of the Hope Not Hate group is. And before you claim, "OMG you're endorsing Robert Spencer!" No I'm not. I'm just saying, he's not as "out there" as people claim. And he's certainly not ban-worthy.
But anyway, it doesn't really matter if I agree with them or not. And that's the point, isn't it?
Britain likes to trumpet itself as a 'tolerant' country. The government and politicians certainly do. It sounds lovely, doesn't it? We're incredibly 'tolerant' over here, don't you know?
But not so much that we can tolerate people who have a critical reading of Islamism and Islam, it seems. No. That'd be too much. Deport the atheists (like me) while you're at it. Because we think all religions are cuckoo. So perhaps the Home Secretary's rationale for banning Gellar and Spencer (being 'not conducive to the public good') would extend to all of us, too?
Yeah okay - some people might be a bit 'offended' by some of the things these bloggers say. It can be terribly 'offensive' when people hold you up to the standards of your own religion. "Islamophobic", even! Some of the reactions from people who think they're doing Islam a favour is practically tantamount to: "Don't quote the Koran at me! That's Islamophobic!"
But I digress. Because what we're really interested in is whether or not it is indeed fair to ban people from Britain at all. I would say yes. Just about. If it can be proved that their words or their work is basically inciting violence or legitimising terrorism or similar. I've never seen anything from Gellar or Spencer that encourages that kind of thing. Maybe you can find me something - but I bet most of the stuff people quote back will be along the lines of "this can be construed as...". Again, if in doubt, listen to the BBC Radio interview. It's incredible how poorly read on the issue Spencer's critics were.
In the case of someone like Zakir Naik, who professed his admiration for Osama Bin Laden, you can see how blocking his entry from the United Kingdom might just be a good thing. I'd even agree with the ban on Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper due to their persist demonisation of homosexuals. These are the types of things that can cause violence.
But let's even park the concerns of the non-Muslim population in the UK, and look at the recent entry of someone like Muhammad Al-Arifi, a Saudi scholar who has been widely criticised for his sectarian views. Al-Arifi has declared that Shia Muslims are “evil” and that they “set traps for monotheism" - a sure sign of creating division and discord, bringing an entire community into disrepute. Conducive to the public good? I think not.
But he was allowed into Britain, no problems at all. And allowed to proselytise on British airwaves. Again. No problem.
In February 2013 he also stated that “Al-Qaeda members do not tolerate accusing other Muslims of apostasy and they do not tolerate bloodshed” and that “...al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Oussama Bin Laden, may his soul rest in peace, did not adopt many of the thoughts that are attributed to him today”.
There's also Shady Al-Suleiman, the Australian cleric who has called, "for Allah to destroy the enemies of Islam” and who has endorsed the terrorist outfit Hamas (which Britain recognises as a terrorist entity). He's even endorsed the killing of British soldiers, saying, "Give victory to all the Mujahideen all over the world. Oh Allah, prepare us for the jihad”.
And yet, not a peep from Theresa May or the Home Office. Even amidst the concerns from the Muslim community.
So let's recap: Geller and Spencer banned for blogging critically about Islam. Al-Suleiman and Al-Arifi given free passage despite actively fomenting sectarian divisions and endorsing terrorism.
I think I'm beginning to see how this all works...
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