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Islam4UK: free speech for bigots?


1:54 pm - January 4th 2010

by Dave Osler    


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Lady Gaga is going to Hell, according to a fringe Christian denomination in the US. OK, I admit I haven’t listened to very much of the woman’s music, or any music at all recorded much after 1983, come to that. But it’s only rock ‘n’ roll, as the saying goes. Surely she can’t be that bad?

Oh yes she can, argues Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church, which has revealed that it will picket the singer’s gig in St Louis on Thursday this week. The press release is a minor classic.

What of the Rev Fred Waldron Phelps and his flock? Well, this lot have certainly have got form. Westboro Baptist is infamous for hold demos outside the funerals of victims of anti-gay hate crime and those who died from AIDS, with placards bearing the charming slogan ‘God hates fags’.

As a sideline, Westboro Baptist also organised similar protests at the burials of the repatriated remains of US military personnel killed in Iraq. This time the placards read: ‘Thank God for dead soldiers’. Even for the country that gave the world the first amendment, that was a bit much. In 2006, Dubya signed the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act into law, outlawing any repeat performance.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, Islamist sect Islam4UK is seeking permission to stage a protest march in Wooton Bassett, the small town near Swindon through which regularly sees processions of hearses bearing the coffins of servicemen and women who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Rev Phelps and Islam4UK leader Anjem Choudary patently want to thank the same God for the same dead soldiers.


It is of course true that if a contingent of white-haired elderly Quaker ladies in Wiltshire wanted to march to highlight the death toll in Afghanistan, they would simply be patronised as wooly-minded pacifists, and allowed to get on with it.

But context is everything, and this move is an obvious provocation from what is effectively a front organisation for banned Islamist faction Al Muhajiroun, who are manifestly not peaceniks of any description.

It has been suggested that the announcement is simply a stunt on the part of the publicity-savvy Mr Choudary, and I very much hope that is the case. If it goes ahead, it will inevitably generate a huge counter-mobilisation likely to boost the fortunes of the fascist British National Party ahead of an impending general election. Choudary either does not care about this, or positively relishes the prospect.

All of this leaves the principled humanist secular left with a huge headache. After all, if we do not uphold the elementary argument for freedom of speech, who will? So here we are, forced to extend our efforts in support of a manifestation of execrable religious bigotry. It is an obvious sucker punch, and we can even see it coming, but we have no alternative but to walk straight into it.

Maybe God would consider taking Phelps and Choudary as a trade-off for Lady Gaga? I ask you to remember this suggestion in your prayers.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Reader comments


I heard on the Beeb that he was going to march with 500 followers. Given that he can’t usually get enough folk along for a five-a-side match, I don’t know where they’re supposed to be coming from. I doubt that Stop the War Coalition would want to march under Chowderbrains’s directorship nor through Wooton Bassett.

What would be best is if everyone – the townsfolk of Wooton Bassett, the media, whose attention he craves like Madonna, the EDL – ignored him in a dignified way. Fat chance of that.

Let them march. It would be a travesty if we didn’t get to see their attempts to make five hundred.

Islam4UK obviously think they’re on to a winner: if the march goes ahead, it’s lots of cheap publicity; if it’s banned, they can whine like the peasant in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Of course, there could be a peaceful counter-demonstration by the citizens of Wooton Bassett (plus anyone else who wanted to honour the dead/support ‘Our Boys’/endorse the war) rather than the counter-nutters of, say, the English Defence League turning up for a ruck. I’d rather that than the idea of of a UK version of the ‘Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act’.

You don’t have to walk into this sucker punch. The fact that you are willing to make such an extreme sacrifice on the one hand to uphold principles you believe in on the other hand just reinforces the fact that dogmatic polarised politics are both oversimplistic and damaging. In fact most such political decisions harm one sector of society while helping another (usually those who hold similar personal politics to the ones enforcing their political principles). What is “right” and what is “wrong” is almost always a matter of personal opionion. On average I am left-wing, but I am a free-thinker. Assess this situation on it’s own parameters, and stop it from happening in the same way you would with highly similar BNP activity. Gon’t get stuck in the mire of test-cases and policy, get away from the leftist “Hive-Mind” it is destroying free speech and free though, and ultimately might maginalise left-wing politics themselves.

Osler, 1983? Get with the times, you bitter, old man.

Best thing the Westboro Baptist Church ever did:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErR9mghM0xo

Santa Claus will take you to hell, yo!

(Watch til the end)

7. David Cooper, Newbury Libdem

This does not appear to be a case of defending free speech. Nobody is preventing Islam4UK from expressing their views. The proposed march is exclusively designed to give offence. It will offend at least:-
– Anyone who has lost a friend or relative in the course of military service for this country.
– Anyone who finds the words the Koran and the teachings of Islam offensive. This includes atheists such as myself. For such people, the thought of radical Islamists conducting an organized march through an ancient and beautiful country town is offensive.
In recent times a convention has come about that actions that might cause offence are banned. It has been successfully invoked by religious minorities, including Muslims. For consistency, this march must be banned.

8. Alisdair Cameron

@ David Cooper.

The proposed march is exclusively designed to give offence

So? There is no right to not being offended.Unless it causes dircet harm or poses real danger, then abhominable as you may find it, there is the right to free speech, to free assembly and to protest/demonstrate (much as new lab have sought to curtail such principles). Dave Osler is right: this is objectionable but cannot be opposed without being thoroughly illiberal.

In a reuters article about the open letter Choudary has written for the parents of the dead, in defense of the march, it says:

In his letter, Choudary, who calls himself the UK head of al-Muhajiroun, said he wanted to explain to family and friends of dead soldiers that the proposed march was not “merely an act of incitement or provocation.”

Not merely, but mostly, right?

I don’t think is any sort of dilemma or headache for liberals.

Anjem Choudary amply enjoys free speech: he has a website and an organisation of sorts, was on the radio this morning, is sometimes seen on the TV, and can hold demonstrations and meetings. Like Stephen Green of Christian Voice, he’s managed to use the web and the helpful media to carve out a bizarre, unmerited kind of “celebrity” based on having fringe opinions. What he wants now (if this is for real rather than just an easy, press-release driven stunt in a quiet news period) is not free speech or the right to protest but the additional right to make his protests in the manner of his choosing and at a particular place of his choosing.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to see freedom of speech as meaning that that kind of absolutely untrammelled ability to protest is an entitlement. I don’t expect to be able to protest inside Buckingham Palace or from the pulpit at Westminster Abbey, or to paint words on the side of a mosque; and I don’t think anyone would be worried about my not being able to do any of those things.

In contrast to Anjem Choudary, people who face actual restrictions on free speech tend to be stopped from expressing themselves anywhere, at any time, or at least to be subject to substantial restrictions rather than narrow, detailed ones. For instance, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s play Behzti has not to my knowledge been put on anywhere in the UK since the mob closed it in Birmingham five years ago. It isn’t that it’s just not put on in Sikh areas, for example, or that performances on Sikh holy days should be avoided. Some blogs have published the notorious “Muhammad cartoons”, but no mainstream UK newspaper has, to my knowledge. It’s not a question of the context, size or prominence of any publication of the cartoons being limited by any detailed conditions. Geert Wilders was prevented from coming to this country to say anything at all until the courts intervened, and the decision to exclude him was applauded by at least one former minister who admitted never having seen his film. It wasn’t a question of his movements, words or meetings being in any way subject to limited conditions.

To prevent “Islam4UK” parading in Wootton Bassett would seem to me a perfectly reasonable marginal limitation on their freedom of speech and assembly, simply preventing them from demonstrating in the most provocative place they could choose to protest in. It wouldn’t be at all comparable to any of the other restrictions on free speech that I’ve mentioned, and leaves Anjem Choudary free to say what he likes all the time and almost everywhere.

No headache here.

11. Dick the Prick

I read Choudary’s letter yesterday and the first 2 paragraphs make absolutely NO mention of his reasoning behind the march but wibbles on about the fact that all non believers are going to hell which err.. seems a bit odd. So, in that regard I think he’s gone off on one.

It would be fine to have a march stating the campaigns in the middle east are ghastly but this lad wants us all to be converted as well so he can just jog on frankly. Absolutely spot on about the ancillary effects of boosting the BNPers too. Fair play for publicity but this organization is not the mechanism for it.

Oooh and Granpa Osler – honestly, Lady Gaga’s really quite good – no gentleman Jim Reeves but she’s only young and she has proper potential.

I say ban Choudary’s “protest”. The harm that his groupuscules are doing to community relations up and down the country is immense.

Incidentally. I’ve just learnt that, in Pakistan alone, Al Quaeda and related groups killed 1,037 civilians through various explosions and suicide bombings in 2009. In December 9 lives daily were lost to suicide attacks. In 2008 the number of civilian victims of Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan stood at 712.

I’ve always been critical of the American and British conduct in the Middle East – the Iraq war in particular. I even criticised the acritical use of the expressions “Heroes” and “Our Boys” in certain quarters.

But I wonder if Choudary, his glaze-eyed supporters and all those who shouted “Butchers of Basra”, would have anything to say about the ongoing butchering that certain Muslism fundamentalists are perpetrating on a daily basis against fellow Muslims in Pakistan and other countries.

13. David Cooper, Newbury Libdem

@Alisdair Cameron

I agree that “right not to be offended” is an illiberal canker which has wormed its way into British democracy.

However, given that this has already happened (think of the banning of Geert Wilders, on the grounds that his coming to the UK would give offense to Muslims), then it is only just that it should be applied with equal enthusiasm against religious fanatics.

14. Alisdair Cameron

@ David Cooper. That was a wrong decision based on that illiberal canker (good phrase).I fail to see how repeating a wrong decision is the right thing to do, in effect giving legitimacy to that false idea that nobody can be offended and free speech go hang.

@15
i fail to see how repeating a wrong decision is the right thing to do, in effect giving legitimacy to that false idea that nobody can be offended and free speech go hang.

The “wrong decision” would :
a) prove that the government is not biased towards one type of extremism.
b) avoid street riots and escalating tension.


Twice in August and September the EDL was allowed to march in Birmingham in the name of freedom of speech. Twice we witnessed riots, some particularly vicious. “Freedom of speech” is not some abstract notion that sxhould be seen devoid of a context.

16. John Booth

@David I hope you aren’t a spokesperson for the Lib Dems, because the last time I heard two idiotic wrongs do not make a right.

17. Shatterface

Let them march – and remind them that we let them march the next time somone publishes a cartoon they don’t like or names their teddy after some ancient fraud who claims he spoke to sky pixies.

Under the Treason Act, someone is guilty of Treason if he:

“be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere”.

For this William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) was hanged.

Watch out Anjem Choudhury.

19. David Cooper, Newbury Libdem

@17, no I am not a spokesman, just an ordinary Libdem member.

@Alisdair Cameron

I cannot agree liberals must be nice, and not play the “offence card”, while Muslims and Hindus fanatics exploit it for all they are worth. That is not the way to get the law improved. It leaves the field open to racists such as the BNP, who will be able to claim that they are defending our common values while liberals remain supine.

Bad law and bad practice must be criticised and attacked. But while these bad laws exist, they are part of the ground rules we all play by.

So let me state this very clearly. I find the notion of the Islam4UK march utterly offensive. Since it is common practice to ban activities that cause offence, then however mistaken this practice may be, I want it banned.

20. Alisdair Cameron

I’m sorry, David, but I fail to get your logic or consistency. The Wilders decision was wrong, we agree on that, but instaed of avoiding a repetition of a wrong decision, you want to see it applied again especially because you find this instance particularly offensive? Liberals must be liberal or they are nothing.

i have a far better idea:

PANTS OUT FOR THE BEARDS OF TERROR!

http://www.spittoon.org/archives/4566

the beauty of it is that, of course, the same approach could work on everyone from angry andy to steven gash, nick griffin and george galloway!

b’shalom

bananabrain

@16.

“Twice in August and September the EDL was allowed to march in Birmingham in the name of freedom of speech. Twice we witnessed riots, some particularly vicious.”

But didn’t nearly all the violence, some directed at random passers by with the wrong skin colour, came from those ostensibly protesting against the EDL ?

In recent times a convention has come about that actions that might cause offence are banned. It has been successfully invoked by religious minorities, including Muslims. For consistency, this march must be banned.

But why should we give in to that?

My annoyance is with the British media who keep giving this nutcase so much publicity.

On the other hand – its teaching everyone about the need for free speech.

Its also spurring Muslims to act against Choudhary (see: BMSD)

Have to go with the idea that this guy “relishes” the idea of a counter-protest from the EDL or BNP. Any publicity is good publicity, after all. He can’t possibly intend this to be a peaceful protest, can he?

David Cooper,

So let me state this very clearly. I find the notion of the Islam4UK march utterly offensive. Since it is common practice to ban activities that cause offence, then however mistaken this practice may be, I want it banned.

I find what you wrote offensive. Do you want it banned?

I’d assume that there is a Police Station somewhere near Wooton Bassett just waiting for anyone to phone and propose a counter demonstration and this march is toast.

27. domestic extremist

@Paolo: Under the Treason Act, someone is guilty of Treason if he:
“be adherent to the King’s enemies in his realm, giving to them aid and comfort in the realm, or elsewhere”.

I seem to recall there’s also still legislation on the statute book requiring black cab drivers to carry a bale of hay, and permitting them if necessary to urinate over the offside wheel of their cabs.

The trouble with the Treason Act is that a lot of people nowadays are enemies of the monarchy, and have very different ideas to HMG about which nation states (or non-state actors) merit aid and comfort. That probably explains why only a lunatic government would think of invoking it over Wootton Bassett. So, better stand by, yeoman warders.

I’d get Ladbrokes to run a book on it. How many followers will Chowderhead have behind him. 10? 15?

It’s the permission thing isn’t it? If Chowderhead turned up in WB, stood on a pavement & pulled out a placard I hope that the WBers would treat him a British way – ie look embarrassed and avert their eyes and treat him like any religious nutter. If he wants to disrupt traffic etc, why should he be able to? The local branch of a teaching union should be able to, or those protesting a by-pass or what have you, but can any random person demand that a town should divert traffic etc to carry out their desire to protest? He could hire a hall if he wanted people to come to a meeting.

Anyway, he seems to be holding this up to see who will snap at it, and quite a few people have already, including this thread.

Sunny – respect to BMSD. It bugs me that they have to spend their time and energy opposing a fringe idiot like Chowderhead.

@ Max_Normal

“Assess this situation on it’s own parameters, and stop it from happening in the same way you would with highly similar BNP activity”

The BNP do not march so what do you mean?

Speaking as a secular humanist, I cannot see the problem here. His religious convictions are irrelevant. He wishes to use the streets of Wooten Basset to stage a march in commemoration of the dead in a controversial war and has applied for permission to do this. He wishes to do this in a village that, by a quirk of fate, regularly holds such ceremonies for dead soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

Are the lives of innocent Afghani children worth less than willing soldiers? If so, perhaps this Guy Choudry has made a very astute point. If not, then what is the problem?

We are told that the ceremonies of honouring the are about remembering the war dead and not some jingoistic posturing. Surely we can remember the dead without too much hassle?

I thought we trying to defeat Al Queda and the Taliban? We are NOT at war with either Islam or the Afghans, the Afghanistan people are causalities of this war too. If a few strutting little Englanders cannot get their thick heads round that fact, then that is not Choudry’s problem, is it?

@23
“But didn’t nearly all the violence, some directed at random passers by with the wrong skin colour, came from those ostensibly protesting against the EDL ?”

A good chunk of it did, absolutely. But the EDL deserved an olympic gold medal for the way they managed to goad an entire city and whole ethnic groups into hostility.
And that’s exactly what they were looking for. Alas some people were stupid or impulsive enough to fall into the trap.

I see Choudary’s group as the reciprocal of that.

Jim @ 32, balls.

35. Charlieman

Given the information thus provided, I’m in favour of letting Choudary to go ahead with his protest. The free speech argument outbests the offence argument, except when the offence develops into incitement to violence. Choudary is probably not that foolish and his handful of supporters will be far more self controlled than far right wing rabble.

But there’s a pragmatic argument too. If Choudary’s protest is likely to cause public disorder, then it should be suspended. This is not a free speech contradiction, because Choudary would remain free to protest in other ways at different times. Until there is evidence that Choudary’s protest is likely to create disorder, let him go ahead. Give him permission now, and only retract it when there is a strong indication of conflict.

As Dave suggests, Choudary mistakenly thinks that he can win any way on a multi way bet. If his march is banned from the start, he is gifted a publicity win. That is his only guaranteed winning ticket. For all of the other options, he is more likely to be a loser.

36. John Booth

So the EDL are allowed to incite racial hatred in cities across England.

Nick Griffin can go on the BBC to lie about the Holocaust and make jokes about the KKK.

But we have to ban a march of people who are neither inciting hatred nor being racist? What, cos they offend people who worship soldiers?

Fuck that shit. You can’t defend the right of the far right BNP and EDL to their free speech then turn around and stop extremist Muslims from expressing themselves. Either ban all future EDL marches now along with Anjem, or leave the fuck alone.

So just who are being offended by this march? People who think it wrong to remember innocent Muslims killed in a war? Some tattoed, slope headed racists who confuse ‘Muslim’ with ‘the enemy’? Well if they are offended, good! I won’t shed a tear at the thought of some skinheads or even some blue rinsers wringing their hands at the thought that ‘our streets’ are being sullied by ‘them muzzies’ having the audacity to mourn ‘their’ dead.

If they don’t want innocent Muslims to be remembered then why the fuck should we pander to them? Who could be offended my a march to mourn people killed by carpet bombing Helmand province?

@38 Jim. Choudary cares about the death of Afghans to the same degree that he is concerned about flea infestation of my neighbour’s dog. He is constructing a protest on a reasonable premise (that dead Afghans are largely ignored) in a fashion that is intended to insult UK war dead, His intent is not to illuminate innocent war victims.

John Booth @ 37 – Anjem Choudary is on the BBC all the time sounding off. He gets far more air time than Nick Griffin.

I think Charlieman @36 has it right.

But in answer to Jim:

Wootton Bassett has become a place where the UK’s dead soldiers are commemorated and grieved for by their families and friends.

There are plenty of places in the UK where Choudary can hold his march. However, he claims his attempt to draw attention to the number of innocent Muslim men, women and children who have been killed in Afghanistan would be ignored anywhere else.

But it is not the dead innocents of Afghanistan who will be remembered if Choudary’s march is held in Wootton Bassett.

Can’t we allow those people who go to Wootton Bassett their simple ceremony, and Choudary find somewhere else to do his?

Charliman @ 39

I hadn’t noticed that Choudray had appointed you spokesman, I assume you have an insight in this guys mind missing from the rest of us?

Anyway, where is the insult to the UK war dead? They are only going to walk down a street, not piss on graves! How can anyone be offended by that?

Surely the army are there to ‘defend our freedoms’ what greater freedom is their than to remember the dead from a War?

UKliberty @ 41

Why should Choudary be the one who suffers in his right to march for the victims of a war, just because a few slope headed halfwits think that Muslims are the enemy? If Choudary has his walk with fake coffins and we see the dignified silence of those people of Wooten Bassett then everyone wins. If the EDL turn up and it all kicks off then Chaudary will have proved what many of suspect; this just a bit of Muslim bashing.

If people do not wish to mourn innocent the dead of War, then nip into a shop while it is on.

John

But we have to ban a march of people who are neither inciting hatred nor being racist? What, cos they offend people who worship soldiers?

They have incited violence and have supported terrorism.

(Or, should I say, attempted to incite violence.)

Jim@32 – “strutting little-Englanders”.

When will you lot get it into your thick skulls ? In Victorian Britain, ‘Little-Englanders” were the anti-Imperialists of their day, with also a touch of America’s isolationists about them. They disapproved of the Empire and of Imperial wars, wanting the country to ‘live of her own’.

I wish lefties of whatever stripe would pick up the occasional history book and read it.

Were little-Englanders in charge, we would have no troops in Iraq or Afghanistan (and it’s unlikely Choudary or his forebears would ever have been allowed in, but that’s by the by).

Here’s a little Englander, in Orwell’s Coming Up For Air, Chapter Six

He was a real old nineteenth-century Liberal, the kind that not only used to ask you what Gladstone said in ‘78 but could tell you the answer, and one of the very few people in Lower Binfield who stuck to the same opinions all through the war. He was always denouncing Joe Chamberlain and some gang of people that he referred to as ‘the Park Lane riff-raff’. I can hear him now, having one of his arguments with Father. ‘Them and their far-flung Empire! Can’t fling it too far for me. He-he-he!’

@BenSix, come off it, you’re usually the last to fall for the right-wing nonsense put out to stifle any criticism of the war. Why do left-wingers have an automatic obligation to equate Muslim extremists with white supremacists?

Look at the comments below the video. When you equate the likes of Choudhary with the EDL, that is the kind of sentiment you stoke up: Muslims are all like this, let’s make a special case for them, ban the extremists but don’t forget to marginalise the rest.

By all means, criticise Choudhary but don’t call for his march to be banned unless you call for the processions of British coffins through Wootton Bassett to be banned as well. Frankly I find celebrating the deaths of people who didn’t question stupid orders to kill innocent people in other countries, as offensive as anything Choudhary is doing. Ban them all or ban nothing.

Don’t play the HP game. What threat does Choudhary pose anyway? It’s the media who give him attention, attack them instead.

@Laban So real Liberals and little Englanders would kick out and ban brown people? Good to know.

Jim @ 42, I didn’t say Choudary “should” “suffer – indeed in this very thread I supported his freedom to march, even though he would not allow me the same freedom if he were in charge – merely that it seems many would rather he march elsewhere, and not because they hate Muslims or Afghans, but because of the symbol that Wootton Bassett has become to them.

Again, it is not the Afghan dead who will be remembered if Choudary marches in Wootton Bassett.

@Laban:

I read “Coming Up For Air” a couple of months ago. It’s a brilliant sustained piece of nostalgic writing – veiled memoir, I suppose. It was hardly possible for my admiration of Orwell to increase, but it did.

John

…come off it, you’re usually the last to fall for the right-wing nonsense put out to stifle any criticism of the war…

Thank you! I don’t think this is “right-wing nonsense“, though. It’s telling that Nafeez Ahmed – who, as the author of The War on Truth and The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry, is hardly a pro-war propagandist – lamentsthe impunity with which al-Muhajiroun networks continue to operate in Britain“.

Why do left-wingers have an automatic obligation to equate Muslim extremists with white supremacists?

I wouldn’t equate them if it wasn’t relevant, but if it’s implied that they’re less contemptible I’ll disagree (for the reasons mentioned in 43, their lusty calls for Shariah law, and the dodgy connections that Ahmed notes).

Look at the comments below the video. When you equate the likes of Choudhary with the EDL, that is the kind of sentiment you stoke up: Muslims are all like this, let’s make a special case for them, ban the extremists but don’t forget to marginalise the rest.

Cheap answer: No I don’t – nobody reads me.

Better answer: If I describe them accurately, how am I responsible for false interpretations people draw? I’m been much more vitriolic about Geert Wilders; should I not, ‘cos there are people trying to kill him?

By all means, criticise Choudhary but don’t call for his march to be banned unless you call for the processions of British coffins through Wootton Bassett to be banned as well.

I’m not calling for him to be banned, just as I’m not for, say, the EDL (if it can be shown that either group directly incites, or takes part in, violence that may be revised). I do, however, think he and his friends should be seen for what they are.

Frankly I find celebrating the deaths of people who didn’t question stupid orders to kill innocent people in other countries, as offensive as anything Choudhary is doing.

While I agree that the tabs have an unpleasant habit of jerking themselves silly over “our boys“, I don’t think that there’ll be much celebration in Wooton Bassett.

Don’t play the HP game. What threat does Choudhary pose anyway?

Well, first there’s the danger his followers pose to people who come into contact with them. People as fanatical as them have, as we know, odd ideas about freedom of choice, and wife beating/honour killing wouldn’t, I think, be beyond them. Then there’s his own links to violence, which are rather mysterious. Finally, he’s so theatrically radical that he bugs the shit out of me; he’s either mad – a la Phelps – or devious.

It’s the media who give him attention, attack them instead.

Well, yes, that should be done as well (and, without wanting to self-promote, I have).

As much as you might not like what they are doing in their march, you should not stop them from their peaceful protest.

One of the fundamental rights in this country that we still have (sort of) is that of peaceful protest.

If we disallow muslims from protesting against the slaughter of their people then where does it stop.. ?
Do we also stop people protesting against the EU because don’t agree with that ? Whats next.

The right for peaceful protest should be upheld above all else in any democratic society.

I’d like to see them try to demonstrate there.
It would take quite a lot of guts. The fact that they cancelled their protest in London a couple of months back at the slightest hint of opposition makes me think this is just fanciful thinking.
It’s very unlikely to take place. I wouldn’t ban it though.
Banning demonstrations should only be done in the moste extreme circumstances, and this should not merrit that.

The burning question of the hour is: will the dedicated adversaries of hate, of whom there are many hereabouts, be linking arms (at least metaphorically) to formg a common front with the BNP leadership in their principled stand against the dark forces of fanaticism and bigotry?

http://bnp.org.uk/2010/01/bnp-leaders-vow-to-physically-block-islamist-wootton-bassett-march/?awesm=fbshare.me_VYuI

Surely now is the time if ever there was one to cast aside minor doctrinal differences and to stand firm together in the name of freedom, tolerance and democracy!

If Choudary believes in free speech, the litmus test is, to me, rather simple.

Would he, in a court of law advocate the ‘free speech’ clause? If he advocates his own beliefs then he has to, by default, advocate those who are the polar opposite to himself.

That is how freedom of speech works.

To protest means that you have a beef – you also get a counter-protest unless the majority agrees with you. There is no quandary here, especially for those of us who are of the left.

What you do have is a possible media blitz, exactly what Choudary wants. Unfortunately for them and he, the backlash is a reality.

The media is dictating what is reality – celebrity at any cost is what they want, and is succeeding because of their respective bottom lines.

Reality TV has a lot to answer for.

@50 BenSix

He’s devious. A few years back he was downing beers and shagging girls. The guy has no Islamic qualifications or education to speak of, and just wants his 15 minutes.

Hmm. I think the freedom of expression we have in this country should extend to the freedom to call for the freedom of expression of others to be curtailed. As such, the litmus test Will describes in 54 is not valid – I’m sure we even have Anjem ‘Andy’ Choudhary on record as calling for the death of those who drew the Motoons. People might say if he calls for other people to be killed/silenced, that gives the state the right to kill/silence him. I disagree.

The whole “incitement to violence” thing is tricky. Whilst it has been a useful tool for progressives to attack racist shitbags like Griffin for denying the holocaust, i.e. it is a check on society’s racist tendencies that would otherwise go unchecked (and stoked) by the tabloid-dominated media, it’s hard to prove. If someone goes and builds a bomb after having read the Anarchist Cookbook, does that mean we should send the author of the Cookbook to jail for inciting violence? I think the law should be changed to only prosecute people if it can be proven they have directly caused violence.

Ben I’ve read a lot of your work over the years and admire your commitment to anti-war stuff, especially when the UK centre-left (particularly within Labour) is forgetting about how horrible war is. That’s why I think we need to target our criticisms of phenomena like Andy directly at their sources – the tabloid media – rather than at the symptom – Andy himself – because doing the latter only gives him more attention. The tabloid media created this monster – we find ways to defeat them, and Andy goes down with them.

UkLiberty @ 48

You have to accept that for a section of our society (not just Muslims) Wooten Bassett has become a symbol of something else. They find it quite sinister and symptomatic of a stomach churning hypocrisy within British culture. I am not interested in that debate here. Whether they have a point or not is a different thread. However, what I do believe is they have a right to feel that way and they have a right to express that feeling in a peaceful demonstration (in the broader sense of the word) on the streets of this Country. These streets are owned by everybody, not just the families of the war dead. Wooten Bassett belongs to all of us, not just a select few who choose to fetishise the armed forces. I cannot remember such parades for the victims of the IRA at the time when many more young men came home in boxes.

Choudary is right, a march down ‘Paki’[sic] streets would have zero impact on the British media or even the British consciousness. No doubt many people in Wooten Bassett feel that these ‘mussies’ should stick to their own area. If so, then Choudary has made perhaps the most eloquent point of all. There are millions of people in this Country who think that Muslims are not ‘our people’ and are sickened by the thought of them using ‘our’ streets, the same streets that ‘our boys’ go down when they return from being killed by Muslims. I have seen and heard the vox pops regarding this march. I have heard the cries of outrage and the ‘it’s disgusting’ etc, but why is it disgusting? What is disgusting about mourning the innocent people who die in war? Why is it wrong to remember those slaughtered to bring security to the West?

I do get why this causes the Left problems, BTW. We who defend freedom have to defend people who we profoundly disagree with and people we would rather not be bothered with. I am often accused of being on the side of ‘the terrorist’, ‘the paedophile’, ‘the rapist’ etc, just because I oppose the death penalty and imprisonment without trial.

I get it. For many of us we are tired of trying to explain to the fuckwit in the pub that free speech and freedom to demonstrate extends, even to ‘paki scum’ [sic] and ‘poofs’[sic] and that standing up to them causes grief and this is one time we cannot be bothered to defend, so it would be easier to let it slide, ‘just this once’, ‘just this once’ is once too often in my book.

Jim @ 56

You’ll never believe it, mate, but I agree with every word.

I wince every time I hear a TV bulletin begin with the words ” a British soldier ” because it means I am about to hear that another young life has been squandered in a fruitless and unjust war. And we hear little of the Afghan casualties who have died defending their country from the invader.

It’s about time the people of Wooton Basset mixed some anger along with their respect for the dead.

John

The tabloid media created this monster – we find ways to defeat them, and Andy goes down with them.

Agreed, while I think Choudary’s a dodgy mo’fugger there’s no need to join the tabloid tumoult every time he looks for attention (I would, however, support tactics such as these*).

[*] Without, perhaps, the flag n’ marines, but you see what I mean.

The whole “incitement to violence” thing is tricky. Whilst it has been a useful tool for progressives to attack racist shitbags like Griffin for denying the holocaust, i.e. it is a check on society’s racist tendencies that would otherwise go unchecked (and stoked) by the tabloid-dominated media, it’s hard to prove. If someone goes and builds a bomb after having read the Anarchist Cookbook, does that mean we should send the author of the Cookbook to jail for inciting violence? I think the law should be changed to only prosecute people if it can be proven they have directly caused violence.

Two points. We shouldn’t enact or abolish laws because they are ‘useful tools’ for progressives or reactionaries. The Inchoate Offences came into being (and they are Common Law offences, with a history stretching back as long as England has had law at all) because of a general belief that the person whipping a crowd into violence is as culpable as the people that heed him. That remains a philosophically sound position.

The second point is that writing an instruction manual on how to make a bomb is not incitement. Writing a pamphlet calling for bombs to be placed so as to kill the infidel (or the gays, or the Protestants, or meat-headed South African opening batsmen) is incitement. Incitement is, in fact, pretty easy to prove – but the decision as to when to prosecute is overwhelmingly more political than is usually the case.

Jim @ 56, Choudary is co-opting for his own ends something that is harmless in itself, something quite important to a number of people who’ve got nothing to do with the war, other than being relatives and friends of the dead, who aren’t interfering with anyone else or rubbing anyone’s nose in it, something that is quite ‘nice’ for them to participant in, something AFAICT they’ve tried to keep dignified and non-partisan. You talk about “mourning the innocent people who die in war” – he wants to march there, not to commemorate those dead but to draw attention to his cause.

Again, I don’t dispute this unpleasant character’s freedom to march, I just rather he do it elsewhere.

Just out of interest, are there any ceremonies for the Afghan dead in the UK?

60. domestic extremist

@uk liberty: Just out of interest, are there any ceremonies for the Afghan dead in the UK?

Depends what you consider counts as a ceremony. Supporters of Stop the War read out names of dead Afghans, and names of dead UK troops, at the Cenotaph late last year. As far as I know, this event was totally ignored by the media.

Pagar @ 57

We would agree on a lot more, if only I could persuade you to stick to Libertarian principles a bit more.

Ukliberty @ 60

Choudary’s character or even his ‘hidden’ motives are not the issue here. We no not extend the right to march to people on how ‘nice’ people are or how ‘appropriate’ such people’s motivation is. We should be judging this march entirely on its merits and is it able to reach objective criteria, not some test on whether ‘we’ think Choudary plays with a straight bat or not.

Choudary’s desire to mourn the dead as well as generate maximum impact for his cause is neither mutually exclusive or a reason to ban such a march. When the Country side alliance march in ‘support of the Countryside’ the fact that they are a front for hunters (many of whom are urban dwellers) and the fact that they want to hold in London, reasons to ban it either. No doubt you and millions like you want this march to go on in Bethnal Green , away from the eyes of the public and the media; by the same token I wish that the Countryside alliance confined their marches to village greens and Country lanes.

Clearly the parades in Wooten Bassett ARE both politically motivated and partisan as politicians of all sides commented on these parades and have been shown on the media. Given the sense of outrage felt that someone would be so ‘insensitive’ as to attempt to commemorate the deaths of Muslims in the same place. I find such outrage (real or mock) difficult to square with the claim of ‘non-partisanship’.

As far as I know, this event was totally ignored by the media.

This one?

Jim, I’m not sure how many times I have to say I support his freedom to march before you understand my sincerity there. My comment @60 is about why I’d rather he march elsewhere.

Choudary’s desire to mourn the dead as well as generate maximum impact for his cause is neither mutually exclusive

Well, we’ll agree to disagree in this context.

No doubt you and millions like you want this march to go on in Bethnal Green , away from the eyes of the public and the media;

And then you had to go and ruin it all, by saying something stupid like… that.

In fact, I’m quite happy for him to do it in Parliament Square or near the Cenotaph.

Clearly the parades in Wooten Bassett ARE both politically motivated and partisan as politicians of all sides commented on these parades and have been shown on the media.

I don’t think those who visit Wootton Bassett to commemorate the dead can help what politicians get up to – indeed I’ve heard it said they’d rather politicians didn’t go (as politicians, anyway). Much like when Cameron and Brown were told off for their photos at the Field of Remembrance late last year.

Given the sense of outrage felt that someone would be so ‘insensitive’ as to attempt to commemorate the deaths of Muslims in the same place. I find such outrage (real or mock) difficult to square with the claim of ‘non-partisanship’.

I think (hope) there would be less outrage if a visitor to Wootton Bassett was merely commemorating the deaths of Muslims rather than attempting to co-opt it for the purposes of attracting the attention of a media circus.

64. mr laurence

Whilst the right of likeminded individuals to try and affect decisions or outcomes by protest marches is being discussed I was annoyed today to find that my server ,( orange ? ) has taken upon itself to censor which sites I can view – ie islam4uk ! This is my first experience and I find it upsetting to be dictated which subjects I can explore and draw my own views upon and which subjects I have to leave to others . This is particularly sinister if it turns out to be the authority of our or worse a foreign government that has decreed that i should be forbidden access to certain websites .

UKL @ 64

The implication being that some people deem it ‘inappropriate’ for Muslims to either march or be commemorated in Wooten Bassett. Well, perhaps how they think, but does that mean they are correct? If so, why? Are we saying that we have certain streets for certain people? That Muslims are not welcome to organise a march in Wooten Bassett? What about Aldershot? Where do we draw the line? What about a march to mark holocaust day in Wooten Bassett? What if a group of people objected on the grounds that ‘British soldiers were conscripted, but Jews brought it on themselves’, would you respect their wishes?

What if people decide that they do not want the Army marching down their street for whatever reason? There are a few villages round here that ‘British troops’ would be more than unwelcome and few councils that have attempted to ban cadets from having church parades too.

What if a group of people don’t want a gay pride march in a given street because ‘there is a primary school there and we shouldn’t put temptation in the marcher’s way’, then what? Would we just re-route to avoid unsightly scenes or defend the right of peaceful, legal, marches, irrespective of a few ‘concerned citizens’?

If it is appropriate to:
Mark the death of Muslims in this war
Muslims to march in such a cause.

In a street in the Country, then it is appropriate to do so in EVERY street, irrespective of how some people feel. What is the alternative?

66. Charlieman

@65 mr laurence

If correct, your report is very disturbing. Do you have a screen dump or a copy of the text that is displayed when you try to access the site? Possibly a URL might do, if your ISP is redirecting to a generic “forbidden” page.

67. mr laurence

re;charlieman
Not greatly computer literate unfortunately , hope someone has an explanation for this , why not try to view islam4uk too ? My isp is orange so I presume they have blocked the site , I wonder if bt yahoo ! etc have also ? and on whose advice !

68. Charlieman

mr laurence, when I try to connect to http://www.islam4uk.com/ via my ISP, I receive a blank page.

When I try to connect via an anonymous proxy, I get the same result.

To me, it just looks like they are off line. It isn’t something that your ISP is doing.

69. mr laurence

how bizzarre , having read your reply i tried again and am told am unable to connect . previously the page read “this server has blocked access, you do not have permission to visit this site ” , or words thereof ! thanks and am sufficiently intrigued to try again tomorrow . incidentally , my interest is more know thy enemy than sympathetic to their cause !

70. mr laurence

charlieman , have tried again and pasted the page as below . its the word forbidden that irks me !

Forbidden
You don’t have permission to access /current-affairs/uk-news/421–coming-soon–wootton-bassett-march on this server.

Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

Jim @ 66, it’s about context and appropriateness seems a subjective term.

The implication being that some people deem it ‘inappropriate’ for Muslims to either march or be commemorated in Wooten Bassett. Well, perhaps how they think, but does that mean they are correct? If so, why? Are we saying that we have certain streets for certain people? That Muslims are not welcome to organise a march in Wooten Bassett?

Why do you keep banging on about ‘Muslims’ instead of Choudary & co? Muslims other than Choudary have publicly disagreed with his approach to this. Please don’t tar all Muslims with the same brush.

If it is appropriate to:

Mark the death of Muslims in this war
Muslims to march in such a cause.

In a street in the Country, then it is appropriate to do so in EVERY street, irrespective of how some people feel.

But that isn’t what Choudary claims he wants to do, is it? He claims he wants to march in Wootton Basset in order to draw attention to Afgan casualties etc. He wants it to be a media spectacle.

AFAICT, the people who up to now have used Wootton Bassett to commemorate their dead don’t want it used as a media spectacle – by anyone. What’s wrong with? Can’t you allow them that little comfort?

UKL @ 72

I am not tarring all Muslims with the same brush, but I get the feeling that the bulk of the objection to this march is comming from people who oppose Muslims using WB for a march in mourning of fellow Muslims.

But that isn’t what Choudary claims he wants to do, is it? He claims he wants to march in Wootton Basset in order to draw attention to Afgan casualties etc. He wants it to be a media spectacle.

Well that is a perfectly acceptable tactic isn’t it? If he wants to use his march to gain maximum publicity then is that a legitimate reason to ban a march? It may or may not have the desired effect, but banning a march in an area just becase it is intended to gain his group publicity hardly seems right. If you are going to ban a march then I think you need a better reason than that.

AFAICT, the people who up to now have used Wootton Bassett to commemorate their dead don’t want it used as a media spectacle – by anyone. What’s wrong with? Can’t you allow them that little comfort?

So? Why is this march stopping them?

Jim,

If you are going to ban a march then I think you need a better reason than that.

For the Nth time (I can’t be bothered to look back through the thread), I’m not calling for the march to be banned.

AFAICT, the people who up to now have used Wootton Bassett to commemorate their dead don’t want it used as a media spectacle – by anyone. What’s wrong with? Can’t you allow them that little comfort?

So? Why is this march stopping them?

Well, I suppose it’s a bit like someone trampling on my family’s graves and kicking over the headstones. There’s no ‘logical’ argument against disliking them for doing so – I wouldn’t like it though. Some people aren’t as rational as you, Jim. They need their symbols and ceremonies.

Separately:

It occurred to me earlier that this has predictably become counterproductive in terms of drawing attention to the Afghan dead – it has become a media circus because of Choudary’s involvement (and the manner of his involvement). Had he really cared, he would have asked someone to write in a personal and private capacity to the Wootton Bassett authorities asking for their opinion on a march, or requesting permission to march, (whatever is appropriate) and take it from there. Of course Choudary is more interested in seeing Choudary’s name in the papers than drawing attention to the Afghan dead, and chose to proceed differently. Again, that isn’t a reason to ban the march, just another reason to dislike it.

UKL @ 75

For the Nth time (I can’t be bothered to look back through the thread), I’m not calling for the march to be banned.

You are calling for this march to be banned from WB, you need a better reason than ‘it may upset some people’, I cannot see what rational grounds we can ban this march. Someone kicking headstones down is crimminal damage and illegal, applying for permission to hold a march is not. The law should not allow people’s symbols from preventing others exerising their rights.

As long as he goes through the proper channels and fuffils whatever criteria, then I cannot think of a good reason to stop this march.

Let me get one think straight. I have no doubt that Islam4UK are a pretty rum lot.

I doubt that I would agree with them on much. However, they have the right to hold marches by the same rules and criteria as the rest of us. I have been sickened the way that many people have looked at simple rights and with a theatrical wink to the crowd, we have denied those rights to sections of society, just because it happened to be ‘convenient’ to do so.

I can assure you that I hold no brief for this movement and they would happily remove many of my freedoms, given half the chance. There are sections of the Muslim community that can be their own worse enemy at times. The Rushtie affair and the cartoons being two examples. Unfortunately, they wish to exploit our free speech and use it against us, well that is fine because our values are too important to throw aside, just to save us the hassle of dealing with them.

Not only has Choudary got the right to free speech, but he has a more important and more potent right that goes along with that. He has the right to make a complete wankstain of himself in front of millions of people. I remember David Icke used to be on telly in his shell suit for three solid weeks. He made a twat of himself and he has rarely been on since.

Choudary is a different kettle of fish. I don’t want his type silenced, I want them defeated. I want our system to be proved better than his because it does not need to make up rules as it goes along. Let Choudary have his march, if his mob cannot control themselves and act with dignity then let him make an arse of himself.

You are calling for this march to be banned from WB

Wrong – learn how to read.

Cheers.

Re the Treason Act.
There is a wide-spread perception among non-Muslims that their beliefs require them to put sectarian allegiance before that due to queen and Country. i.e. if we are at war with a Muslim-majority state, ‘British’ Muslims would feel not just entitled but obliged to undermine the war effort.
It would be very helpful if the various leaders and representatve bodies of Muslims in the UK denounced this treasonable concept and re-affirmed that, while Muslims, like British Baptists or Buddhists, can legitimately disagree with any aspect of foreigh policy, they should support our armed forces and do all in their power to support the war effort.

There is a simple solution to his march. Get people to stand on the pavements of the streets and when his mob appear, all turn their backs on him. Rather than responding with hate, present a dignified response; they’re entitled to make their point, but why should anyone else pretend to pay any attention whatsoever?


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