Foreign Affairs

Free Speech is Dead in England

Freedom of speech no longer exists in the nation that gave the world the Magna Carta. It has been replaced by Islamist tyranny.

I wish I could put it less bluntly, but the facts are against me. The British government — my government, unfortunately — has just sent a message to the world that no longer will it stand up for First Amendment-style principles. From now on, if you don’t like what someone has to say, our surrender-monkey government is quite happy to ban them from saying it. Provided, of course, you happen to be a Muslim.

You may not remember the name Geert Wilders, but you should. He’s the Dutch parliamentarian who gave us the 14-minute movie, Fitna.

If you haven’t seen it, you should. If you’ve seen it, you should take the time to see it again.

Fitna isn’t merely a movie. It’s a documentary of the hatred spread by radical Islam. It takes the scenes of the most horrific terrorist attacks — the 9-11 attacks in the US, the British bus bombings and the attacks on the Spanish train stations — and juxtaposes them with quotations from the Quran and the sermons and speeches of hate that come regularly from Islamic clerics.

Fitna is intended to shock, and it does. But, in the most basic terms, it tells the truth. And that’s the problem with Fitna and Geert Wilders.

Last month, after being invited to address the House of Lords, Wilders was denied entry into the country after protests by a prominent British Muslim.

The British Muslim who has just won this proud victory for the Religion of Peace over the wicked forces of democracy, liberty and free speech is the Pakistani-born Nazir Ahmed. A former grocer, local councillor and Labour party activist from the North of England, he was ennobled by Tony Blair in 1998 to become Baron Ahmed, the second-ever Muslim (the first was a 19th century English eccentric and bigamist named Lord Stanley who converted to Islam in 1862 and infuriated the workers on his estate by closing down all the local pubs) to join the House of Lords.

Though reputedly a “moderate” Muslim, Lord Ahmed this week acted like anything but by blocking a visit to Britain by the Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Wilders — aka Mozart for his bouffant, platinum-blond hairstyle — is a courageously outspoken politician, one of a very few who has the temerity to say the “religion of peace” is nothing of the sort.

Fitna’s quotations from the Quran (e.g. “Those who have disbelieved our signs, we shall roast them in fire, whenever their skins are cooked to a turn we shall substitute new skins for them that they may feel the punishment: verily Allah is sublime and wise”) with images of terrorist atrocities (bombs, beheadings, 9/11) carried out for the greater glory of Islam.

It’s powerful, scary stuff. When you watch it, do be sure though that the version you’re watching is the film Wilders made, and not one of the numerous red herrings put out under misleadingly similar titles by Muslim apologists, full of charming but dull pictures of Muslims doing all the nice things the Quran also recommends, such as studying hard and treating widows charitably.

Last month Wilders had been due to fly in from the Netherlands to attend a screening of his film at the House of Lords (Britain’s answer to the Senate). But when Lord Ahmed got to hear of this, he threw his toys out of the pram, reportedly — though he has since denied this claim — threatening to mobilize 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the Lords. The meeting was postponed while the Lords authorities decided what to do. To their credit, they decided they would stand up to this bullying and planned to draft in extra police to deal with the threat during the rescheduled screening this week.

Then came the British government’s turn to show the strength of its resolve in the war to defend freedom. Which it did by caving in completely. This week, the British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wrote to Wilders that his “presence in the UK would pose, a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society.” She therefore banned him from entry. On Thursday, Wilders flew in all the same, only to be turned back by immigration officials at the airport.

And so the citadel has fallen. Hierosalem est perdita, as the crusaders used to say: Jerusalem has fallen. But at least in medieval times, those Saracen hordes had to do a fair amount of besieging and burning and slaughtering before the infidels capitulated. Here it took just the threat of action from one individual for a whole nation to go running scared, and abandon, in the course of one silly missive from an even sillier government minister, the hard-won, centuries-old tradition of freedom of speech.

But how, some British commentators are asking, would the government have behaved had it been Christianity the visiting Dutch MP had come to “insult” and not Islam? Their question is purely rhetorical, of course, for we know the answer already. This, remember, is the supposedly Anglican country where only the other week a nurse was threatened with the sack for having offered to pray for one of her patients; where it remains perfectly legal to show Monty Python’s religious spoof Life of Brian, but extremely risky under Britain’s new “incitement to religious hatred” laws to betray the merest hint of disrespect towards any religion beginning with “I-” and ending in “-slam.”

Few of those involved in this sorry affair emerge with any credit. Not the British government ministers, none of whom claim to have found the time to watch the film they publicly condemned — despite the fact that it lasts only 14 minutes. Certainly not Lord Ahmed, who can apparently see no moral contradiction in the fact that just two years ago he invited to the Lords one Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian previously detained on suspicion of fundraising for groups linked to al-Qaeda. Criticized for doing so, Lord Ahmed claimed it was his parliamentary duty hear Rideh’s complaints.

And let us not go too easy, either, on all those weasely defenders of free speech in the British press who nevertheless felt compelled to preface their arguments with how personally abhorrent they found Wilders’ views. Look, if they mean his views on acceptable hairstyles for a grown, civilized man, I’m with them all the way, possibly up to and including the man’s forced restyling of his hair (which should also be imposed on former Illinios Gov. Rod Blagojevich). But if this is about the views he expresses in Fitna, well, I’d like to ask what exactly their problem is.

Do they maybe think he faked the scene where the big plane goes wham into the side of the tall building in New York? Or the one where a cute three-year old Muslim says that Jews are “apes and pigs” because Allah says so in the Koran? Or the one where a guy named Eugene Armstrong has his head chopped off and then held up by Al-Qaeda terrorists? Are they arguing that the bits of the Koran he quotes apparently justifying such violence are mistranslations?

If the guy has made the whole thing up, then I think we should be told. If every word of that film is true, then Lord Ahmed’s protests begin very much to look like “the rage of Caliban on seeing himself reflected in the glass.” Either way, the British government’s craven response to Wilders and his film is a disgrace beyond measure, and looks even more shabby and wrongheaded on the anniversary of the Satanic Verses affair.

Yes, it was 20 years ago this week that Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini issued his fatwa against British Muslim author Salman Rushdie for having insulted the Prophet Mohammed in his book The Satanic Verses. Did the British government have Rushdie bound in chains and sent forthwith to Teheran (as no doubt they would have done today)? Of course not. The great Margaret Thatcher was running the country back then and had no truck with such nonsense. In response, her foreign secretary broke off diplomatic relations with Iran and announced to the Commons: “This action is taken in plain defense of the right within the law of freedom of speech and the right within the law of freedom of protest.”

Today, Britain is so reduced in its sense of self-confidence and self-worth that it is now sponsoring adverts on Pakistani television, begging have-a-go jihadis not to come and blow up our citizens. And if I were a Pakistani Jihadi watching those ads, I think I’d be tempted to oblige. To wage war against a nation as pantywaist and as cowardly as the one we’ve become is surely beneath a good fighting man’s dignity — but not that of the terrorist thugs this denial of free speech rewards.

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