Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Banning of Dutch MP from UK Entry;Reaction and Response

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Dutch Freedom Party MP, Geert Wilders, was invited by Lord Pearson, a member of the UKIP Party, to attend a parliamentary session to discuss the European Union and Islam where the Islamophobic film ‘Fitna’ was apparently to be shown in the House of Lords. He was excluded by the Government from entering the United Kingdom for public security.

Now the question comes up why he was banned? Dutch MP Mr. Wilders describes the Holy Qur’an as a fascist book” and compared it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has called for the Qur’an to be banned. Mr. Wilders also links the Islamic Holy Book to terrorism. The film ‘Fitna’ caused outrage across the Muslim world when it was posted on the internet last year. Mr. Wilders faces trial in his own country for inciting hatred. Earlier, this year, a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to put Mr. Wilders on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination by making anti-Islamic statements.

Under the circumstances, Mr. Wilders was denied entry by the Home Office amid fears his presence would endanger public security. The Government said it would not allow extremism and hatred to be spread through the communities of Britain.

The Home Office said there was a blanket ban on Mr. Wilders entering the UK under EU law enabling member states to exclude someone whose presence could threaten public security. “The Government opposes extremism in all forms,” it said in a statement, adding that it had tightened up rules on excluding those engaging in “unacceptable behaviour” in October.

“It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred, and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country.”

The Home Secretary has the power to stop people entering the UK if she believes there is a threat to national security, public order or the safety of UK citizens. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, MP. said the home secretary made a decision on an individual case. “We have profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land,” he added.

Commenting on the decision to exclude Geert Wilders Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan, MP., said: “Actions that incite hatred towards an individual or group that undermine our shared values are unacceptable.

“The Government opposes extremism in all its forms and we will stop anyone who wants to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country. We act consistently in making decisions to refuse anyone entry, having taken all the factors in each case into account,” Minister Khan added.

“Our aim is to foster community cohesion in this country and we will do that by promoting a sense of shared values that includes respect for the rule of law, freedom of speech, equality of opportunity and respect for others,” said Minister Khan and added, “We have legislation in place to protect people from incitement and hate crime which we have and will continue to enforce.”

Commenting on the BBC’s Panorama programme shown last night (!7 February 2009), Sadiq Khan said: “The preventing extremism work that we have been doing with communities up and down the country is in partnership between local communities and local authorities. We have invested highly in some of the most vulnerable communities in our country.

“The Panorama programme made some very serious allegations about prevent work being used to spy on British Muslim communities. This is untrue,” Minister Khan also said.

Cohesion Minister Sadiq Khan also said, “Prevent is about stopping people from being drawn into violent extremism and it is about working with Muslim communities at every level to build their resilience and enable them to challenge robustly the ideas of those extremists who seek to undermine this country’s shared values. We continue to expand our relationships to ensure we are talking to, and working with, those at the grassroots. Our emphasis is on engaging with those within our communities who acknowledge the problem of extremism, who voice this acknowledgement and who are actively seeking to address the problem.”

“Parents of all faiths and communities want to keep their children safe from radicalisers. We are committed to helping them to do that, and the money we are providing to local authorities for Prevent work is being used to do just that,” Minister Khan observed.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said even with freedom of speech, there was a line to be drawn.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs committee, insisted that Fitna could incite violence in its audience.

Response from Muslim Parliamentarians
Labour Peer Lord Ahmed, who expressed his concerns to the Parliamentary authorities about Mr. Wilders’ visit, said he welcomed the Home Secretary’s decision to ban the MP from entering the UK. Lord Ahmed said “this man is facing serious charges of inciting hatred and discrimination in Amsterdam, and has incited hatred amongst the communities in the UK.”

“This film creates hatred, and further segregates communities,” he reportedly said.

Lord Ahmed continued, stating “we are peace-loving citizens of the UK and do not want to see extremist groups incite hatred. This is something we campaign against.”

Lord Patel of Blackburn said, in an interview with me, “The government is absolutely right. The person, in the name of freedom of speech, tries to divide the community on the basis of religion, should not be allowed in our country, where the government is trying to unite the all faith communities and also all heritage communities and belief in community cohesion.

“So, under the circumstances, how can any government of the world, allow the person who spreads racial prejudice and tries to divide the community,” said Lord Patel.

Support from Muslim Community leaders
The Muslim Council of Britain, the Umbrella organisation of the British Muslims, said Mr Wilders was “an open and relentless preacher of hate”. “Geert Wilders has been an open and relentless preacher of hate, there is little difference between his views and those of the far right. We have no problem with the challenge of criticisms to our faith, but the film that will be screened tomorrow by Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox is nothing less than a cheap and tacky attempt to whip up hysteria against Muslims. Mr Wilders' xenophobic and repugnant views has been identified by a Dutch court, and is now confirmed by his official exclusion to the United Kingdom. It now time to ask why Peers of Realm who promote such demagogues without any censure are allowed to be regarded as mainstream, responsible leaders in our community,” said The Muslim Council of Britain.

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations (UMO), said to me in an interview, “We, the British Muslims, are glad that our government has refused entry to the Dutch M.P. – Mr. Geert Wilders, because his presence will cause discord between faith communities. Our Union, for the last 39 years, have been striving to promote good relations with all faith communities. So, we do not want anyone to come to this country to create discord and friction in this multi-faith society. We are also very much concerned how some members of the House of Lords has screened this film in the House of Lords knowing fully well that it is a blasphemous film intended to incite religious hatred, which is legally forbidden in this country.”

“People have wrong conception about Holy Qur’an. It should clearly be understood that this is a literal Word of Allah the Almighty sent for the guidance of the whole mankind and unless the entire Holy Qur’an is completely read and understood it is impossible to take a few passages and make unwarranted comments,” said Dr. Pasha and added, “People of intelligence and fair-mindedness acknowledge the fact that the Holy Qur’an brought about an intellectual revolution. Europe which was in a state of darkness became civilized on account of the contribution Muslims made through the Universities of Saville, Granada and Toledo.”

Dr. Pasha also mentioned, “All the modern sciences owe a great deal of debt to the Holy Qur’an and the Muslims as a result of which Europe now is a civilized continent. One example which we can quote is that of Ibn Sina (well-known in the West as Avicenna) – his book on medicine was a textbook in the Universities of Europe for forty years. It is enough to say that the Holy Qur’an is the fountain head of all knowledge and humanity owes a debt of gratitude to Allah the Almighty for sending this unique revelation through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to conveyed to the humanity at large.”

Dr. Pasha said, “We want to make it clear that women were treated like chattel in the Western world until the Holy Qur’an was revealed which raised the status of women to that of legal equality with men. It is travesty of truth to say Islam treats women as inferior. The Muslim women enjoy the life of dignity and honour and upholders of high moral standard.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, also supported the Home Secretary’s decision. “His fascist views are not welcome in our country where we pride ourselves as a multi-faith society,” he said. “This is not about freedom of speech but about stopping the incitement to religious hatred this man promotes.”

After he was sent home Thursday a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said: “The United Kingdom has the right, just like the Netherlands, to refuse people entry for reasons of safety and security. “Of course we acknowledge that right, but we do not agree with the way it is being exercised in this case.”

Opinion of the Press
The Observer editorially observed on Sunday, the 15th of February, 2009, “Geert Wilders’s short film Fitna is a poisonous dose of brutal propaganda, designed to foment fear and hatred of Muslims.”

“But that is not its only purpose. Mr Wilders, a Dutch MP, is touting his shoddy little oeuvre around Europe to provoke outrage, stoke aggressive reaction and thereby promote the real product – himself,” wrote The Observer editorially.

The editorial continued, “How sad then that the Home Office should oblige that ambition by barring Mr Wilders from the UK. How sad also that members of the upper chamber of parliament should conspire to erect the stage on which Mr Wilders can play out his deluded fantasy of a political crusade: Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox by inviting him to show his film; Lord Ahmed by asking that he be banned.”

Writing in The Sunday Times, on 15 February, 2009, Minette Marrin wrote, “Those who insist that freedom of speech within the law must be absolute are also missing the point; there are times when public order trumps free speech, as the wildest of libertarians must agree. Careless talk can cost lives and grown-up governments have a duty of pragmatism. So if the home secretary rightly judged that Wilders is a man likely and possibly anxious to stir up serious trouble, then she was right to have him put on the next plane home at Heathrow last Thursday. But did she judge rightly? Or was she guilty of the poor judgment, moral funk and cultural appeasement that we have come to expect of new Labour?”

She also observed, “It is difficult to avoid thinking the man must be as aggressively silly as his preposterous cockscomb hairdo; he has urged the Dutch government to ban the Koran as “fascist” and he is facing prosecution there for incitement to hatred and discrimination. He seems to be entirely the wrong man to make a balanced, thoughtful case about anything.”

About the nature of the film ‘Fitna’, Marrin commented, “Fitna is extremely unbalanced and, in that sense, misleading.”

Commenting on Mr. Wilders’ statement on the Qur’an, Marrin wrote, “To call the Koran “fascist” as Wilders has done is stupid, empty and needlessly offensive.”

Comparing this issue with the Salman Rushdie affairs vis-à-vis freedom of speech, Catherine Bennett mentioned in The Observer, on 15th of February 2009, “A year later, Norman Tebbit agreed that the “villain” Rushdie had “betrayed” and “degraded” Islam. On the Labour side, a lot of us will never forget Lord Hattersley, then plain Roy and deputy leader of his party, explaining why the paperback of The Satanic Verses should not be published. “The proposition that Muslims are welcome in Britain if, and only if, they stop behaving like Muslims is a doctrine which is incompatible with the principles which govern and guide a free society,” he argued.”

“Whatever “behaving like Muslims” actually meant,” Bennett raised the question and quoted from the former member of the radical Islamic political group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Ed Husain, 34, who authored the book ‘Islamist’ and presently one of the directors of the controversial counter-extremism think-tank, The Quilliam Foundation. “Today, Muslim Ed Husain tells us: “Geert Wilders should be allowed in because this is a country that has pioneered freedom of speech, from Milton and Locke through to Mill,” wrote Bennett in The Observer on 15th of February, 2009.

The Foundation, set up ten months ago, which have been given almost £1 million of public money, says that it is working to tackle the extreme Islamist ideology coming out of mosques, universities and madrasas in countries such as Syria and Pakistan.