Saturday, 14 February 2009

Geert Out! And don't come back!

I might be inviting controversy here, but I have a wee question. What is the difference between the following two statements?

"The Koran is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror.... it is a facist book and should be banned like Mein Kampf."
"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
The first, as you have no doubt recognised, is from a film released by Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who this week was barred from entering Britain for spreading "hate".

The second, perhaps more suprisingly, is a quote from Pope Benedict XVI, addressing a university where he used to teach theology in 2006. Equally unsuprisingly, these words provoked anger in the Muslim world.

Both statements - at their base level - say the say thing: That Islam is a religion which is incompatible with peace, with Western beliefs and ideology and spreads evil. That is not a sentiment I share.

But I do have a question for the Home Office.

If Wilders is to be banned from Britain (and that is something I have huge issues with) surely, in the interests of fairness and balance, the Pope should be too?

Like I say, inviting controversy I know. But there's something in the Pope's "I was quoting a 14th Century text, of course I didn't mean it" defence that doesn't wash with me.

5 comments:

Sam 14 February 2009 at 14:27  

Controversial? never!

Well possibly. I think I am coming at this from the same place as you, so I do agree, though as I'm sure you know its simply never going to work like that.

The question for me though, on the Geert Wilders debacle, is why if a foreigner can be banned from entering the UK, cannot a person already in the UK be kicked out on the same grounds? First on my list would be the the vile Melanie Phillips. Again I know that this is never going to happen, and my belief in free speech is such that I don't actually want it to. But how can a law be justified if it does not apply equally in both directions, as it were?

PJ 14 February 2009 at 18:45  

I agree, it's horribly inconsistent. But it does rather worryingly call to mind the consequences of the publication of Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses'. He was not killed by the fatwa that was issued against him but truly dreadful repercussions were dealt upon the translators from Japan, Italy, Norway and Turkey.

As a British citizen Rushdie was protected by the police. Those connected with his book in other countries were not so fortunate. Where does responsibility for these atrocities lie? I do believe in freedom of speech yet I abhor the ease with which individuals such as Rushdie and Geest can simultaneoulsy incite such hatred and fear through their abuse (in my opinion) of this right.

Malc 15 February 2009 at 14:05  

Sam,

I'm pretty sure I agree with you. Though I don't think I agree that the guy shouldn't be allowed into the UK simply for expressing his (albeit somewhat controversial) opinion.

I guess its all about Mill's "Harm Principle" - do you believe that all the guy caused was offence (as I do) or do you think it was incitement - in which case, it would fall foul of this principle?

But yes, the Home Office would never ban the Pope from entering the country eh? I mean, that would alienate just too many people...

Malc 15 February 2009 at 14:11  

PJ,

I haven't read The Satanic Verses so I can't specifically comment on whether it is offensive - or if it incites hatred. If it is simply the first, I think that is why there appears to be such a distinction between Rushdie & Wilders (though I don't believe that to be the case).

But that I guess is part of my point. If Muslims have deemed that Rushdie has offended them (and a fatwa would certainly indicate so) then I would suggest that Rushdie's "crime" might be more substantial than Wilders' (I haven't heard a fatwa raised against him).

Guess what I'm saying (and its similar to what Sam says) is that if Muslims have issued a fatwa against Rushdie yet not Wilders, shouldn't it be Rushdie's "offence" that carries the higher punishment (ie - expulsion from the UK)?

PJ 16 February 2009 at 10:15  

The fatwa against Rushdie was issued by the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini, whether you can say that he did this as a representative of all Muslims or not I think is a matter of opinion.

Similarly though, Al'Qaeda has issued a call for the murder of Wilders because of the release of Fitna.

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