Below is an editorial from today’s Jyllands-Posten, as translated by our Danish correspondent TB:
In February of this year, when the Dutch politician Geert Wilders was denied access to Great Britain, the announcement asserted that his planned speech and presentation of an Islam-critical movie were a threat to public order and could provoke violence among groups in the British community.
Wilders had not threatened anyone, nor had he done anything which could be interpreted as a an incitement of violence. He had said something about Islam and Muslims in Europe which some people did not want to hear. A British imam threatened riots if Wilders were allowed to show his film in Great Britain. The British government’s reason for rejecting Wilders, in other words, was not rooted in something he had done or threatened to do, but was motivated solely by what other people might do to him.
It was pathetic to hear the British foreign minister David Miliband defend the decision, and the Orwellian behavior of the British government was underlined by Jacqui Smith’s request that — in the future — Islamic terror be described as ‘anti-Islamic activity’. It aroused some unpleasant memories of the rejection by communist regimes of critical foreigners whose critical manifestations could be interpreted as threats against public order and undermining society.
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Acknowledging that the Wilders case was not good for the government, Jacqui Smith has just published a list of sixteen so-called “extremists” who have been forbidden entrance to Great Britain. The announcement refers to the fact that the government wants to show the rest of the world what kind of behavior Great Britain refuses to tolerate. The list includes an American radio host who says stupid things (but then again, who doesn’t?), an obscure Christian preacher and his daughter who condemn abortion and homosexuality, a Jewish extremist from the West Bank, two neo-Nazis from Russia who are serving prison terms for violence against immigrants, a former member of Ku Klux Klan, and a group of Islamic preachers and militants including one who has served thirty years in prison for killing four Israeli soldiers and a four-year-old girl.
The list is problematic. First, it shows a lack of differentiation between words and actions. In a democracy there has to be a difference between criminal acts and utterances by which some people might feel offended. There is a difference between pleading for a return to the caliphate and encouraging Muslims to kill Jews. It is for dictatorships only to criminalize opinions, not democracies. Unfortunately, in recent years we can observe in Europe a slide towards a situation where there is no longer any differentiation between incitement to violence and so-called “hate-speech”, which has become a comfortable tool in the hands of the politically correct to close the mouths of people with whom they disagree. Secondly, the list is an indication of a dangerous tendency in which the British government sees it as their task to decide which opinions the country’s voters are capable of hearing and which opinions they cannot bear to listen to. It can never be the government’s task to behave as an arbiter of taste. The government’s job is to see that the law is being followed. Thirdly, the list is a bizarre example of political correctness disguised as a consideration for the security of Great Britain. One would think, when seeing the list, that the enforcement carried out by European secret services in recent years is caused by the danger of Jewish, Russian, and Christian terror and extremism in general. This is not the case, however; but the British government has not got the guts to call a spade a spade. That’s why they end up in absurdities like this list, which is a disgrace for an open society.