Let Robert Spencer et al in and challenge them

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Robert Spencer and Pam Geller have been cordially invited to visit Woolwich by Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League, on Armed Forces Day (Veterans Day). The publicity given to the proposed visit, by those calling for a ban will increase their book sales and notoriety. It also adds to my fear that criticising religion will become ever more problematic, and the left holding a harder line for anti-religion but not also on hate by religion. Free speech means there are no grounds to bar them however dislikable you find them.

Regular readers know how I feel about Tommy Robinson and my criticism that Robert Spencer has not broken links with EDL.

Hope Not Hate have sadly not lived up to their name by calling on the Home Secretary to ban them from coming into the UK. Their anti-Islam rhetoric is considered so incendiary to the sensitivities of Muslims and providing intellectual cover to fascist thugs that the principle of free speech has to take a back seat for fear of violence that will follow. Fear of the mob is not a good reason to deny free speech to anyone – indeed if European citizens they could not be denied entry.

However when it comes to foreign hate preacher Mohammad Al-Arefe, who the Muslim community have voiced concern about actually inciting Muslims to violence against each other because he has called for that, Hope Not Hate call for monitoring.

A reminder of Al-Arefe (also spelt Al-Arifi) saying:

“The Desire to Shed Blood, Smash Skulls, and Sever Limbs for the Sake of Allah Is an Honor for the Believer” in a video.

And also that a father should not be left alone with a daughter in case she tempts him into lust.

At the very least The American Muslim calls for consistency here that if Pam and Robert cannot be here call for the Home Secretary to ban Al-Arefe; just as Switzerland has.

Let us make one thing very clear – it is against the law to incite others to violence. This is not a matter of free speech, or even hate speech. This is about safeguarding civil society so citizens may be active in a pluralistic democratic society without fear of being assaulted or murdered. Al-Arefe trying to raise money for Syrian Al-Qaeda fighters and his many pronouncements allowing for domestic violence against women, death to apostates and other muslims qualifies on this to be banned.

Hopefully you are as wary as I am when others try to act on your behalf to silence others so you do not hear them to be offended. We are told that community relations will be damaged if Pam and Robert are allowed to speak or even be within our shores, that we are so easily manipulated a walk to a memorial will shatter a fragile peace. That muslims will riot, that anti-Muslims will riot, that we will feel bad.

Not sure if you have noticed but we already have that situation. Bombings of civilians, the murder of Lee Rigby, foiled terrorist plots, mosques and islamic faith schools subject to arson, Muslim congregation being attacked by another Muslim in a mosque with a machete.

Keith Vaz MP may say Geller and Spencer’s presence will add fuel to this fire. What is actually being said is by denying our right to listen, curtailing freedom of expression and free speech, gives extra security – so things will be better. Censorship and denial of liberty – ever be watchful for how that is sold to you that it makes things better. If you believe in tolerance, pluralism and freedom the fake choice offered of less liberty more security should alarm you.

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If they are spreading lies about Islam and Muslims that is also not a reason to bar entry. For one thing, these lies will still exist. The important thing is to face them down. Truth is a great disinfectant and one that works best not in the shadows but in the light of a well aimed spotlight. Spencer is no Dawkins – he has read the Koran, and made a best selling literally career writing about it. Islamic theologians, this is the person to challenge – otherwise he wins by default. Bring your A Game and win. If you can.

It is also mentioned they are not well mannered people, who use hurtful language such as calling Jewish people nazis. Well that again is not illegal, and I have never condoned that behaviour. Geller has aired ludicrous remarks about Obama’s paternity, citizenship and being a closet Muslim. Again though, it is not a reason to ban entry. Rather, a chance to remind everyone of these things.

There is a key here for those looking to ban on the distinction between anti-Muslim and anti-Islam. As an anti-theist I am against the argument that there is such a thing as a holy text that has an authority that transcends anything else ever written. I deny anything can be the Word of God, and find that the proposition there is sacred text has added to the misery of the human experience.

In the post on religious freedom this view in no way prohibits freedoms of others:

No one should suffer on account of their religious opinions or beliefs, all shall be free to profess, and maintain their opinion in matters of religion.

The main quote of Robert Spencer’s used by Hope Not Hate is that he does not make distinctions:

“I have written on numerous occasions that there is no distinction in the American Muslim community between peaceful Muslims and jihadists. While Americans prefer to imagine that the vast majority of American Muslims are civic-minded patriots who accept wholeheartedly the parameters of American pluralism, this proposition has actually never been proven.”

A quick look at Robert Spencer’s website, and the FAQ that is underneath his biography:

Q: Do you hate Muslims?
RS: Of course not. Islam is not a monolith, and never have I said or written anything that characterizes all Muslims as terrorist or given to violence. To call attention to the roots and goals of jihad violence within Islamic texts and teachings, and to show how jihadists use those texts and teachings, says nothing at all about what any given Muslim believes or how he acts. Any Muslim who renounces violent jihad and dhimmitude is welcome to join in our anti-jihadist efforts. Any hate in my books comes from Muslim sources quoted, not from me. Cries of “hatred” and “bigotry” are effectively used by American Muslim advocacy groups to try to stifle the debate about the terrorist threat. But there is no substance to them.

It is not an act of hatred against Muslims to point out the depredations of jihad ideology. It is a peculiar species of displacement and projection to accuse someone who exposes the hatred of one group of hatred himself: I believe in the equality of rights and dignity of all people, and that is why I oppose the global jihad. Those who make the charge use it as a tool to frighten the credulous and politically correct away from the truth.

The argument is not proven to justify Robert Spencer and Pam Geller not being allowed entry into the United Kingdom. Rather we need a much harder line to Islamist hate preachers who call for violence to be inflicted on others.

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Let me end with what Christopher Hitchens had to say on the subject of freedom of speech and Islam.

My own opinion is a very simple one. The right of others to free expression is part of my own. If someone’s voice is silenced, then I am deprived of the right to hear. Moreover, I have never met nor heard of anybody I would trust with the job of deciding in advance what it might be permissible for me or anyone else to say or read. That freedom of expression consists of being able to tell people what they may not wish to hear, and that it must extend, above all, to those who think differently is, to me, self-evident. …

Ever since the religious dictator of Iran sponsored a murder campaign against a British-Indian novelist named Salman Rushdie, this time for authoring a work of fiction, there has been a perceptible constraint on the way people discuss the Islamic faith in public. For instance, when a newspaper in Denmark published some caricatures of the prophet Mohammed a few years ago, there was such an atmosphere of violence and intimidation that not a single mainstream media outlet in the United States felt able to reproduce the images so that people could form their own view. Some of this was simple fear. But some of it took a “softer” form of censorship. It was argued that tender sensibilities were involved — things like good community relations were at stake, and a diverse society requires that certain people not be offended.

Democracy and pluralism do indeed demand a certain commitment to good manners, but Islam is a religion that makes very large claims for itself and can hardly demand that such claims be immune from criticism. Besides, it’s much too easy to see how open-ended such a self-censorship would have to be. If I, for example, were to declare myself terribly wounded and upset by any dilution of the First Amendment (as indeed I am), I hope nobody would concede that this conferred any special privileges on me, especially if my claim of privilege were to be implicitly backed by a credible threat of violence.

Quotes from: Christopher Hitchens on Freedom of Speech

Disagree with them, and challenge them. Stand up for civil society, free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

Let them in or be against these things.

UPDATE: Home Secretary bans them

UPDATE: link to where Robert Spencer makes light of the worst genocide on European soil since WW2 – Srebrenica

Thanks to Lejla Kurić for this link

My twitter conversation with the unpleasant Robert Spencer

Related past post: attempts to make “Innocence of Muslims” director a free speech “martyr”

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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6 Comments

Filed under Hitchens, Religion, secular

6 responses to “Let Robert Spencer et al in and challenge them

  1. When the unctious Keith Vaz speaks up for something, you know it’s a bad idea. The man is so self righteously anti-democratic, venal, dishonest, and wrong headed, that I wouldn’t take his advice on how to make a cup of tea. He exemplifies much that is wrong modern British politics. That he still holds any position of power or influence beggars belief.

  2. A good piece, but in quoting the Spencer Q and A you may be offering a rather misleading sample of his views/words. Spencer may pay lip service to not treating Islam as a monolith but in practice even the most reform minded people are likely to be dismissed by him as ‘Islamic supremacists’.

  3. Thank you – I had read this too quickly! I think that ‘inclusive’ model of protest/activism is very dodgy. (Robert Spencer’s model is one followed by Stop the War Coalition, I note.) One might not be able to prevent unwelcome types from joining your cause, but there is no need to actively encourage them.

  4. Pingback: Robert Spencer Responds on Srebrenica | Homo economicus' Weblog

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