Tag Archives: EDL

When Tommy Met Mo

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Mo Ansar dropped everything on hearing that Tommy Robinson was taking part in a press conference at The Quilliam Foundation, rushing from his home in Hampshire to London. Having taken part in the television documentary “Quitting the English Defence League: When Tommy met Mo” (aired last night) Ansar had seen how impressed Tommy had been with Usama Hasan and Maajid Nawaz. Discussing openly with them issues with 7th century thought and the need to discuss and review application of sharia in an Islamic state. Tommy saw there were Muslims prepared to challenge “No Answer” as he called him, and that maybe it would make sense to work together with Muslims to tackle extremism. Abandoning the English Defence League to be more able to do so.

Nawaz had previously invited Ansar to condemn sharia sanctioning chopping the hands off a thief – Ansar obfuscated and, oddly for someone introduced as a theologian by the media, said he would want to see what other scholars said (note on The Daily Politics today he does call such punishment “abhorrent” – if only the follow up question was should it still happen in an Islamic state?). Unlike Nawaz in the documentary, he could not say no to sharia being implemented without considering whether it was Islamic and therefore legitimate to do so. It appeared like religion being put before being humane by Ansar.

Mo Ansar will revise history, deflect criticism and even refuse to answer criticism of Islam as islamophobic – even though when it comes to women, homosexuality and punishment we would say the same about the bible. Historians and scholars are open about the bible and being the subject of its time in a way that Mo Ansar will not when it comes to the Koran and hadiths. As Tom Holland mentions by Islam going through the same historicising process with societal pressures maybe hadiths on apostates and homosexuality can be phased out as the last word.

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This process is more plausible than Mo Ansar stating in a room full of EDL supporters that “Islam is not homophobic.” Mehdi Hasan acknowledges homophobia as an issue. For 15 years Mo Ansar said he has advocated for gay rights. Great thing to say. On his blog I cannot find a single post where he has done so and hope readers can help me out where he has written in defence of gay rights within Islam and that an Islamic state should not punish homosexuality. As a “theologian” one might hope he has written a scholarly article or two as a gay rights activist.

On The Daily Politics Ansar was a little more accurately introduced as a “Muslim commentator”, and what becomes apparent in the documentary is the more Tommy meets Muslims who disagree with Mo, the greater the distance between them grows. Whether it is Yaqoob (formerly Respect) stating head covering is a choice for women and not something for children – Mo wants parents to choose for their children – or Usama Hasan saying openly Koranic verses are problematic for 21st century rather than misunderstood and timeless as Mo would claim.

Ansar claimed to agree with the “European” human rights model on The Daily Politics. Yet parents do not get to enforce religious observations on children, whether fasting or veil covering and gender segregation is not “groovy” and only opposed by “swivel eyed loons” as he has claimed on twitter – if we endorse a universal human rights model. Muslims are as Mo says not a monolithic bloc – clearly they disagree with him – what actually comes out of the documentary is Mo is not so much the moderate Muslim, one that as Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra might say has to be a good human being first before a Muslim. Mo came over as an apologist and revisionist first and foremost, one concerned that women prevent men concentrating on prayer when together, but women looking at men from behind women would not be put off. For a civil rights activist Mo, you really do not seem to understand what women want.

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For Tommy talking to Muslims, and groups like Quilliam is the way forward. However the memory of his rhetoric lingers on, and Tommy seems to be moving from no mosques being built unless integration happens, to regulation of mosques for more to be built when on Newsnight. He states in the documentary: “have to keep this as a Christian country … When does tolerance become take over?” which rather undermines the secularist claims of EDL – though the emblem of the cross and motto “in this sign you will conquer” should have been enough to dissuade as a secularist organisation.

I would advise that Tommy meets up with secularists and political theorists too, to examine the concept of religious freedom and freedom from religion in a pluralistic, secular and open society. The concern is that Quilliam (and if he wants to be included if it goes wrong Mo Ansar) have given Robinson a veneer of respectability to rise beyond the football hooliganism tradition that EDL grew out of. That we can forgive his own criminal history as a bad boy who has since learnt the error of his ways, and that there is a better way. I watch to see if this is a new media career with the same rhetoric or a thoughtful activist focused on extremism not Muslims.

What has come out of all this is the importance of dialogue and listening to each other. I noticed however one listener to Tommy became angry when he suggested the Koran be reformed the same way the Bible was – though she had spent over an hour and a half mostly agreeing with his points till he concluded with that.

No one is saying this dialogue is going to be easy. People will have agendas, ideologies to defend, gravy trains, salaries and funding to keep drawing on that may make conversation and accord difficult. We might not even want an accord when it comes to veils on children, or female genital mutilation. There are limits to what can be done to another in the name of tradition and subjective opinion claimed as religious.

The death threats that Maajid Nawaz, Usama Hasan, Tom Holland, Tommy Robinson and Mo Ansar have had should indicate this is not a straight forward debate within a democracy. Hopefully moderate Muslims will not be intimidated, will speak up, and hopefully will be given a platform to speak on. Otherwise we will have more people thinking it is just a cultural difference to be respected rather than a human rights issue that cannot be reduced by a faith claim.

Mo Ansar finally arrives at the press conference, however he is not admitted. On twitter he claims to be responsible for Tommy leaving the EDL. Tommy reminds us that while incarcerated white pride types came back into EDL, and trying to prevent that and being associated with that prevented what he wanted to concentrate on – Islamic extremism. What surprises Tommy are Muslims that are working on that too and prepared to examine and historicise the Koran and Hadith. He decides leading EDL is more a hinderance than a help, and Quilliam make that easier for him, where he makes the announcement.

Mo sadly does not seem to understand that he has yet to go on his own journey of discovery. Surely another documentary needs to be made. Maybe When Tom Holland Met Mo

Update: till BBC pull down from youtube here is the documentary (hat tip Sam Harris)

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Tommy Robinson – Actions and Words Required

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“I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas. ~ Tommy Robinson

On hearing the news that Tommy Robinson has left the English Defence League he formed in 2009 I was hopeful, but cynical. Hopeful because he seemed to recognise the problem with street marches I had criticised the EDL for but cynical that he has changed his mind on key issues he stood for. As I said in an article he read and tweeted:

Our criticisms require us to be well heeled in knowledge of Islam and extremism without wearing jackboots ourselves. If the shoe fits I hope you find it uncomfortable and take off quickly before marching against the ideals you claim to be protecting.

As Ghaffar Hussain says, ‘The far-Right has been evolving in their tactics and strategy and seeking to adapt to their environment in order to survive. One of the outcomes of this adaption has been the attempt to hijack the anti-extremist agenda in order to drive through a hidden racist and xenophobic agenda.’

I will continue to criticise religion – but I will not welcome as fellow critics those on the far right that promote solutions that would erode secularism in this country, not encourage secularised Islam to flourish, and would deny freedoms that are the rights of all citizens in this country regardless of creed or skin colour.

At the press conference Tuesday 8 October we heard from the same Tommy Robinson who was at a demonstration a few weeks ago in Sheffield complaining about another mosque being built stating “at what point does diversity become takeover?” He claimed at the press conference that his target all along was Islamism. This revisionism just does not wash – his actions and words are too well documented unless you want to believe otherwise. The EDL under his leadership were against Muslims and he gave voice to this whether on immigration or as part of the community.

This Saturday there is to be an EDL march in Bradford. How well this is supported and by whom may give us an early indication on the organisational abilities of the group. What seems clear is that Tommy with like minded ex EDL members and co founder Kevin Carroll wish to create a new group.

This appears to be a lobby group – and Tommy has had meetings not just with the Quilliam Foundation in order to understand Islam better. However, those instincts and prejudices we have seen will die hard. The suspicion is not at all – the most we can hope for is less public agitation on the streets may make public order and community tensions easier.

That though is not in the hands of Tommy and Kevin anymore. Tommy revealed there was an attempt to usurp him whilst he was incarcerated. So this may be more a career move than a change of heart considering the inner conflicts that were looking to remove both him and Kevin. Forces he freely admits he could no longer control.

If we genuinely believe Tommy the EDL could become even worse – the question is will it disband into it’s component parts or become more potent on the streets. It would benefit all to think we can now concentrate more on radicalisation to extreme Islamism, combating militant Islamism and Islamist ideology.

We have given his character, behaviour and past actions not just the right to be sceptical but the need to be so till Tommy proves himself. Quilliam have given Tommy that opportunity. Let us see if he can seize it. He needs more than a name change this time to try and escape his past.

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Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll Leave EDL

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I never thought that my critique of EDL in my article Tommy mentions Islamism and the Scapegoating of Muslims might one day be accepted by him.

It seems the support I have given Quilliam has been deservedly placed.

QUILLIAM FACILITATES TOMMY ROBINSON LEAVING THE ENGLISH DEFENCE LEAGUE

POSTED IN: 2013, PRESS RELEASES | OCTOBER 8, 2013 AT 08:47NO COMMENTS
Quilliam is proud to announce that Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, the leaders of the anti-Islamist group, the English Defence League (EDL), have decided to leave the group. Having set up the EDL, infamous for its street protests, in 2009, they wish to exit this group, because they feel they can no longer keep extremist elements at bay.
Tommy Robinson said:

“I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”

Quilliam has been working with Tommy to achieve this transition, which represents a huge success for community relations in the United Kingdom. We have previously identified the symbiotic relationship between far-right extremism and Islamism and think that this event can dismantle the underpinnings of one phenomenon while removing the need for the other phenomenon.

We hope to help Tommy invest his energy and commitment in countering extremism of all kinds, supporting the efforts to bring along his former followers and encouraging his critique of Islamism as well as his concern with far-right extremism. We call all of Tommy’s former colleagues in the EDL to follow in his footsteps and also call on Islamist extremist leaders to follow this example and leave their respective groups. Tommy and Kevin believe the voice they have created can be channelled in a positive direction. Quilliam stands ready to facilitate such moves across the spectrum.

Quilliam Chairman and Co-Founder Maajid Nawaz said:

“As well as being a very positive change for the United Kingdom, this is a very proud moment for Quilliam. This represents not a change but a continuation for us, as challenging extremism of all kinds forms the basis of our work. We have been able to show that Britain stands together against extremism regardless of political views and hope to continue supporting Tommy and Kevin in their journey to counter Islamism and neo-Nazi extremism.”

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Islamism and the Scapegoating of Muslims

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Once in ancient times when woes happened on a people, rituals were performed. A high priest would enter a temple having taken on, and hopefully been cleansed for, the sins of the nation. After this a rope was tied round him before he went to meet the divine presence in the Holy of Holies in case God did smite him, and they could drag him out. If sins forgiven, he would come out alive without being tugged.

The more common one we think of is such sins being transferred into a goat that would be driven out of the community into the wilderness – the legendary scapegoat of Leviticus 16.

In modern times those to be scapegoated are five percent of the population:

There’s a problem within Islam, this is true, but unless people stop screaming racist, bigot, fascist, hate monger and resort to insults and threats at those who criticise/hold an opinion then we will never ever see peace in our lifetime, muslim population is less than 5% of the UK population yet it’s in our media and lives daily, what happens when it gets bigger? You may not care enough today, but what about tomorrow, if we don’t do something about our concerns today then next generations will say “what the hell did our parents/grandparents do”…

At least mine will say “she tried”

Invited by a blogger to shed a tear reading that last line, I wonder what frenzy of fear must grip someone to think there will be no peace in the land of hope and glory while Muslims reside amongst us, only adding to our problems if they breed? A shiver up my spin was my reaction instead. A group of easily identified people were the problem while the solution was left hanging.

Martin Amis, in remarks he now regrets making, summed up the scapegoating principe:

There’s a definite urge—don’t you have it?—to say, “The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community and they start getting tough with their children. . . . They hate us for letting our children have sex and take drugs—well, they’ve got to stop their children killing people.

The blogger that took “there’s a problem … ” quote above from the post of an English Defence League (EDL) supporter made this remark which they shared with me in a new post:

The painful truth is that we are in deep, deep waters precisely because many Muslims are correctly interpreting an ideology which is demonstrably intolerant, disturbing and violent. People don’t understand just how poisonous this ideology is and they don’t understand the cancer of self-censorship and fear gnawing away rabidly at free speech, because they haven’t got even the slightest clue how important free speech is to our way of life. [Source]

Political Islamism is an ideology within Islam – calling it the correct interpretation is as ludicrous as denying it has anything to do with Islam. Looking at other faiths people have similarly found inspiration to legitimise intolerance and violence whether in Rwanda or the Balkans. Religion far from helping to bring people together sets them apart.

Religion is a problem and political Islam the biggest challenge we all face including Muslims who suffer the most from it.

Will intransigence by the educated middle class result in us “living under full fat sharia” as the blogger states:

Only at that point might they beg their unwashed underclass to fight this apocalyptic war for them. The only thing stopping them from asking now is that they’re too fucking stupid to realise we’re already at war. [writers own emphasis]

Sharia would be an anathema to the human rights model that we esteem in this country, and secularism means freedom of religion and lack of coercion in matters of religion. Multiculturalism should not mean human right abuses like female genital mutilation being tolerated. Yet when I have seen Muslims on twitter with secularised renderings of Koran and Hadith I have seen non muslims tell them they are not sticking to the “correct” fundamentals of their faith. What version of Islam do we want for goodness sake! Is the war to be fought against our own people or is there a better way than using such rhetoric on a whole people who are not terrorists, just Muslims.

Secularism and humanist principles do not allow sacred books or traditional interpretations to have the last word. Muslims can totally get that – they need to be emboldened not told they lack the correct interpretation. They have a hard enough time from orthodox believers, believe me. Women should not be imprisoned in their homes, and segregation in public spaces zero tolerance for in the UK.

The enemy is not muslims but those that support a theocratic Islamic state denying pluralism, free speech, fundamental human rights and secularism – the Islamists. The left need to realise this distinction in British politics and that we must challenge theocracy at every turn.

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The EDL in their mission statement “Promoting The Traditions And Culture Of England” are vague on the details in this supposed war in the UK. Some supporters tell me reaffirming the Church of England and Christianity is the way forward – a religion set up by a “Paedophilie” King (Bessie Blount mistress to King Henry VIII at around 14). The irony of using modern social norms when criticising a 7th century “paedophile” prophet is lost while they promote the C of E. And who supported sharia in England – none other than the former Archbishop of Canterbury. Yes I am mocking the crass remarks in tweets about Mohammed – far better ways to make the argument follow.

Those that are apologists for Islam – trying to make slavery under it benign for example – need to be challenged on the historical veracity of their revisionism. Some verses deserve outright condemnation rather than revision. As always making something God’s Word makes this too sensitive for some; and illegal in some countries to question. Pointing out that sex with minors and captured slaves makes values of early Islam not timeless but subject to the moral zeitgeist may not always be appreciated. They are valid.

Our criticisms require us to be well heeled in knowledge of Islam and extremism without wearing jackboots ourselves. If the shoe fits I hope you find it uncomfortable and take off quickly before marching against the ideals you claim to be protecting.

As Ghaffar Hussain says, ‘The far-Right has been evolving in their tactics and strategy and seeking to adapt to their environment in order to survive. One of the outcomes of this adaption has been the attempt to hijack the anti-extremist agenda in order to drive through a hidden racist and xenophobic agenda.’

I will continue to criticise religion – but I will not welcome as fellow critics those on the far right that promote solutions that would erode secularism in this country, not encourage secularised Islam to flourish, and would deny freedoms that are the rights of all citizens in this country regardless of creed or skin colour.

Nor will I for the sake of embracing different cultures accept the degrading of human rights as if that was what multiculturalism called for. The left misunderstood this and continue to with the Muslim Brotherhood.

If you oppose sharia support “One Law For All”. Ending extremism within Islam and young people Quilliam Foundation. The human rights of blasphemers and apostates The Council of Ex Muslims of Britain.

Religion poisons everything – people of indefatigable good will to all are the antidote. They are to be found as atheists and theists.

There is no scapegoat to drive off this island, and no high priest to absolve us of our sins. We have to work hard together to defeat the extremists that would rule us by fear or coercion.

For a master class in dealing with Islamism read Christopher Hitchens Facing the Islamist Menace.

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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”

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