Amtiaz Ameen was Conservative candidate for Blackburn at the 2005 general election, is a former councillor in Dewsbury and writes a regular blog. From the perspective of a British Muslim, he argues here that – whilst disagreeing with his views – Geert Wilders should have been allowed into the country yesterday and agrees with his sentiment that it was a "very sad day" for British democracy.
In refusing entry clearance to the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, the Government has scored a soft own goal. It should have allowed Mr Wilders into the country and let him speak at the event organised by Lord Pearson and Baroness Cox at the House of Lords where his film Fitna was also to be aired.
Fitna supposedly is a criticism of Islam in which verses of the Quran are recited before extracts of speeches by alleged extremists inciting violence, which are followed by clips of terrorist atrocities committed around the world. The film, in short, is Mr Wilders’ interpretation of Islam, and anyone who watches it can judge for themselves how scholarly and accurate he has been in his analysis.
When I viewed the film, my initial reaction was that Mr Wilders had been as guilty in his selective use of verses from the Quran as the Islamists who, out of context, use the Quran to justify indiscriminate killings of innocent people. No doubt he and others would disagree, but we are all entitled to our opinion.
That debate has now become a sideshow, with the topic surrounding Mr Wilders becoming one relating to freedoms of expression and speech in which all Muslims are shown as intolerant by the calls of some, such as Lord Ahmed, to prevent Mr Wilders from entering the UK. I’ve no doubt that if Mr Wilders had attended the event, and overzealous claims of incitement not been made by Lord Ahmed, there would have been no story as Fitna has been readily available on the internet for several months.
The weakness of Lord Ahmed’s (and the Government’s) argument in
claiming that Mr Wilders is inciting religious hatred is surely that he
should also be calling for the prosecution of Lord Pearson and Baroness
Cox (and the owners of YouTube) for inciting religious
hatred by arranging and facilitating a viewing of Mr Wilders’ film –
but that seems to have been conveniently discarded.
The twisted irony of this sorry episode and the overreaction of some
is that an unsavoury right wing politician who himself is intolerant
and seeks to ban a religious book has suddenly become a cause worth
defending for those who seek to preserve freedoms of speech and
Mr Wilders has got his publicity (as, incidentally, has Lord Ahmed)
and succeeded in strengthening his argument that we Muslims are an
intolerant bunch, which for all of us makes life that little bit harder.
The Government could and should have avoided this by allowing Mr
Wilders into the country and Muslims protesting peacefully should have
been given permission to do so, with anyone threatening or committing
violence being arrested and dealt with swiftly.
The Government took the easiest option available to it and ended up
with the least desirable outcome and Muslims – including myself – have
been portrayed as intolerant and narrow-minded. Despite disagreeing
with almost everything Mr Wilders believes in, I am in agreement with
him that yesterday was a "very sad day" for UK democracy.