The decision by British Gymnastics to suspend Louis Smith for two months for he and a mate pretending to pray to Mecca (at a private party) is appalling. His actions were neither clever or funny. But religious freedom (including mockery) and a belief in a private sphere are two of the cornerstones of not just British but Western and enlightenment culture.
Had Smith assaulted or deliberately abused Muslims going peacefully about their daily business I would be the first to call for action against him. But we have a longstanding division between ideas and people in this country: the latter are protected, while the former are rightly fair game.
Nearly three decades ago the death threats against Salman Rushdie drew revulsion from across the political spectrum. Yet now the state is indirectly attacking an individual, who has received death threats, rather than take action against those threatening him: for British Gymnastics is a quango that could not operate without state funding – receiving £11 million from 2014-17.
What is even more disgraceful than this quango’s enforcement of a new blasphemy code is the silence from our politicians – for all the Je Suis Charlie tears, not one seems prepared to speak out. If the only times we are prepared to argue for our freedoms is once murder is committed, we will lose them.
If freedom of speech, secularism and religious freedom mean anything, Karen Bradley must override UK Gymnastics by threatening to withhold funding. And if the Culture Secretary is not prepared to act then No10 should intervene.
Individual Muslims must be free to practice their religion and other people must be free to mock Islam as a concept – as with any other religion. If action is taken, it should be against those who have leaked this video – who through their actions have exposed Smith to death threats, or else those who are making such threats.
In many countries you cannot mock Islam: not one is a country which we should emulate. The inane and utter stupidity of those like Jane Allen, the head of British gymnastics, or June Sarpong, who called the mixed race Smith a ‘racist’ must be taken on. Had Smith imitated the Catholic priest Father Ted, professed a love of the Book of Mormon comedy, or recited parts of the Life of Brian, would he be facing a professional ban for insulting Christianity? No. These idiots, who seem to believe if a religion or cultural aspect is supported by a majority of people with brown skin it must apparently be above criticism, are those who have created horrors as Rotherham and a blind eye to FGM. One rule must govern all.
It is decisions like this by left wing bureaucrats that fuel extremist politicians like LePen and Trump. If such organisations as the Muslim Council of Britain want to live in a country where no one can criticism Islam then frankly their leadership should leave.
This is a real judgement call for May. If she fails to act then, rightly, her talk of taking on of the establishment should be seen as an electoral sham born out of low calculation. She will be seen only to challenge our politically correct establishment when she wants a line in a speech – and we will have reintroduced penalties for blasphemy (but against one religion only it seems) in this country.