Melanie Phillips

27 June 2013

The British government's jihad against free thought

Published in: Melanie's blog

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By banning from the country as extremists the American anti-jihadis Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, the Home Secretary Teresa May has not only made herself look ridiculous but has sent the enemies of the United Kingdom the message that they have it on the run.

I do not support the approach taken by either Geller or Spencer to the problem of Islamic extremism. Both have endorsed groups such as the EDL and others which at best do not deal with the thuggish elements in their ranks and at worst are truly racist or xenophobic.

The result has been a serious blow to the credibility of these two writers, with particular damage being done to Spencer whose scholarship in itself is scrupulous. It has also split the defence against Islamic extremism, and handed a potent propaganda weapon to those who seek falsely to portray as bigoted extremists all who are engaged in the defence of the west against the Islamic jihad.

Nevertheless, the decision to ban this duo from Britain is unjustified, oppressive and comes perilously close to lining up the British government alongside those who wish to silence defenders of the west against the jihad, making a total mockery of Britain’s understanding of just who presents a danger to the state.

Neither Geller nor Spencer remotely presents such a danger. They intended to come to Britain to join an EDL rally in Woolwich, in the wake of the barbaric murder there of Drummer Lee Rigby by two Islamists last month.

Personally, I believe the EDL is not a respectable platform to join. Whether or not its rally is itself a threat to public order is, however, another issue. As far as is known, it is not being banned. It is only Geller and Spencer who have been banned from the country on the grounds that their presence is ‘not conducive to the public good’. The implication is that they will incite violence or disorder. But all the two of them do is criticise Islam, condemn jihadis and warn against the west’s failure to take seriously their machinations.

One may think they go too far, that some of their views are unpleasant or offensive or wrong; but that is surely no reason to ban them from the country. What on earth have we come to, after all, when the British Home Secretary is banning people on the basis that they criticise Islam and warn against jihadi violence? Is this not exactly the menacing argument mounted by Islamic extremists, that any condemnation of Islamic extremism is to be banned as ‘Islamophobic’?

Moreover, from the text of the Home Secretary’s letter to Spencer, it would appear that the reason for the the ban is that the British government is now telling people that certain interpretations of Islam are to be proscribed, even if they may be true – a truly terrifying and totalitarian development, and an open assault upon freedom of thought and expression, not to mention religious scholarship.

And if the argument is that any criticism of Islam may incite violence against Muslims, then by the same token Mrs May should ban all criticism of Israel -- on the much firmer grounds that there is a clearly demonstrated correlation between hate campaigns against Israel and attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions. Of course, that would be unthinkable.  So why the double standard?

And that is what is particularly intolerable here -- that Mrs May is allowing people to run around Britain who really are stirring up hatred and worse, but who appear to be untouchable because they are Islamists. The Commentator has drawn attention to  the recent entry to Britain of Muhammad Al-Arifi, a Saudi scholar who has declared that Shia Muslims are ‘evil’ and also stated  that ‘ leader Sheikh Oussama Bin Laden, may his soul rest in peace, did not adopt many of the thoughts that are attributed to him today’.

The government also allowed into the country Shady Al-Suleiman, the Australian cleric who has called ‘for Allah to destroy the enemies of Islam’, who has endorsed Hamas which Britain recognises as a terrorist entity, and even endorsed the killing of British soldiers, saying, ‘Give victory to all the Mujahideen all over the world. Oh Allah, prepare us for the jihad’.

Aren’t these men, who foment sectarian division and endorse terrorism, not ‘conducive to the public good’?

So why did Mrs May ban Spencer and Geller? Was it because of the petition to do so by Hope not Hate -- which misrepresented and smeared them by claiming they called all Muslims savages (they did not)? Was it in response to one of the signatories to this petition, Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner (who Spencer and Geller say also misrepresented what they have said) who termed them

‘hate preachers – every bit as bad as those who use the name of Islam to propagate hatred’?

What an extraordinary thing to say. Geller and Spencer don’t go round calling for people to be killed, or preaching genocide or holy war, or spreading conspiracy theories and lies to foment hysteria and hatred. But when he was chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, Tony Lloyd led a delegation to Gaza to meet leaders of Hamas, where he was photographed fraternally shaking the hand of the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

So Lloyd is happy to meet with a group whose leader has called Israel a ‘cancerous tumour that must be removed’ and whose officials have said 

‘the Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the earth, because they have displayed hostility to Allah…Allah will kill the Jews in the hell of the world to come, just like they killed the believers in the hell of this world’


‘...the Jewish faith does not wish for peace nor stability, since it is a faith that is based on murder: “I kill, therefore I am”... Israel is based only on blood and murder in order to exist, and it will disappear, with Allah's will, through blood and shahids [martyrs]’

– and yet he called for Spencer and Geller to be banned as ‘hate preachers’, a demand which the Home Secretary agrees was justified even as she allows real hate preachers to spread their poison around Britain.

Has Britain now totally lost the plot?

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

Read full biography


  • The World Turned Upside Down
  • Londonistan
  • The Ascent of Woman
  • America's Social Revolution

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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie