The two posters with messages are self-explanatory; I could not get good photos of some of the others that threatened this country with Sharia and Geert Wilders with Islamic punishment. The kind that was dealt out to Theo Van Gogh, one assumes.
The other pictures show the size of the crowd – it was never more than about 30 or 40, easily contained by the police, who behaved extremely well and professionally (credit where credit is due) and outnumbered by the media from all over the world. Some of our wonderful TV journalists were heard to express the view that there was no point in listening to Wilders’s lunacies after watching and listening to the demonstrators’ lunacies and what would be really fun is Wilders coming out and there being a punch-up (or, perhaps, a decapitation).
Then there were the rhythmically scanned slogans: “Freedom go to hell”, “UK watch your back”, “Muslims rise up”, “Sharia for Holland”, “Sharia for Britain”, “Sharia for Europe”, “Wilders go to hell” and so on and so, boringly, on.
I have to admit to an unworthy thought: could Geert Wilders have paid these guys to turn up with those idiotic posters to look just threatening enough to annoy and upset people but not so threatening as to scare anyone? So far as I know he did not but he might as well have done so.
There was a group of Dutch tourists who came along to watch and they explained to me that they were not supporters of Mr Wilders but this, one of them said with a comprehensive wave of the hand towards the bearded youths, was just too much. So extremist. They want to dominate us. They want to be in power. My guess is that whatever these people thought before Friday’s performance in Abbey Gardens, they would view Mr Wilders with a different eye from now on.
In some ways this was a victory for legality and free speech. But not entirely. After all, Mr Wilders, whose views are mostly quite sensible with one or two points with which I would certainly disagree, could not leave the office at Abbey Gardens and had to see journalists inside the building. The demonstrators had, in that sense, triumphed because the police became nervous and did not think those bozos would disperse if Mr Wilders appeared. They could not guarantee his safety and that is a sad state of affairs.
As we both pointed out on EURef (here and here), the Home Office is wondering whether to waste some more of the taxpayers’ money in trying to overturn the decision that allows Geert Wilders into the country. The story is not over: there are many aspects of it that will develop. Those of us who believe in freedom of speech need to pay attention all the time. I will not say remain vigilant because that phrase has unpleasant connotations.
Which brings me to a couple of other points, nothing to do with the bearded wonders who were threatening us all with decapitation if we did not acknowledge the goodness and peaceful intentions of Sharia law.
First and foremost, there is the mob that sells Socialist Worker in the streets of London, usually choosing non-working class areas. They were out in force yesterday afternoon by Shepherds Bush Green, corralling people who could not move fast enough to get away from them. Usually, this meant those unfortunate women in their hijab who could not speak English very well. (I always said it was stupid to cover yourself from head to toe – not the face in this case – in heavy material. I rest my case.)
The SWP, too, were putting up carefully printed posters and shouting slogans. What was their problem? Can you not guess? It was the forthcoming appearance of Nick Griffin, BNP leader and Member of the
This must be stopped, they kept proclaiming. Griffin is a Nazi. He must not be given a chance to speak. Sadly, none of them attempted to persuade me, possibly because I was wearing slacks and trainers. Otherwise I might have pointed out to them that Mr Griffin, for better for worse, has been elected to the Toy European Parliament whereas they have never been elected even to a Parish Council.
Those of us who dislike the BNP for all sorts of reasons, not least its socialist, big-state, protectionist policies, have a particular duty to proclaim that they, too, have the right to free speech. In any case, denying them the opportunity, refusing to debate with them, plays into their hands. Why, Nick Griffin is bound to ask, will Alan Johnson not debate with him? Can he not answer the points raised? Is he hiding anything? And let us be honest: if the main stream parties (I do not look upon the SWP with their Socialist Worker as anything but demented wannabe totalitarians) cannot put up people who can tear Nick Griffin apart, they should all resign.
All this has been said so often, I am not sure why I am repeating it. Except to remind readers of what Goethe said in Part II of Faust:
He only earns his freedom and his lifeThere was another curious and unpleasant development on Friday when I finally did sit down in front of my computer. I found a sequence of messages from two bloggers (I shall not name and shame them) about their demands that an article by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail about the recently deceased Stephen Gately (singer from Boyzone, since you ask) in which she denied that he was a saint on earth and made unflattering comments about him, his lifestyle and even cast aspersions on the happy ever after aspect of same sex civil unions.
Who takes them every day by storm.
One may agree or not agree with any of that. So far as I can make out there are many aspects of Mr Gately’s death that have not come out but I do not intend to spend much time on them. As for “happy ever after”, all too often this does not seem to be true about either same-sex unions or more traditional marriages. These are not the point at issue and neither is Ms Moir’s journalistic talent, which is somewhat doubtful in my opinion.
What seems to have taken place was a concerted attack on Ms Moir in letters, e-mails, blog postings, some full of foul abuse, some demanding that she should be silenced and her article taken off because of its homophobia. When I finally read the piece and Ms Moir’s semi-apologetic explanation, neither of which would have come my way otherwise, I was puzzled. None of it seemed homophobic; there were no demands to abolish civil unions or to make homosexuality illegal; the article simply expressed unhappiness about the Gately story. Up with this people were not prepared to put and, after a while, I found triumphant messages about the Daily Mail taking off links to her article.
Great, I thought. Here we are, trying to fight attempts to destroy freedom of speech made by Islamist extremists while some people within our culture are demanding exactly the same: the silencing of anyone they happen to disagree with. I suppose, they did not demand the beheading of Jan Moir.