Written by Stephen Brown
It was a watershed moment of capitulation.
On Thursday, February 12, visiting Dutch politician Geert Wilders was humiliatingly bundled back on to a plane to his native Holland shortly after arriving in London. Wilders had been invited to show his controversial, 17-minute documentary film, Fitna, in Britain's House of Lords but was warned in a letter from the British Home Office last Tuesday he would be denied entry to the country.
A Muslim lord, Nazir Ahmed, and other Muslim leaders had vigorously protested Wilders' visit, causing an initial invitation to be rescinded. It was reported that Ahmed had even threatened to mobilize 10,000 fellow Muslims to block Wilders from entering Westminster, a report Ahmed now denies. A cooler-headed peer, Lord Pearson, appalled at this attack on free speech, reissued the invitation to Wilders.
Daring the British government to put him in handcuffs, Wilders defiantly flew to Heathrow airport with the new invitation in his pocket. During the flight, Wilders expressed his opinion of Britain's Labour government and its attempt to block his entry, telling the TimesOnline that it was now "more Chamberlain than Churchill."
"I am a democrat, I am serving free speech," said Wilders. "They are not only being nasty to me, they are being nasty to freedom of speech."
But even Chamberlain would have been dismayed to see an elected democrat like Wilders, the leader of Holland's liberal Freedom Party and the first European Union politician ever denied access to Great Britain, escorted by two plain-clothed guards across the tarmac to the border agency office. According to the Times story, the British security men were holding Wilders so tightly, one of Wilders' personal bodyguards asked them to relax their grips. Wilders was subsequently put into a detention center for two hours before being unceremoniously deported back to Holland.
Many people in Britain, among them those who disagree with Fitna, are outraged that a democratically elected member of European parliament was refused admittance to their country after having been invited by the House of Lords. If free speech does not exist there, in Britain's highest democratic institution, some have asked, then where does it exist in Great Britain?
Those opposing the Labour government's decision to ban Wilders also believe it is not the Dutch politician who represents a threat to "community harmony" and "public safety" in Great Britain. Wilders, after all, is a peaceful man who never has broken any laws but instead must have 24-hour protection himself due to death threats from Muslim radicals. Rather, the danger to "public safety" exists in the crowd(s) that would take to the streets in response to Wilders' presence. As a result, the Dutch politician's supporters regard his banning as rewarding the thugs and aggressors like Lord Ahmed and others of his ilk and punishing those who would stand up for free speech and democracy.
What disturbs Wilders supporters even more is the hypocrisy surrounding the Dutch filmmaker's expulsion. In the past, Great Britain has allowed in true preachers of hate like Muslim Brotherhood personage Yusuf al-Qaradawi, invited by London mayor Ken Livingstone in 2004. Al-Qaradawi has justified suicide bombings and condoned the killing of Israeli women and children because they are "militarised." A more recent example is Ibrahim Moussawi, who was allowed to enter England last November despite his describing suicide bombers as martyrs and his having broadcast a 30-part series on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion on the television station he heads.
British columnist Melanie Phillips also points out the British government also allows huge, pro-Hamas demonstrations and does not prevent Hizb ut Tahrir from recruiting on British campuses for the jihad against the West.
Many in Britain are disheartened and angry at their government's unwillingness to stand up to the Muslim extremists who threaten mass, anti-democratic intimidation. Rather than stare down that threat, the Labour government has tried to appease it, causing one British observer to comment he now knows what it was like in the mid-1930s when Nazism was on the rise.
One reason for such disgraceful appeasement is that London is regarded as the headquarters for Europe's jihadists. The Labour Party's Home Secretary, whose department issued Wilders the persona non grata letter last Tuesday, said there are so many Islamist terrorist plots in preparation in Great Britain, the security services are having difficulties in keeping tabs on them all. It is feared a Wilders visit would have provoked the extremists at a time the Labour government is trying to "reach out" to Muslims to the point where it is even running television ads in Pakistan, essentially asking young Muslims not to hate Britain and the West.
Another is that Muslim voters now form large constituencies in Labour ridings. Few politicians, as everyone knows, are willing to take tough stands when votes are at stake. And besides losing votes, it is believed the British government is also afraid of losing Muslim money. Great Britain now has five "sharia-compliant" banks that contain $18 billion in assets, more than Muslim states like Pakistan. Prime Minister Gordon Brown once said his goal was to make London the center of world Islamic banking. Allowing Wilders into the country would not have helped in this respect.
By banning Wilders from England, the Labour government has sent a clear message that Islam cannot be criticized. But by stifling free speech, the cornerstone of freedom and democracy, in this manner and appeasing a thuggish minority, it has set itself up for far worse consequences. But hopefully by then, the British people will have decided to take action themselves, reverse this trend towards humiliation and disaster, and re-establish the great legacy of their ancestors.