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Anorak | Banning ‘Extremists’ From France – What Would Voltaire Say?

Banning ‘Extremists’ From France – What Would Voltaire Say?

by | 10th, April 2011

AS a believer in ‘the domination of the world by Islam’ and a supporter of capital punishment for ‘whoever insults the message of Mohammed’, Anjem Choudary may not be the kind of guy most of us would have over for dinner. But in banning the so-called ‘preacher of hate’ from entering France, the authorities there must have got Voltaire, that staunch defender of freedom of expression, spinning in his grave.

Choudary, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin, was planning to attend a Paris demonstration against the French government’s controversial burka ban, which comes into effect tomorrow (Monday). But on Saturday he was stopped at the port of Calais and handed a legal notice informing him that the French Minister of Interior had decided to deny him entry into France on a permanent basis. Choudary told Sky News that he now plans to organise a protest outside the French embassy in London instead.

The whole affair is a snapshot of just how far France has gone in abandoning some key Enlightenment ideals that underpinned the fight for ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ in the Eighteenth century. Not only is the ban on wearing the burka in public an attack on freedom of conscience the freedom to practice one’s beliefs without fear of persecution or state diktat but the barring of individuals who express ‘extreme’ views is also an attack on freedom of speech the freedom to believe and utter anything no matter how despicable others may find it.

Yes, Choudary, the leader of the now-outlawed Islam4UK and formerly a key member of the banned Al-Muhajiroun, is a provocateur with despicable views. But no matter how much he and his ilk ‘glorify terrorism’ or call for the global implementation of Sharia law, they, like the rest of us, should only be punished if they commit unlawful acts and not because they have ‘unacceptable’ thoughts and opinions. It is not for governments to decide what we, the public, have the right to believe, say or hear.

Instead, the best way to contest Choudary’s ideas is to let him air them, and have them challenged, in public. As his many television interviews and speeches that are easily accessible online testify, this would show him up as the loony conspiracy theorist he is. Instead, by stopping Choudary and his coach-load of followers at the border, the French sent a signal that Choudary’s words are so forceful that his voice should be permanently blocked out.

In this way the French reinforce the idea that there might actually be some truth to Choudary’s ideas, and they help him and his coterie turn themselves into some kind of free speech martyrs. But of course a person who says he ‘hates man-made laws, secularism and democracy’, and who sees anyone who mocks Mohammed or burka-clad women as legitimate targets, can

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Posted: 10th, April 2011 | In: Key Posts, Politicians Comments (4) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink