David Mitchell: Don’t ban Choudary, tell him to “fuck off” instead
However, when this happened before, the carefully laid plans of Al Muhajiroun (under the name of Islam4UK) to demonstrate against democracy and in favour of Sharia law evaporated away when the time came, seemingly through lack of supporter momentum (though they claimed safety was the issue). Islam4UK also cancelled a planned debate in December called “Jesus4Shariah”. This time round no one seems to know when the supposed Wootton Bassett march would happen – rumours spread the the town that it was today but this seems to have been an error.
The MCB have also expressed “disdain” for the planned march, asking Islam4UK to cancel it, but again without calling for a legal ban.
David Mitchell provides some commensurate commentary in the Guardian today.
The thing about freedom of speech is that people are allowed to say offensive, indefensible things; that we needn’t fear that because we’re sure that wiser counsels are more likely to convince. “Let the idiots and bullies speak openly and they will be revealed for what they are!” is the idea. It’s a brilliant one and, in confident, educated societies, it almost always works – certainly much more often than any of the alternatives. Why has Alan Johnson lost confidence in this principle? Why have the 700,000 signatories of a Facebook petition calling for the event to be banned?
The other great boon of that state of affairs – still nominally this state of affairs, let’s not forget – is that we can reply. We don’t have to show the slightest respect for other people’s views – just for their right to hold them. Respect, after all, must be earned. It’s only freedom of speech that’s a right. When someone says something which you find stupid or offensive, you can say something back. You can tell them to fuck off. They don’t have to, but they’ve still been told.
Maybe that’s not your idea of utopia – millions of people screaming: “Fuck off” at each other – but it beats banning it, making an opinion against the law.
Remarks from Gordon Brown have been followed today by news that Home Secretary Alan Johnson may outlaw the group entirely from as early as Monday.