Peter Hoskin

Banning Wilders is bad for social cohesion

Banning Wilders is bad for social cohesion
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What to make of the state's refusal to allow Geert Wilders into the UK yesterday?  The issues involved are so fundamental that my take on them is almost instinctive: of course he should have been allowed into the country, and the excuse that a private screening of his film Fitna in the Lords is a criminal threat to "public security" is craven in the extreme.  Philip Johnston strikes a similar note in his excellent Telegraph article today.  Here's a key snippet:

"Wilders claims that these verses from the holy book of Islam are being used today to incite modern Muslims to behave violently and anti-democratically. You may think he is wrong to say this; you may agree with him; you might, like the lords who invited him to Britain, think it is something worthy of discussion, given the obvious problems caused around the world by radical Islamism and the violence perpetrated in the name of the religion. It is hard, in a free country, to understand why it is a view that must be suppressed."

To be honest, I feel uneasy about Wilders, his film and his views.  That's just me.  But, like Johnston, I think that the crude suppression of them is counterproductive on numerous levels.  As Ed Husain argues in today's Indy, this could have been an occasion for tolerant Muslims to have their voices heard and their attitudes revealed.  Instead, the government chose to appease the intolerant few; stifle a wider debate; and, in all likelihood, only inflame people's worries and stereotypes.  That may mean an easier ride in the short term.  But it will hardly forge a cohesive society in the long.