, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Last week saw the reading of the 2015 Queen’s Speech (a ceremony in which Her Majesty reads the governments program for the coming parliamentary year) as well as the traditional (and psychedelically theatrical) State Opening of Parliament. Among the bills read by HRH was a draft proposal by Home Secretary Theresa May designed to combat political and religious extremism; specifically it would provide the state with powers to shut down media organs espousing ‘hateful’ or ‘inciteful’ material, with the deciding voice being wholly exercised by the cabinet.

While I’m sure the bill will prove popular with the dull masses (who may stupidly interpret the words ‘crackdown’ and ‘extremism’ as only having relevance to Muslims) more informed and educated observers sense a potentially grave threat to freedom of speech.

For example, am I an extremist? Do my words incite hatred? Am I dividing the population of the country with my political views? You could probably make a case for saying ‘yes’ to all of those questions. As they relate to Islam, my views are certainly to one end of the political spectrum. My words are certainly intended to elicit an emotional surge of some kind in my readership. And it’s perfectly true that I write for a section of society divided from a specific group of people. So there I am… extreme, inciteful and divisive.

But this is the purest nonsense of course. When rational people talk of political ‘extremism’, they surely intend to describe those who incite random violence, civil conflict, religious revolution, common thuggery and genocide. I recommend none of those things. Indeed, I have argued (and will continue to argue) against racism, law-breaking and religious fanaticism of all kinds. I am in all cases an anti-extremist and I will tolerate no other description of me.

It is a vital truth that when someone says something that offends you, it isn’t necessarily against the spirit of democratic society. When Muslims describe our soldiers as the ‘butchers of Baghdad’, that is entirely within their right to do so (as long as they remain citizens of the UK). Similarly, when right-wing activists reply that “Muslims shouldn’t even be in this country!”, they too are not breaking any law worth enforcing. But when someone calls for the death of homosexuals, or Jews or Leftists, or Poles, or Muslims or conservatives, then a line has clearly been crossed.

All this is very easy to understand. The distinction marks the boundary of the liberal and the totalitarian.