Friday, 13 March 2009

Ibrahim Moussawi: is he in or out?

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The Daily Mail seems to be proclaiming victory in its campaign to have Ibrahim Moussawi, a Lebanese journalist with links to Hezbollah, barred from coming to the UK to speak at a university seminar later this month. He was due to speak at London's School of Oriental and African Studies on 25 March, but today the Mail's website reports that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has denied him a visa for the visit.

Some of you might remember me blogging about this story last month. The Conservative Party, the Mail and the right-wing Centre for Social Cohesion all appealed to the government to apply the same logic to Moussawi that they used when excluding anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders in February. They clearly had a point, albeit one slightly contradicted by their clear desire to see Moussawi excluded, which arguing for Wilders' right to free speech.

At the time I argued that all these people (and I include the preposterous Westboro Baptist Church in that) should be allowed in, and that these banning orders were beginning to become rather embarrassing for our government. If Moussawi has indeed been banned (and that's not entirely clear, as this report from yesterday saying he's been given a visa shows), then it's hardly a proud moment for British free speech.


Neuroskeptic said...

I really don't see how anyone could defend these banning orders. Even if you didn't object to them in principle, you would have to object to them on the grounds that they just don't work - whenever anyone gets banned from speaking in Britain they get a huge amount of free publicity.

Honestly, if I were an extremist of any stripe, a British gagging order would be a dream come true.

Andy Armitage said...

I've argued many times on the Pink Triangle blog that the likes of Wilders and even the Phelpses should have been allowed in. We may not agree with them, but once you start censoring foreigners, how long before it becomes acceptable (a creeping phenomenon) to ban speech from Brits within Britain? But, then, we are talking about NuLabour, and a shabbier, grubbier, more careerist and self-seeking load of politicians have surely never in recent years darkened the portals of Westminster.

Andrew said...

I quite agree -- the whole idea makes no sense. If we don't prohibit free speech then that should apply to everyone, not just the British. The idea of allowing free speech but banning people who might use it from coming here in the first place is just bizarre.