This is the response of the Quilliam Foundation to the news that Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who takes ownership of the “controversial” film Fitna has been barred from entry to the UK to attend a screening of the film:
The Quilliam Foundation has announced its opposition to the decision by the Home Office to ban Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP, from the UK. The Quilliam Foundation believes that although many of Wilders’ public statements are bigoted, ill-informed and offensive to people of all faiths, this is not an adequate reason to prevent him from coming to the UK.
The Quilliam Foundation says that Wilders’ ideas should be challenged through debate â€“ not through government intervention that may only make him a martyr to his supporters.
The directors of the Quilliam Foundation therefore challenge Geert Wilders to an open and public debate on Islam and its compatibility with European values.
Maajid Nawaz, Director of the Quilliam Foundation, says:
“Banning Geert Wilders from the UK is not the solution. Just as the ideas of non-violent Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir should be tackled through debate and argument, so should those of Wilders and others. Freedom of speech should be protected â€“ so long as people do not use this freedom to call for violence against others.
“Wilders has evidently been convinced by the words and actions of Islamists and jihadists that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant. We therefore challenge him to an open debate in which we will argue that Islam is not an inherently violent religion and that, contrary to what he apparently believes, Muslims are not a threat to Europe and its values.”
Ed Husain, the co-Director of the Quilliam Foundation, says:
“Geert Wilders is undoubtedly an ill-informed, hate-driven bigot with many unpleasant views but he is not directly inciting violence. As a result, unlike in the case of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, I do not support the decision to ban him from the UK. By threatening parliament with a mob, Lord Ahmed is contributing to the negative portrayal of Muslims and their religion.”
And this is Lord Nazir Ahmed’s response when he was invited to a private meeting with the Dutch MP in a conference room in the House of Lords.
Barely had the invitation been sent to all the members of the House when Lord Ahmed raised hell. He threatened to mobilize 10,000 Muslims to prevent Mr. Wilders from entering the House and threatened to take the colleague who was organizing the event to court. The result is that the event, which should have taken place next Thursday was cancelled.
Lord Ahmed’s reaction is most certainly a robust denouncement of Wilders. But it resembles too closely for comfort, the ugly gesture of a rabble-rousing feudal oligarch, threatening mob violence against the House of Lords.
The Quilliam Foundation also denounces the Dutch politician but its reaction is measured, balanced and throws down the challenge to Wilders for an open and public debate on his brand of neo-Nazi politics.
If you wanted to tackle Geert Wilders, his film Fitna and the Vlaams Belang head on, I think we all know which of the two is the preferable approach.
So let’s give a round of applause to Lord Ahmed. [A joke]
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