the tolerance which is both extended by the law to opinion of every kind and expected by the law in the conduct of those who disagree, even strongly, with what they hear."But despite long being at the center of free speech, England does not know what to do with groups that openly oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and consider Islam a superior religion. One such group is Islam4UK. Islam4UK is, according to the British government and much of the press, a band of radical defenders of all sorts of terrorism done in the name of Islam and therefore a "problem." Recently the group planned a demonstration in Wooton Bassett, a town made famous for honoring the British dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Islam 4 UK wanted to march with coffins representing not British soldiers, but Iraqi and Afghan civilian dead. A current law under consideration would make membership in the group illegal. If passed, the law will make membership in Islam 4 UK or Al Muhajiroun a criminal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. A look at the group's website does not reveal why the group is such a problem that its existence would threaten to disrupt the seemingly sacred English belief in free speech. The group does not, at least on its website, openly incite religious hatred or violence in the name of Islam. At Islam4UK.com, fairly reasonable statements are made such as:
we at islam4uk have decided... that no more could be achieved even if a procession were to take place in Wootton Bassett and in light of this we would like to announce today that there will no longer be a procession through this market town. This does not mean that we will remain silent on the atrocities being committed in Afghanistan under the guise of fighting for freedom and democracy and it also does not mean that we will not continue to highlight the true cost of this war against Islam and Muslims called fighting terrorism...
In this respect we once again appeal to the British public and in particular the families and friends of soldiers who have died or are currently involved in Afghanistan to engage with us in an honest dialogue. There is common ground between us. Just as you grieve the deaths of your sons and daughters, we too grieve the deaths of thousands of ordinary Muslim men, women and children, just as many of you are aware of the injustice and oppression being carried out by the US led alliance in Afghanistan (of which the UK is a part) and do not agree with your children being in this war, we too demand the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from this Muslim land...
the procession is against the British regime and in particular Gordon Brown who has utilised the emotions of the ordinary families of soldiers to glorify the reasons why they were in Afghanistan stating that they died for freedom and democracy or to keep us safe back here in the UK which are evidently lies, albeit comforting for the families. Rather the presence of the US and UK forces in Afghanistan is a cause of instability in the region and a cause of insecurity back home in the UK and orchestrated to establish military and economic interests in the region regardless of the loss of life by the occupying forces.
Just as Tony Blair has been exposed as a liar regarding Iraq and the so-called weapons of mass destruction. for which he has the blood of hundreds of thousands of Muslims on his hands and for which he needs to pay, Gordon Brown wants us to believe that the security of the British public begins in Kabul and that the murder of people in Afghanistan will keep people here in the UK safe.
I'm fairly certain I or any person who believes the wars are immoral have said very similar things. In addition, the group goes out of its way to disavow violence:
In this quest islam4uk and Al-Muhajiroun do not call for any violent or military activities... the claim that we are inciting racial hatred is absurd since Islam transcends the boundaries of race and ethnicity although we have the right (even supposedly under your law) to deem our belief superior to others and advocate it as a better alternative. Surely if you believe that something is good for you and wish to share it with others it is a noble thing.
No doubt the Islam 4 UK members are true believers in the superiority of Islam. They are even, perhaps, offensive in their defense of Islam and Muslims. But to make membership in such groups a criminal offense, to attempt to shut them up as "dangerous" to the country, is a crime against the secular religion of Free Speech.
Clearly not all speech is protected speech. Dangerous speech- the yelling of fire in a crowded theater or encouraging people to strap bombs to their backs and walk into crowded places- is not protected. But the sort of free speech that is critical of these wars and insists that we see the human costs on the ground must be protected, whether at Speakers' Corner or on the internet, if anything as sacred as "democracy" is to be saved.