A Scottish newspaper is embroiled in a freedom of speech row after sacking two columnists over comments on Islam.
The West Highland Free Press dismissed Donald Macleod, a professor of theology in the Free Church of Scotland, after he wrote a column about the spread of Islam in the UK. He said in his piece that all minorities prefer to keep a low profile and that “Generations of British Muslims have done exactly that.”
He added, however: “But when minorities become majorities, things change… in the event of Islamic dominance in Britain our friendly Muslim shopkeepers will have little option but to march behind the radicals.”
The newspaper published the article, but then sacked Mr Macleod.
Upon learning of this, Brain Wilson, a former Labour MP who was one the paper’s founders, used his own column to defend Macleod. He described Macleod’s weekly column as the “most intellectually challenging, erudite and beautifully written column in British journalism”, and said the offending article was “leading on to wider questions about Islamic influence within Europe, including implications for democracy and freedom”.
He added: “The precedent he quoted was what happened in Algeria between the fourth and seventh centuries, from Augustine to Mohammed, so in raising current issues he was – as ever – taking the long view of history.”
After publishing Mr Wilson’s column, the paper then dismissed him too.
He described the West Highland Free Press‘s decision as “pathetic” retribution for his criticism
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Wilson said: “They published Donald Macleod’s column and then got rid of him, and then they published my column and get rid of me. The joys of employee ownership.
“It is all a bit sad. If it had to be on any issue then I’m glad it was about freedom of speech, which is something the Free Press has always been very strong on.
“It is stupid on the issue, it is stupid on journalistic principle, it is stupid on journalistic practice. Once you publish a column it becomes the property of the paper, not of the columnist.”
The Free Press, which is employee owned, confirmed the two columnists had left the paper but refused to discuss the circumstances.
“We thank both Brian Wilson and Professor Macleod for their immense contribution to the paper over many years.
“They have rightly earned their reputation as erudite, passionate and respected writers and their regular offerings in the West Highland Free Press will be missed by some readers. Further than this, we have no comment to make.”