It’s an odd feeling sitting down to write this, it’s a mixture of relief and foreboding. The Mohammed Cartoon exhibit that I and others had planned for September in London has been cancelled, and the fact that this has brought relief should offer some clues as to why.
Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with both Scotland Yard and counter-terror detectives. My conclusion? That the risk of running this exhibition is simply too high. When setting out to do something like this, one has to be prepared for the possibility of threats, or even violence, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact such things will have on the people around you.
There’s a very real possibility that people could be hurt or killed – before, during, and after the event. This, together with the fact that our venue had indicated it wanted to pull out citing security and insurance concerns, and given the fear that people were feeling generally, the only responsible thing to do was to pull back and try to learn some lessons. I have not learned lessons as much as I have had my suspicions confirmed. There are two major messages to take on board from this episode: 1) Britain is a frightened nation, and 2) our freedom is not going away, it has gone.
You may think it obvious to state that Britain is frightened, but I think it is worse than most people imagine. Just the word “Islam” evokes fear in the majority of the people I meet, and this is amplified upon mention of “Mohammed cartoons”. There is a tangible uneasiness, an anxiety around violence and death – in people’s minds these shift from possibility to probability upon mention of a Mohammed cartoon, and that can be rather sobering. Fear is controlling our society where Islam is concerned, and it was fear that got this exhibit cancelled.
Absurdly, people are almost as frightened of being called a racist, or being associated with someone who was once called racist, as they are of physical violence. We saw again throughout this process that even those who pretend to argue for free speech draw a line at anyone who talks about race. Leftist activists will say what they have said throughout; free speech for all, except him.
Some of the attacks aimed at us (from those who ought to support us) were allegedly made because of Paul Weston’s planned presence at the event. Weston is the leader of the Liberty GB political party. He has made some speeches about the future of white people, and according to those who set the rules, this is a step too far. The demographic-that-cannot-be-named was named, and this was more than enough to cancel Weston’s speaking rights thenceforth (though of course if it hadn’t been Weston, it would’ve been Wilders).
This brings me to point two.
We’re no longer in a place where we risk losing our freedom; now there is a pressing need to take it back. It’s imperative of course that we confront this “racism” accusation. It is a given in public debate that a racist is just about the worst thing you can be, and a racist standpoint is the worst political position one can hold. “Hate speech” is a crime. At no point however has either “racism” or “hate” been clearly defined, and so it bows to the definition of the one who screeches it loudest.
This cannot be forgotten. That the British are too afraid to host cartoons cannot be brushed over. That is why today I am calling for the creation of a global coalition for free speech. It needs to have a voice at the UN (and take on the OIC), as well as the EU (also busy with hate speech and “tolerance”), and in as many countries as possible. It cannot be a talking shop put together to discuss shouting fire in a crowded theatre, but a tireless campaign to actively defend, by legislation and other means, the right of people to criticise, analyse, reject, satirise, and mock any single set of beliefs which is capable of affecting society as a whole, especially its freedoms.
This movement must actively confront the lies and deception that so pose a threat to our liberty. It has to tackle the hazards to freedom that are hiding in plain sight. Refusing to share a platform with someone you disagree with is not only infantile and embarrassing, but it immediately (and perhaps permanently) poisons all that person has to say, now and in the future. It prevents vital discussion, and it fractures and destroys relationships which might otherwise achieve great things.
Speeches about the need to protect certain beliefs and practices from censure are widespread and mainstream. They are made by elected politicians, and indeed unelected ones, and they are a feature of legislation on an international and growing scale. Yet when such legislation is proposed, rarely do we hear a robust call for any free speech protections to be included. In fact, we don’t hear about the need for free speech at all, or the reality that it is in peril.
Some have told me that this cancellation represents a victory for the terrorists, but what’s new? When a victory occurs within a sea of victories, it is the sea that is the villain – and it’s the sea we have to swim in.
We need an international campaign comprising all who seek free speech protection, particularly from Islam. It needs to work hard and fast to reverse the tide. I will contact every organisation, politician, writer, and advocate for free speech that I can find, and I hope we can take the fight for free expression on to the world stage.
The aim is a fear-free Mohammed cartoon contest. When we can have that, we will know we are winning.