NSS protest to Home Secretary over Dutch MP ban on entering the UK

The National Secular Society has written to the Home Secretary in protest over the ban on Dutch MP Geert Wilders from entering the UK.

Dear Minister,

Geert Wilders – entry to UK

We were alarmed and dismayed to hear that an order has been made banning entry to the UK of Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP.

Whatever our opinions of Mr Wilders – and they are not all complimentary – we see him as an elected official of a sovereign state, and not a man of violence or terror. We certainly do not support some of his aims, such as his ambition to “ban” the Koran, but we believe that he has a right, in a nation that prides itself on its democratic credentials, to make his case and have it argued with.

Vigorously criticising Islamism is not racism and not is it hate-mongering. If religion – any religion - is off-limits for open debate we are in a very dangerous situation. And if it is off-limits because of perceived threats from radicals, then it is even more dangerous. It is capitulation to terrorism.

The last time Mr Wilders was in this country he gave an interview to the BBC, which was broadcast without controversy. His interrogator, Michael Buerk, gave Mr Wilders a hard time, and the arguments were made in a civilised fashion. Listeners were left to make up their own minds.

There was no suggestion then that Mr Wilders was inciting hatred. The BBC would not have broadcast the interview if there had been.

We feel you have made a grave error in banning Mr Wilders from entering this country. You have compromised free speech on a completely spurious or unjustifiable basis. You have provided succour and encouragement to those people who want to control this country through threats and menaces. Each time you capitulate, you invite a new demand.

We ask you to urgently reconsider your decision.

Yours sincerely,

Terry Sanderson

12 February 2009