The possible arrival of Pastor Terry Jones in the UK for an EDL rally has once again raised the spectre of the Home Secretary’s power to exclude unpleasant people from the country.
The last time we were down this particular path was with Zakir Naik, who was barred from entering the country in June because of his interesting views on Jihad and terror.
(By the way, if you are interested in Naik’s views, a large selection of his pamphlets is available outside the Islamic centre on York Way in London’s King’s Cross. I particularly recommend “Islam and Science”).
Anyway, the Naik dilemma afforded Home Secretary Theresa May an opportunity to put clear blue water between herself and her Labour predecessors, who had, from David Blunkett onwards, been seen as the greatest threat to civil liberties in the UK since King John.
May singularly failed in this, and now the Home Office is painted into a corner. Post-Naik (a much higher profile and more influential figure than Jones, incidentally), it risks being painted as “hypocritical” by Islamic groups.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think hypocrisy is the worst sin, particularly when the alternative is the application of a poor principle. In this case, I think I’d prefer May to be hypocritical, and let Jones in.
Lots of people would disagree with this, not least Labour MP Jon Cruddas.
In today’s Guardian, Cruddas calls for Jones to be barred.
In somewhat Spartish language, Cruddas denounces Jones as “this Elmer Gantry of neoconservative extremism”.
After listing the arguments for allowing Jones into the country, Cruddas goes on the offensive:
“But we know what sits on the other side of the debit sheet. Mass disorder. Communities divided on racial and religious lines. Intolerance. Violence. Entire towns rent asunder.”
Really, Jon? Mass disorder? Entire towns rent asunder? Is that actually likely?
What we are dealing with here is the kind of rhetoric deployed in the past by the likes of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party. There is our way, or there is, inevitably, fascism. Cruddas is using rhetoric as dependent on impending crisis as the EDL’s does, with its screeching on the imminent Islamicisation of Europe.
Cruddas’s piece ends imagining Jones rasing “a toast to the new liberalism” – presumably meaning useful idiots like me and Sholto Byrnes over at the New Statesman, who Cruddas denounced in his article for being a bit concerned about the use of “public order” as a reason to stifle free speech.
Incidentally, Jones has been excluded before – from the German Evangelical Alliance. They kicked him out because of his theological flakiness and craving for the limelight. Could it be that we have all fallen for a massive publicity stunt? And that the EDL has taken on the tactics of its arch-rival, Anjem Chaudhary?