When I read about the protest march in Halifax last week supported by 5-6 hundred local Muslims, my first thought was they may be protesting about the cowardly assassination attempt by a Taliban Muslim fanatic on 14-year-old girl Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan as she sat with her friends on the school bus.
Perhaps the protest was against the continuing blood-soaked attacks on innocent Muslims by Islamic terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria? Not at all. They were protesting against an insignificant low-budget film ‘The Innocence of Islam’ which will probably never see the light of day, will be of interest only to cranks, and most certainly will NOT be coming to a cinema near you. Muslims have every right to protest of course, as we all do, yet local Labour Councillor Faisal Shoukat is demanding legislation severely restricting free speech, similar to laws found in many Muslim countries. Incitement and religious hatred is a crime in Britain, and rightly so, but academics and historians have every right to research the lives and deeds of major historic religious figures, such as Moses the Buddha, Jesus Christ and Muhammad. But if Councillor Shoukat gets his way, which is unlikely since such a law would strike at the very heart of western civilisation, based as it is on freedom of speech and free expression in the arts and the press, historians would not only be barred from publishing important research on the lives of Moses, Jesus and the Buddha but UK journalists wouldn’t to free to write stories highlighting similar research by historians around the world. And, crucially, we would be denied the right to read such publications. Now this may be perfectly acceptable in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran but we certainly don’t want to see such restrictive, punitive legislation here in the UK.