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August 09, 2005

Banning Hizb ut Tahrir.

Should Hizb ut Tahrir be banned? Probably, they’ve a pretty disgusting ragbag of ideas. But, and there always is a but isn’t there, exactly how should this be done:

It was also confirmed yesterday that the prime minister's plan to ban Hizb-ut-Tahrir and its successor organisation, al-Muhajiroun, the two Islamist extremist organisations with the highest profile in Britain, is likely to need primary legislation before it can be enforced, as neither group is officially considered a terrorist organisation.

Whitehall sources said that the current Terrorism 2000 Act only allows "terrorist" organisations to banned; for Hizb-ut-Tahrir to be proscribed, legislation to extend the definition to radical extremist groups as well will be required. It is not known at present how "extremist" will be defined, and whether it would catch groups such as the British National party.

The list of "unacceptable behaviours" published by the Home Office includes fomenting terrorism, advocating violence and expressing "extreme views that are in conflict with the UK's culture of tolerance".

Just how, in law, can you outline "extreme views that are in conflict with the UK’s culture of tolerance".? A Christian who denounces Satanists?  A free marketeer who denounces socialists?  A socialist/communist who denounces the bourgeoisie?

The more this goes on the unhappier I am about the banning of such groups as Hizb ut Tahrir. Ban violent groups, yes, prosecute incitement to violence, yes (we already have plenty of laws that allow us to do that), but ban people from thinking in a particular manner? Once the law is used to stop the expression of particular thoughts then we’ll end up only being able to express those thoughts that are legal....and who knows who’ll be defining what is legal in years to come?

So I’m coming round to a rather American view of free speech, an almost absolutist one. No, you can’t cry "Fire!" in a crowded theatre but pretty much anything else goes, as a right not a privilege, and may the best ideas win in the subsequent open outcry.

I also wouldn’t trust this lot (and I do mean the entire political class, not just Nu Labour) to actually get the law right. If the Brain Haw case is anything to go by Hizb ut Tahrir will still be legal and all the members of the Women’s Institute will be in jail for singing Jerusalem ("bring me my sword" etc, obvious incitment to violence). And all members of the Labour Party. And all Last Night of the Proms goers. Hhhm. Does have something going for it doesn’t it?

August 9, 2005 in Islamists | Permalink


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I am surprised that you are coming around to the absolutist view. For someone committed to free speech it is the only viable view to have.

Any other view at all means you have sold the pass, any discussion is merely about where to draw the line. The only discussion of any value is whether to draw a line at all.

I don't care how nasty a viewpoint is, trying to ban it is even nastier. Let it be aired and argue against it.

Don't, under any circumstances, concede the pass.

Tim adds: But we all do agree that a line is drawn somewhere. Incitement to violence for example.

Posted by: Chris harper | Aug 9, 2005 10:11:03 AM

Like I mentioned earlier, it might be a good idea to be hanging onto that European Union basic human rights law for a couple more years until all this has blown over.

Posted by: dsquared | Aug 9, 2005 11:57:19 AM


Which 'Pass' are you writing about?
The 'Donner Pass' where those Americans eat their dead neigbours to stay alive?
The 'Pass at Thermopylae', where the Spartans died to a man to save the Greek city States?
The St. Bernard Pass, where those dogs come from?
Or is it a reference to some manoeuvre in a game where two groups of blokes try and jump all over one another?
I think we should be told!

Posted by: Mike Cunningham | Aug 9, 2005 12:04:24 PM


Good question, I thought the same thing as I wrote it.

Donner Pass doesn't seem apt. The context just doesn't fit. Nothing got sold, the buggers just starved while surrounded by plenty. Thermopylae seems ok though. That could be the reference, after all, it got sold, the Spartans died and Athens got sacked. Bit of a fiasco all round I hear.


"Incitement to violence for example"

Should Churchill have been locked up for advocating standing up to Hitler? After all, he hadn't attacked us. Should Mosleys opponents have been locked up for advocating fighting his Blackshirts?

How about laws against incitement to racial hatred? That's crimilizing speech isn't it? And no decent person can be against those surely? Well, feeling racial hatred is not a crime. Inciting someone to feel it is. Inciting someone to feel a legal emotion is a crime in the UK. Anyone care to explain the logic of that one to me? Racial prejudice may be stupid, but that does not excuse sloppy thinking and sloppy laws on the part of its opponents.

We have to be very careful, even calls for violence can come from the side of the angels. Once we get past banging people up for actual violence and start criminalising ANY speech at all we are on dangerous ground.

Posted by: Chris harper | Aug 9, 2005 12:55:10 PM

I think there's a difference between free speech and collecting money to spend on explosives.

But if we just stick to the Free Speech, (which I am a supporter of), then where is the Freedom of Speech for the BNP leadership who were secretly recorded at a private meeting only to face criminal charges as a result?

And seeing as Tyndall died of a heart-attack a couple of days before he was due in court, who is to say that it wasn't the stress of the pending court appearance that killed him?

Who gave Islamic extremists planting bombs a free pass for Freedom of Speech whilst denying the same right for extreme right-wingers?

I loathe both groups, but to attack one but not the other (as this government has been doing up to now) is nothing short of rank hypocrisy.

Posted by: David Wildgoose | Aug 9, 2005 1:24:26 PM


I agree completely. The whole thing stinks.

If people aren't allowed to make stinkingly offensive statements then free speech doesn't exist.

What constitutes a stinkingly offensive statement doesn't just change from culture to culture across the country and across the world, it can change from decade to decade within a single culture, as I have seen in my years.

Take Germany, I can understand holocaust denial laws there. I don't approve of them, but I can understand them. But in this country? Do we really want a legally mandated version of history to be foisted on us by the state? It doesn't matter how valid that version of history is, Blairs hopes to deny us the right to question it are repugnant. Even if he disagreed with its specifics, Joseph Goebbels would have thoroughly approved of the principle behind this type of law.

The purpose of the free press clause in the US constitution is specificially to allow people to print (say) what others may find objectionable, or even repugnant.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." As Voltaire never said.

Posted by: Chris harper | Aug 9, 2005 2:39:40 PM

there is nothing wrong with hizb ut tahrir. they preach a political message; if we cant handle that then it just shows how poor democracy is!

Posted by: fratton | Aug 14, 2005 12:27:23 PM

why tony want to be american more than the americans , let every body speak freely , dont try to banne those who have ideas , if you do that thin the time will come for those who act secretly .

Posted by: numan abu mor | Aug 24, 2005 6:17:10 PM