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Foot in Mouth Disease

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Counsel was to be instructed to seek a warrant for the arrest of Hizbullah spokesman Dr Ibrahim El Moussaoui if British government allowed the man to speak at a political Islam course being held at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) next week.

The fact that he hasn't been issued a visa to enter the UK seems to solve the problem. No entry, no arrest. It's that simple. But, that does not mean the stir-up never happened. Nor does it mean it wont happen again.

Mr Moussaoui was invited to lecture on the theme, Hizbullah; Current politics and prospects, falling under the umbrella category; Hizbullah and Hamas. He teaches at the Lebanese University in Beirut, is an expert on Islamist political theory and was head of the foreign department at Al-Manar TV, the official media outlet of Hizbullah in Lebanon, which is banned in Britain.

Dr El Moussaoui's past incitements to violence against Jews amounts to a breach of the Genocide Convention. According the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), this is enough to issue the request for the arrest warrant.

"His [El Moussaoui] job as the official spokes person and editor at El Manar is to glorify suicide bombing. That is his job, to stir up racial hatred and violence"

said Alexander Hitchens, researcher at CSC.

In light of the recent exclusion of an other non-national seeking entry to the UK, namely Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP, CSC feels the government only had two choices.

"They are cowards and lairs if they don't ban him. They can either ban him or reverse their decision and let Geert in."

said Mr Hitchens.

Joas Wagemakers, a lecturer and PhD-candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands will be speaking at SOAS during the Political Islam course. His research focuses on the Palestinian-Jordanian Jihadi-Salafi ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Mr. Wagemakers asks:

"If the law in the UK reads that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization and that 'stirring up tension and provoking others to violence' should mean that they can be refused entry, it is logical that Home land affairs would react this way. But then you come to the question: is it right that Hizbollah and Al Manar and everything connected to that is considered a terrorist organization?"

It becomes apparent that one of the larger issues here is that of free speech. Of course, the Hizbollah terrorist issue is not to be overlooked. But maybe we should deal with that after we give everyone a chance to speak.

Kenan Malik, author of From Fatwa to Jihad (2009), lecturer and broadcaster and senior visiting fellow at the Department of Political, International and Policy Studies at the University of Surrey says that

"Today many argue that what ever will appear to be right in principle, in practice one must appease religious and cultural sensibilities because such sensibilities are so deeply felt."

"Because today the avoidance of social pain is more important then what is regarded as an abstract right to freedom of expression."

"Freedom of expression needs to be less restricted precisely because we live in a plural society. In a homogeneous society, where everyone thought the same, the giving of offense would be nothing more then gratuitous. The right to subject each others fundamental beliefs to criticism is a bedrock of an open, divers, democratic society."

Kenan goes on to argue that:

"the impact of multicultural censorship has in fact undermined progressive social movements within minority communities."

"What we see here is that the argument against free speech is really an argument in defense of particular sectional interest. And that, it seems to me, is the best argument for rejecting restraints on speech."

"Wilders presents him self as a martyr of free speech, yet he campaigns for a ban on the Qu'ran, on the grounds that it promotes hatred and violence."

I'm sorry to go on about Wilders. The point is, that figures still show that his party would be powerful if elections were held now. Freedom of speech, and the restrictions there of, are rarely in favor of who ever needs to speak up.

And by banning Geert Wilders and now; playing out this arrest-warrant-no-visa-issuing-game, Britain seems to have put it self between a rock and a hard place. It has placed its proverbial foot in its mouth and will not be able to speak up the next time a controversial person arrives at the gates and feels the need to voice an opinion. The decision is already made. They can't come in. And that is final, it seems.

But what if they have something important to say?

For the record, I do not agree with Mr. Wilders and I do not agree with Mr. Moussaoui. But in a world with free speech -- maybe this is utopian and naive -- these two would stand opposite each other and debate. Maybe SOAS can host them?