Notepad on Life

April 1, 2018

Southern ban and the myth of ‘They will never defeat us’

pexels-photo-64057.jpegIt seems draconian to the point of comic. A lifetime ban from British shores for having an ‘unhelpful’ opinion.

Not for extolling violence against people or property, but because the person concerned wasn’t thinking right.

Such was the fate of Canadian activist Lauren Southern, who was inspired by an article suggesting that Jesus was gay, to postulate a similar theory concerning Allah, by way of handing out leaflets to that effect in the English town of Luton, which has a substantial muslim community.

It’s mischief-making, and in one sense I would suggest that Southern might have better things to do with her time. From another angle, however, it is a social experiment that shines an unflattering light on Britain’s claims to both a true democracy and a system of law and order that applies to all, without fear or favour.

There is no call to arms from the Canadian, as she begins to attract an audience. As far as the video evidence shows, no-one in the crowd is put in fear of violence. In a land supposedly all about free speech, Southern simply puts forward a theory. As does Ricky Gervais, seconds into his latest Netflix offering (“[I’m] like Jesus…but better…I’ve actually turned up…”). As did Woolworths with its Woolworths is Christmas ads of 30 years ago. As do the people behind this sartorial insight, happily hosted by Amazon.

While I doubt anyone in those last three examples has lost much sleep over a visit from the police, however, Ms Southern doesn’t get off so lightly, because Ms Southern is asking questions about the ‘wrong’ religion.

The reaction of the police to her Luton adventure is telling. People grow angry at someone’s free speech, and police focus is not on the angry, but on the individual who has made them that way. For all the succour this gives to mob rule, I don’t blame the police here: they are but pawns in a bigger game, and while some of them might also wonder where this supposed bastion of free speech is headed, they have mortgages to pay like the rest of us.

Now Lauren Southern is gone from these shores for good, and if you think that is a good thing, you’re missing the point. What she did was simply designed to highlight a valid question – in a secular society, why does Islamic antipathy towards homosexuality trump the right of gay people to self-expression? The System came after her for her point of view; what if it comes after you for yours?

So much is cack-handed about this episode, from the misplaced focus of the police to the otiose labelling of anyone unimpressed by a popular narrative as ‘far right’ but it is the fear of our elected leaders that shines brightest.

The UK Establishment is terrified of Islam. Any other religion is left to roll with the punches, but Islam must be safeguarded at all costs, because those in power don’t have a stomach for the ruckus that often ensues when it isn’t. Only from the viewpoint of expediency does this resemble a plan.

Viewed any other way, it is at best a sell-out of the very freedoms of which politicians love to boast, at worst a vacuum of dithering inequity that inevitably sucks in genuine far-right factions, to the benefit of no-one.

Either all religions are sacrosanct or all must take their chances in the secular town square, and anyone not happy with that arrangement should Google ’emigrate’. Only when we are all clear on this can politicians and leader-writers alike declare that “They will never defeat us”, whenever jihad strikes the UK.

As things stand, however, the words sound wretchedly hollow. They are defeating us; inch by inch, ban by ban.

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