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Let’s Ask British Extremists - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The British authorities did well to send the right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders back to the Netherlands shortly after he arrived at Heathrow Airport because of offensive statements he has made in the past about the Holy Quran and because of his film entitled ‘Fitna’.

The British Home Office stated that it prevented Wilders’ entry to the UK because of his opinions that threaten social harmony, peace and public order. The Home Office was right to do so and deserves the praise of Britain’s Muslims. But what was interesting was that the Dutch MP said, “I was very surprised and very saddened that the freedom of speech that I believe was a very strong point in British society is being harassed today,” and that he thought that Great Britain had “the mother of all parliaments.”

Britain really is home to the “mother of all parliaments” and freedom of opinion in Britain deserves respect and appreciation. We all remember the uproar that was caused when it was announced that Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi would not be allowed to enter Britain because of his religious rulings in favor of suicide operations.

But who says that freedom of opinion means being offensive to religions or inciting others? The most basic concept of freedom is that your freedom ends where mine begins, or in other words when your freedom encroaches upon the freedom of others. This applies to the media, religious figures and everybody else.

The question here is what if Britain decided to expel all those who incite [hatred]? How many of them exploit freedom in Britain to steer youngsters towards Afghanistan or Iraq? How many religious rulings that were launched in Britain via the internet or by other means glorify Osama Bin Laden and his ideology?

The British authorities are aware of what is going on in the country and they know that there are people who remain in Britain in the name of freedom and human rights, whilst their names appear on international wanted lists explicitly accusing them of participating in terrorism, some of which are based on UN resolutions.

The problem is oppression of freedoms in our Arab countries; it is practiced by states and groups that present themselves to the West as victims of the absence of freedoms. These groups use terrorism and cast accusations of treachery against anyone who opposes them in a way that goes beyond some Arab governments.

All of this causes confusion to the British because of [the difference between] the way they understand the concept of freedom and the way that extremists in their country understand the concept of freedom. If only a few simple questions would be put to those extremists who claim that they are victims of a lack of freedom of opinion in their own native countries. For example, what is their opinion on women’s rights? What about education and development? What would be the rights of adherents of other religions if those extremists in London came to power in the Arab or Islamic world? What do they think of the United Nations?

Only then will the British discover that there is no difference between those extremists on the one hand and Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba or other organizations on the other.

One day, a group of us were discussing publishing in the Arab world with British figures from this field. All of a sudden, a British legal expert burst out laughing at a story about the Arab world.

The man quickly apologized when he saw the shock on the faces of the Arabs who were present. He was told that what he found funny would cost a journalist his life in the Middle East. It is here that the gap between the British concept of freedom and the concept of freedom of those aware of the facts and realities of the Arab world and its extremists becomes clearer.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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