An open letter to the government of the United Kingdom from the International Free Press Society:
On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, leader of the Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom), received a letter written on behalf of British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. It informed Mr. Wilders that on traveling to the UK at the invitation of UK Independence Party peer Lord Pearson to screen the film Fitna and hold a Q&A in the Parliament on Thursday, February 12, 2009, Mr. Wilders should expect to be barred from entry into the UK for the following stated reason:
“The Secretary of State is of the view that your presence in the UK would pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society. The Secretary of State is satisfied that your statements about Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in your film Fitna and elsewhere, would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.”
With this edict, the government of the UK has broken faith with its own glorious tradition of enshrining freedom of speech, and embarked on an authoritarian course of setting the boundaries of political debate. With this action, the government of the UK has also broken faith with its neighbors in the European Union by taking the unprecedented measure of barring entry to a democratically elected representative, and, in Mr. Wilders’ case, party leader from another EU member state. In so doing, the government of the UK has additionally given lie to the organizing EU principle of “open borders” among member states, demonstrating a capricious will to close its borders against ideas of which it disapproves.
The British Home Office has further stated that in barring Geert Wilders from the UK it is stopping "extremism, hatred and violent messages" from coming to its country. The British Home Office is wrong. These things are already there. With this crude rebuff of Mr. Wilders, the Netherlands, and freedom of speech, the British government has all but ensured that such extremism, hatred and violent messages will continue to flourish in British soil, taking root and taking over.
And there is something else. Ideas know no boundaries, at least in what we continue to think of as the Free World. Fitna, Wilders' writings, news of his political progress in the Dutch parliament: All remain available inside the UK via the Internet and other media. This means that the Home Office's stated reasons for barring Wilders--to prevent the spread of what it calls "extremism" into UK communities of presumed “harmony”--is not at all what this action is about. In declaring Wilders the man persona non grata, the British government has declared his ideas and his political program to be anathema. In another alarming sign of authoritarianism, the British government has also canceled by fiat the House of Lords' right to hear these ideas and political program. It is impossible to gauge the chilling effect that this deplorable decision will have on free speech and debate in England but it is no exaggeration to say that it will be colossal. If this decision to bar from the UK an elected representative from the Netherlands is not rescinded, it will stand in history as a shameful marker of the UK’s descent into what tragically augurs an anti-liberal, anti-Western and authoritarian spiral.
Therefore, the International Free Press Society calls on the British government to rescind immediately the Home Secretary’s decision to bar Geert Wilders of the Netherlands entry into the UK.
Lars Hedegaard, President
Diana West, Vice President
Paul Belien, Vice President
Christine Brim, Secretary
Bjorn Larsen, Treasurer
Ned May, Outreach Coordinator