It sounds like a pretty obvious statement to make, but sometimes it is not an easy belief to hold.
It is being widely reported that Islam4UK are planning to hold a symbolic march through Wootton Bassett, with a load of empty coffins representing the Muslim dead in Afghanistan.
Regardless of your opinions on our continued presence in Afghanistan, given the relationship with Wootton Bassett and the families of soldiers who have been killed in action, it is hard to view this choice of venue for a march as insensitive at best.
The outcome is entirely predictable, the EDL will turn up, one of their lunatic fringe, or one of the Islam4UK nutters, will throw the first stone or bottle and then. . . well, I don’t need to draw a picture.
Anjem Choudary, a detestable little shit if ever there was one, is hoping that the predictable happens. He’ll be able to scream racism and discrimination, many of the left will agree as they view extremist ‘right wing’ groups as being more objectionable than extreme Islamist groups.
Facebook is alive with people sending out exhortations for this parade to be banned. I bet the political class are delighted that Facebook is being used in this fashion, it keeps political discourse safely out of the way, it makes people think their opinions are being listened to. Much like the blogosphere, I suppose, the difference being I know the political class don’t give a damn about my opinion, still, at least people are talking politics.
The BBC are reporting that Alan Johnson would ban this parade if it were up to him.
Well, you do hold nominal charge of the police, Alan. If it isn’t up to you, who has the job? It’s unusual to see any politician, especially a Labour one, so hesitant to ban something. It seems to be their sport of choice.
Anyhow, I do not support the idea of a ban. Is it because Islam4UK are likely to get a hiding? No, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they did, although I’d rather it didn’t happen. It is the police’s job to ensure this sort of thing doesn’t get out of hand. That being said, I wouldn’t envy the poor sods stuck in the middle. Equally predictably, the old bill would be likely to feel the collars of the EDL, or any group perceived as being linked to them before Islam4UK.
Why? Well, the argument, and a very strong one it is, would be that EDL or whoever, would be preventing Islam4UK from participating in lawful protest. If it all kicks off, then the police would have to go wading in to whichever groups causes the most incitement, or throws the first missile. Again, being stuck in the middle, with the adrenaline coursing through the veins, that would be a very difficult call to make.
It’s a tough call, and one I’m glad I don’t have to make. Ban the march and you run the risk of alienating more of the wavering young Muslim youth. Pen in and restrict the EDL, or been seen to police in favour of Islam4UK and you might as well hand out BNP membership cards in a buy one get seventeen free deal. Let it get out of hand and a town which is known for its dignity will never be the same again, and the situation will be replicated time and time again.
I suppose the easy solution is to ban the march on public safety grounds. The problem is, that can look like an excuse for banning it on grounds of political squeamishness. Once you start banning protests because the subject matter is politically unacceptable to the powers that be of the day, it becomes a very, very slippery slope.
I normally like to finish with a conclusion, a statement that said ‘If I were in charge. . .’
I can’t do that today, and I’m bloody glad I’m not in charge.