March for Free Expression

The next phase

Monday, April 24, 2006

Weekend Meetings

The meetings on Saturday went well, with about 20 people attending the morning and afternoon sessions. A programme was worked out and a steering group constituted.

Full details about this will be posted on a new campaign website later this week. People who were unable to attend will have further opportunities to participate, both through the new website, a further meeting in London in about a month's time, and also in regional meetings that will be held for the many people for whom it is not convenient to travel to London.

We have also made provisional arrangements for an event in which the Danish cartoons will be displayed and debated.

Thanks to Conway Hall for the use of their facilities, and to those who attended the meetings and contributed so much to the future success of this campaign.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Just to confirm, the meeting is at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, London tomorrow, Saturday 22nd April. There will be two sessions, 10:00am to 12:00 noon and 2:00pm to 4:00pm.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Comment word verification

is back on - we've been getting some comment spam since I turned it off. Sorry for the inconvenience.


Sorry it's been so quiet; a nasty bug knocked me out for a week or so. A rigorous course of Famous Grouse, local honey and Vindaloo has worked its magic, though, and I'll be catching up over the course of the day.

The policy meeting is now well subscribed, I'll confirm by email to everyone who has expressed a wish to attend. I'll also publish a draft agenda in the next 24 hours.

Religious enthusiasm is not our only problem. Ten year old boys say nasty things to each other in playgrounds all over the world. They do not all end up in court. We have work to do...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


This campaign is about freedom of expression, not Islam. Nonetheless, there has been a lot of conversation in the comments section between Muslims and others. This is great, and it is a real achievement. Thank you, Ismaeel and thank you, anonymous, for continuing to engage in this conversation.

The following is taken from a recent comment:
I'm Muslim and I'm not scary, and we're talking, and we shouldn't let any one scare us or intimidate us from having a dialogue.

What is unacceptable to me, as I've said many times is to engage with an inhumane political party like the BNP or the one from Denmark that wants to deport all muslims from Europe. This is offensive not to mention impractical - where will anyone get a kebab?

What is unacceptable to you, which I think is also very reasonable - is to engage with inhumane Islamist groups like Al-Qaida, that seek to agressively impose their brand of Islamism on the world.

I agree with you about that. So these two groups have to be off the table because they make for too intimidating an environment for the others unless they are prepared to modify their tactics and change their policies so as not to be a direct threat on others, in which case they can come back to the table. In other words there needs to be a ceasefire from both these camps to bring them back to the table.

Until then we should all agree that this is an uncivilised approach.

Policy Meeting, 22nd April

We have been offered use of the members' library at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, London WC1 for Saturday 22nd April 2006.

The purpose of the meeting will be to move this campaign onto a proper long term footing, draft a policy agenda and formulate a firm strategy for advancing our agenda. Officers will be elected.

The meeting will be open to everyone who would like to be involved, but we ask everyone who wishes to attend to let us know their names so that we can be sure we have sufficient seating and other facilities. Some people have already emailed us to express an interest in attending and I will be replying by the weekend. If you haven't had confirmation by Monday, or want to register your interest in attending, please mail us.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Liberal

It's a great shame that we ran out of time on Saturday 25th March. There was one other unscheduled speaker waiting in the wings. Ben Ramm, the Editor of The Liberal was ready with a short speech about his experience as an editor who had tried to publish one of the Danish Cartoons. As his website puts it:
The magazine was informed on the evening of Wednesday 8th February by senior offices at Scotland Yard that the editor and his staff could not be guaranteed police protection in the event of publication.
Ben's take on this is slightly different to those of the more determinedly secularist of our speakers and commentators. He feels that:
the affirmative argument about the sacred nature of humanity - that "there is nothing unholy or inadequate about the human form. In other words, it is wrong to suggest that to depict an individual is de facto to profane him or her" -
has yet to be properly aired in the pubic sphere
You can download a pdf (69k) of his argument here.

A letter from Reza Moradi

I really appreciate your concern.

Me, You or no one else should be even questioned for exercising our very basic civil rights - instead we are either threatened with death by Islamists or threatened with imprisonment by the law and police.

We must all stand up to this and defend our rights. Let's say they hold you responsible for this instead of me; what should I do? Sit back and watch freedom on trial? It is not about me or you per se, it is about everyone's rights - rights that have been fought for.

Dear Peter we all have to be prepared more than ever before to defend our rights. We must not be pushed back by Islamists' death threats or the UK government's police and court.

We must make this court case, a defeat for Islamists and the UK government and a victory for civilised humanity!

Hoping for your support during the campaign we are organising and for a successful outcome.

Warmest regards
Reza Moradi

Friday, March 31, 2006


I am indebted to the blogger drinking from home for this post, which comes via the pub philosopher. It refers to a piece on the Black Information Link (BLINK) website, written by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway. Ms Aguiar-Holloway is a lot more significant than she knows in the history of the Free Expression Rally. But more on that later.

Here's how the piece starts:
A sea of white faces
by Shirin Aguiar-Holloway

FREEDOM FOR WHO? That was the question being asked after an all-white 'Freedom March' took place in London.

Ms Aguiar-Holloway telephoned me twice in the run up to the rally. So I thought I'd return the compliment, and telephone her. I was put through without any problem, but she was audibly taken aback by the fact that I'd called her. I explained that I thought her article was the most racist thing I'd seen since that drunken night when a series of know-thy-enemy links led me to the website of White Aryan Resistance. And I said I'd like to ask her a couple of questions.

She said that she normally asked, rather than answered. No kidding? But I wanted to ask anyway. She told me there was someone in her organisation who fielded press questions. But then, I'm not a member of the press, so I persisted.

Question One:
Are you aware that the rally in London was a lot more racially diverse than the counter rally in Birmingham?
So, that's your first question?
True. Was she going to answer it?
There's someone here to answer questions. I can't speak for BLINK
I'm not asking you to. You wrote the piece.
So you're not going to answer the question?
No. What's the next question?
Will you answer it?

She wouldn't. So I was put through to the person who does answer questions, Lester Holloway. Lester turns out to be the editor of BLINK. I asked him question one again, but he wouldn't answer. He did, though, offer me a right of reply. I am going to take that up, but will drag this out over two posts, so it can wait. There is even a reason for this.

Notwithstanding, I asked Lester my second question:
Does the validity of what someone has to say depend on the colour of their skin?
Lester did answer this:
So why the emphasis on skin colour - to the exclusion of all else - in their article?

Lester wouldn't answer. OK, Last try:
Is "All white on the day" a racist caption? (It accompanies a photograph of the rally)
And Lester did answer:
No, because it reflects the racial composition of the march.
He added, apropos of the whole piece:
I deny it was racist.
You will, perhaps, have noticed how much, during this conversation, we discussed the issue of free speech and the statement of principle. Nor did the BLINK piece. It was ONLY concerned with the racial composition of the rally. Oddly, they were less concerned with the racial composition of the Birmingham Rally, one of the most racially homogenous assemblies ever seen in this country. Even the clothes of the attendees were the same colour.

Why does this matter? After all, we can dismiss black bigots as readily as white ones.

Because I don't think the Holloways are bigots. I know that seems like a bizarre piece of self-delusion, but I have actually talked with them. They seemed like very nice, courteous, educated people who care very much about issues of race and equality, and might also care about freedom of expression. That's why Shirin was more important than she knows. She was one of three journalists (the others were from the BBC's Asian Network and Sunrise Radio) who made me ask people not to bring the cartoons to the rally. It had bugger all to do with MAC, who have just been using what they have perceived as my weakness to dig themselves into the most astonishing crater, for no very obvious reason.

It was instead these clever, cosmopolitan, accomplished young women for whom it just didn't compute that the cartoons might not be a hideous racist, BNP attack on Muslims in particular, and every other person with a better than average suntan in general.

Shirin, when she wrote the second piece, knew that I had asked people not to bring cartoons solely to help include Muslims who might have otherwise felt intimidated, because I had told her this on the telephone during our second conversation, but this knowledge failed to penetrate the carapace of her paranoia and her racist assumptions about white people. She knew that of nine speakers, only five were white, yet she still called that Rally "all-white". She knew that there were lots of people there who were not white, yet she still called the rally "all-white". She knew that the Birmingham Rally was entirely racially homogenous, but she drew no attention to that fact because the race in question was not white.

There can be no more pure and complete an example of racism. But I remain convinced that these two people are decent.

They are the type of people we need to get on board, somehow, sometime. Because Freedom of Speech and Expression have nothing at all to do with race or culture. They are universal. And the people the Holloways are tacitly supporting would remove these freedoms from them, as well as from us.

It is going to be a long haul, though.

Kurdish Prisoner of Conscience

Sonic has pointed out the plight of Kurdish writer Dr Kamal Qadir, who has been jailed for defaming the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani.

Amnesty are campaigning about this case, which is great. Because they have failed completely in their duty to campaign about similar repression in Europe, we have had to become active. However, we encourage everyone to support this Amnesty campaign.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


The following was the entirety of a tape-recorded interview I did with a journalist who was working for an Arabic media organisation:
Journalist: Do you think there is such a thing as Islamophobia?
Me: Yes.
Journalist (visibly disappointed): Oh.
Journalist: Can you find me someone here who doesn't?
Me: I doubt it.
Journalist: Oh. OK. Thanks.
(Interview ends)

Little Atoms

The Little Atoms special about the Rally can be downloaded from here.

A Must-Resist

Jen sent an email last week, pointing out the horrible potential of The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. This isn't directly an issue that concerns freedom of expression, but it is potentially so far reaching that it transcends the subject. After all. What good is freedom of expression if the government can simply bypass Parliament?

Read more here.

Public Meeting & University Panels

We have a venue in central London, and a date will be announced as soon as the booking is confirmed. It will be a Saturday.

For those who cannot easily make central London, we will hold a series of Panels in Universities around the country. A lecturer has been good enough to email and offer to help get the ball rolling in his college, and we would very much welcome similar emails from others in similar positions.

New Blog

I notice an important new blog has come online, at