March for Free Expression

The next phase

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Thanks All

Thanks for making it such a successful rally. It was great to be able to meet so many people in the pubs afterwards.

The stewards were advised that a bylaw prohibits the display in Trafalgar Square of any foreign flags, so they had to cooperate with the wardens and the police in asking people to lower Danish and American flags. That's a shame, but thank you to the people concerned for complying with good grace (and sometimes managing to "wear" the flags in a way that was allowed to pass).

One person was taken aside by the police after a complaint was made that they were displaying one of the Danish cartoons. He was a member of an Iranian group that had come in support of Maryam Namazie, and she was naturally anxious about this and wanted to make a comment to the crowd. We went over to where he was being spoken to, and filmed, by the police and made sure there was no question that he would be arrested, then told the rally what had happened and Maryam said a few words. The "offending" placard was passed around, on the grounds that they couldn't arrest everyone. Evan Harris was good enough to intercede as well. The man was able to rejoin the rally, where he was made most welcome again. We will, however, be tracking the incident to make sure there are no after effects and will keep you informed.

Despite the rain, the speeches were well received, even when the speaker was expressing a position people didn't entirely share. There were two unscheduled speakers: Ali, an Iraqi who turned up to support the campaign and felt he wanted to share his experiences of living under a regime that denied basic freedoms of expression, and Labi Shiffre. Both spoke very well and several people have commented on the quality of Labi's words.

Maryam Namazie spoke cogently, urgently and with passion. Evan Harris was funny, wise and precise. Peter Tatchell followed up on, and elaborated on the themes outlined in his essay below. Mark Wallace was well received, after the occasional controversy here. Sean Gabb spoke without notes in a structured, reasoned argument for absolute freedom of expression. Rend Shakir made a nuanced and complex case for tolerance and freedom. Keith Porteous Wood spoke about principles, but also echoed Evan Harris on some points of practical action. We shall be doing what we can to help with these in the coming weeks.

Muslims, Christians and atheists, Britons, Americans, Danes, Iraqis and Iranians, socialists, liberals conservatives and libertarians all mixed, chatted, listened, applauded and supported the basic principle of freedom of expression. It was an extraordinary occasion. Estimates of numbers vary, but I'm told the square wardens put the figure at 600. The BBC estimates it at half this figure. More than this can be counted in partial photos of the crowd, but even this lower number would be almost double the next highest turnout at rallies held in the wake of the cartoons saga.

And by and large the extremists kept away. There was no visible BNP presence. A handful of Islamofascists turned up. The headbangers have been bashing away in the comments sections of this blog, but they weren't there at the rally.

We have started the process of reclaiming this debate for the middle ground. We are replacing a standoff between deport-all-Muslims fascists and Islamofascists with a calm, reasoned dialogue and an insistance on the primacy of freedom of expression that does not produce an instictive allegation of Islamophobia. The people who are not at heart fascists but feel beseiged can move away from the BNP and the religious supremacists, into the middle ground.

It was a victory for tolerance, reason and freedom. If you want to know how badly this hurts the extremists, read some of the comments on this blog. This was just the beginning, but it was a very good beginning.

Thank you to everyone who made it possible.

75 Comments:

Blogger Steven said...

"The stewards were advised that a bylaw prohibits the display in Trafalgar Square of any foreign flags, so they had to cooperate with the wardens and the police in asking people to lower Danish and American flags. That's a shame, but thank you to the people concerned for complying with good grace (and sometimes managing to "wear" the flags in a way that was allowed to pass)."

Congratulastions for making the march, however that is not freedom of expression. Would you like to make a comparison to what the restrictions were on the protest against the cartoons? Many flags have been shown at these events too, mainly the flag of the Palistinine Arab refugee Authority, which is a terrorist entity and definately a recist entity. But no Danish flags! Right. No Danish cartoons.... right.

So much for freedom of expression then.

1:27 am  
Blogger Steven said...

"It was a victory for tolerance, reason and freedom."

How can it be a victory for tolerance reason and freedom when the display of Danish flags, let alone any cartoon that is labeled offencive, is able to be displayed? Do tell me. How can this march be a victory for freedom of expression?

1:30 am  
Blogger Theo said...

That bylaw is seriously retarded I think it should be the the topic of a demonstration of its own.

1:49 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Double standards reveals islamophobic agenda

Its interesting how after declaring the demo will not display the cartoons, when some people turned up with them, the organisers defended their right to be there - in fact when the police steped in and cautioned the offender the organisers and official speakers championed the cartoon placard by raising it themselves. (It was later revealed that the key speaker had in fact brought the cartoon herself.)

A few minutes later when a person tuned up with an effegy of Blair with a large swastika around blairs neck the stewards pounced on him ordering him to remove the swastika. When he refused the head steward called the police who surrounded him and finally confiscated the swastika (at least it wasn't around tony blair neck when the effegy emerged from the police scrum!). The poor guy was no neo-nazi skin head - in fact he was a black man just pointing out that tony blairs policies were begining to resemble the nazis.

What double standards - clearly nothing to do with freedom of expression but rather a guise to insult and attack muslims!

Other points:

The turn out was so poor that the police didn't need to do an estimate they did an actual head count - 190 people which probably included many tourists and bystanders. The 600 figure wasn't by square wardens but by the organisers.

THe police didn't challenge people because of danish flags - it was because they turned up with racist cartoons which incited hatred towards muslims.

Its been poined out before that the danish paper previosly refused to print anti-christian cartoons and then later sacked the editor when he agreed to print a cartoon showing parallels between nazi germany and israel- so if its all about freedom of speech and expression why aren't you demonstrating against the danish newspaper? Answer - beacuse its nothign to do with freedom of speech - its about attacking muslims.

1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It was a victory for tolerance, reason and freedom."

Back patting, if it was a success we would see it on the BBC news website or in the Sunday papers.

Peter, if you can look in the mirror and say you did something truly linked to free expression than will only be lying to yourself.

Lies are only bad when you truly believe the lie.

1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This protest is a defeat for Absolute Freedom of Expression. I am amazed how the organisers and speakers cannot see this.

It is further evidence that Absolute Freedom of Expression never existed , never will, and certainly doesnt exist today.

Its just a folly.

Those who claim to represent the middle ground should realise that only Absolute Freedom of Thought should exists, but not Absolute freedom of expression or action. The fact that laws exist, means freedoms are restricted. Absolute freedom means no laws exist. One day God willing, i hope they will realise this. And hopefully soon.

Ali the Muslim

1:53 am  
Anonymous aeneas said...

Where were you when freedom died? I was in Trafalgar Square under the watchful gaze of Lord Nelson! The rally was an unmitigated disaster to which very few people turned up. This should have been a showcase for those in parliament who oppose free speech!

I thank the organisers for getting the ball rolling, but I do not thank them for the 11th hour surrender on the cartoons. The cartoons were the essence of the demonstration and this surrender ruined our cause. To forbid people from bringing them was a shameful act (I appreciate that it was done with the best of intentions from people who had taken the responsibility to make the whole event possible – for which I sincerely thank them). But is was a serious mistake that ruined our cause.

The rally started with an exceptionally good speech from an exceptionally intelligent and perceptive lady from Iran. She was the hero of the entire event.

At the beginning of a subsequent speech things turned nasty! It was announced that the police had stopped someone expressing their views! There seemed to be some sympathy for the position of the police from the podium as the “offender” had dared to show some of the cartoons. The Iranian speaker highlighted this fact to the audience and suggested that the offending cartoon be distributed from hand to hand amongt the assembled as the police could not arrest everyboady! This was done with relish. The cartoon was passed from hand to hand by those who wanted to defend the cause of freedom. Solidarity was shown with the person who had been victimised. Eventually the cartoon seemed to “disappear”.

The next major event at the rally occurred during the speech of Sayyida Rend Shakir al-Hadithi. Her valuble contribution to the events was interrupted by the intervention of the police. A man had produced an effergy of our august and benevolent Prime Minister with a swastika around his neck. From my perspective this was dealt with unreasonably (bearing in mind the vile threats that were issued at a previous demonstration outside the Danish embasy when the police did nothing!). I ask the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is there double standards in policing in London where people can effectively issue death threats in an environment when people are in hiding in fear of their lives due to artistic licence, and the police do nothing, whereas anyone showing a picture of a long dead “prophet” or an effigy of our beloved leader are treated in such a shameful manner. Do we still have the freedom to speak our mind in Britain or do with now live in a dictatorship?

The man with the effigy was persistent and would not surrender and kept his prize (I neither know or care about what he was protesting about, but he was at a freedom of expression rally and deserved respect). The press were all over this scene. If there is anything in the Sunday papers from this event then I would guess that it would be this scene where the “honour” of our Prime Minister was “protected” by the Metropolitan Police. Is it now possible to criticise the Government of this country? I leave the answer to this question to you. The man was a hero, he maintained his position to cries of “leave him alone”.

In light of these events I have concluded that there is no equality under the law. Anyone who critices either Islam or the Prime Minister is regared as an enemy of the state; I’m sorry to say this but that is the way I see it in light of these events.

Our country has entered an new dark age of tyranny and oppression. The BBC offers a biased version of the news and the Government is afraid to upset anyone and fails to inist that existing laws are upheld. HOwever, it seems to seek new powers to surpress and subdue dissent from any quarter.

The action that is needed from this outrage is clear. The Licence fee for the BBC should be abolished, the BBC should learn to stand on its own two feet. I urge people to write to the BBC protesting that their news coverage is biased and that therefore the licence fee should be abolished. In addition to this I urge everyone to boycott the Prime Minister's party by voting for ANY other party or individual in the upcoming local elections. He needs to learn that freedom is non-negotiable and that he urgently needs to mend his ways. The Labour Party does not deserve to hold office as a result of these events. I don’t care who you vote for, just don’t vote for them!

Otherwise, re-write the Don Mclean song American Pie and substitute the word “music” with the word “freedom”. These are my personal views; I leave the rest up to you.

Long live freedom!

1:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone mention Abdul Rahman?

1:55 am  
Blogger Will B said...

Peter wake up. It was a disaster. You let a woman from the kafirphobic, toonphobic group M.A.C. preach about intimidation while her group passively supports Hizb ut Tahrir, the Saudis, the Iranians, The Afghans and the Iraqs who intimidate Christians, Jews and possible converts from Islam to the two. While her group supports oppression of religions other than theirs she should not have been at the event speaking, it was supposed to be an event for those who love free speech not wolves in sheeps clothing. You whereso busy worrying about the nationalist facists you forgot about the Islamofacists.

2:02 am  
Anonymous True Liberal said...

Peter,

I am not an "extremist", but the BNP did not hijack this March. Everyone knows full well who is the true culprit here.

You were bullied into submitting to the demands of MAC and the PC masters like the GLA and the (useless) Met police, and this just proves that there is no such thing as true freedom of speech in this country.

This was a demonstration of pure impotence. You made a bloody mockery of the whole principle. I would defend you only if you were forthright about the REAL reasons for your famous flip flop a few days ago..

MAC are celebrating the failure of this demonstration and have said (what your supporters have also said) that you "caved in" to Muslim pressure.

Why don't you just come clean about this instead of insulting everyone's intelligence? This just proves that nobody can honestly stick up for true liberty and expression without some kind of submission and compromise.

Your gutless position has only strengthen the likes of the BNP who (like it or not) have taken not only your national flag hostage, but the true principles of true freedom and expression.

Now it will be considered a 'racist' offence to stand up for liberty in this country, just like it is to wave the flag..

Shame on you...

2:14 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BBC BIAS

I agree about BBC bias. By all accounts the Birmingham demo against the cartoons was much lager than the london pro-cartoon demo and yet it was ignored by the bbc who dedicated a page on their website to the london demo.

2:16 am  
Blogger Steven said...

Attacking Muslims is not the Ajenda. I was going to bring printouts from the Israeli anti-semetic cartoon competition, actually.

The fact is, this march was about "freedom of expression". Do you know what the give away was? The name:

"The march for freedom of expression."

The cartoons are important, because right now people are in fear for their lives for offending extremist Islam.

I would love to see an army of Muslim people waving the cartoons and saying "GET A GRIP". Even Kamal gets it.

2:19 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4844634.stm

looks like a positive write up from the BBC.

WELL DONE!

2:21 am  
Blogger Will B said...

The fact that laws exist, means freedoms are restricted. Absolute freedom means no laws exist. One day God willing, i hope they will realise this. And hopefully soon.

Your wrong.

"Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"

Freedom of expression has always and will always exist, and the same goes for wrongful laws.

2:21 am  
Blogger Steven said...

Laws protect some freedoms. It could be argued that stopping all freedom of speech by law gives people the freedom to not suffer being offended.

I know its rubbish, but thats the flip-side of the world we live in.

2:28 am  
Blogger CarnackiUK said...

While the turnout was modest - 500/600 by my estimate - there was a good atmosphere and some excellent speeches, particularly from the Iranian contingent. This was a good start, one on which we can surely build. Thank you the two Voltaires for getting the ball rolling!

My photos of the event may be seen here:
http://johnno93freespeechrally.buzznet.com/user/editimage.php?id=2429269
(may be necessary to paste in the three lines of address separately.)

2:36 am  
Blogger Steven said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:44 am  
Blogger Steven said...

Johnno93's link after it has been fixed!

2:47 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Small turnout. It's the beginning not the end of the movement for free expression!

4:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done

-The Rally took place.
-Danish flags were allowed as *clothing" (the reason ho foreign flag can be displayed on this square means th UK defends its sovereignty!)
-at least one cartoon was displayed
-BBC reported on it
-there is a new word, toonophobia
-according to estimates about 2000 toonophobes grew a pimple on their back when they heard a cartoon was shown. (unconformed report though - the numbers might be higher.)

5:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you ever compare the people of the toonophobe rally with this event and ask yourself who you would like to have over for coffee?

Have a good day.

5:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Voltaire, the event was fantastic: a great starting point for future campaigns!

7:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, there were a few 'free abdul rahman' placards at the event

7:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen you idiots. I am a Muslim and I WANT TO SEE the Muhammad cartoons displayed, because the future of my country depends on freedom of speech and on liberties.

That idiot who said don't bring the cartoons because it may offend us is one f***ing racist bigot to 1- assume all Muslims are as stupid as he is, and 2- to limit my freedom to speak.

Get lost bastard dhimmis, masquerading as open minded folks. To hell with BNP, I don't give a rat's behind for them, and they shall not give idiots a pretext to limit free expression.

Javad

7:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1.2 Billion Muslims "believe" that the Qur'an is the ABSOLUTE and LITERAL and IMMUTABLE words of "god", to be obeyed by all, at the risk of the sword, and imposed on children, until eternity.

Surah 4 Ayeh 34 - "If any of your wives are disobedient, then beat her."

Now according to Peter, we are not supposed to discuss or criticize the Qur'an lest we offend people who voluntarily accept such drivel?

Or is it his idiotic logic that since BNP also happens to criticize Islam, then we "see no evil, hear no evil, and say not against evil"?

What an idiot. I will make sure I do not join a rally that Peter calls. Congratulations for your miserly 250 man rally, half of them defying Peter and bringing cartoons. Who would want to join your club who has you as a member?

Javad (a Muslim who has lost hope in reactionary postmoderns masquerading as free speechers)

8:35 am  
Blogger Anonymous said...

"You let a woman from the kafirphobic, toonphobic group M.A.C. preach about intimidation. While her group supports oppression of religions other than theirs she should not have been at the event speaking, it was supposed to be an event for those who love free speech not wolves in sheeps clothing."

Interesting comment - so just because a woman is muslim means she is part of the MAC group? As far as I knew she only contacted the MAC the week of the demo to establish grass roots sentiments and prevent a potential "kicking off" of aggression and violence between the two parties, which would have done neither cause any good ...

Wouldn't be too hard on her...

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? I can see she really got to you then!

Anything in her speech about not supporting free expression? No. As far as I can tell she was just asking - not even telling - people to trust to start to be nice to each other and not brand all muslims or the religion itself with the same brush.

9:45 am  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Rend Shakir's an independent as far as I can see - not aligned with any group at all...

9:59 am  
Blogger aeneas said...

Were the Human Rights of the gentleman with the Tony Blair effigy infringed? Could he file a complaint with the Police Complaints Authority? Has he got a case to take to court? As far as I could see the man appeared to have been harassed for his political beliefs. If he does have a case, and he wants to pursue the matter, are there any lawyers out there who would be willing to represent him on a pro bono basis?

10:16 am  
Blogger Ian the Atheist said...

>so just because a woman is muslim means she is part of the MAC group?

She was pivotal in manipulating the organiser of this march to capitulate to their demands - whether she is a member is irrelevant, she championed their cause.

> Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? I can see she really got to you then!

No, she "got to" the march, and absolutely *gutted* it. What would the turnout have been if Peter had not dive-bombed it at her behest?

> Anything in her speech about not supporting free expression? No.

yes. she has repeated MAC's bullshit that freedom of speech is a "two way street" and you should show "respect". She danced to the other side's tune, and that's reflected in the media stories on the event.

MAC had a clear agenda from day one, so did this March - they stuck to theirs, and Peter flip-flopped at the 11th hour causing people to walk away in disgust.

As for Peter's wonderful little attack today - People who seek to confront Islamist attempts to supress freedom of speech with violent threats are not "extremists" - and we sure as hell are not fascists just for not agreeing with you!

10:31 am  
Blogger pinknews said...

Fair reporting of the event (with pics) at the gay website PinkNews.co.uk report here PinkNews.co.uk coverage

10:59 am  
Blogger John said...

Just to let you know some BNP members did attend and took part in the event. The fact that we attended and you did not even know perhaps shows that the BNP is in fact populated by ordinary people, who are engaging in these debates and not as you would wish to portray us. An interesting couple of hours. John. London

11:13 am  
Blogger CM said...

Voltaire writes; "We are replacing a standoff between deport-all-Muslims fascists and Islamofascists with a calm, reasoned dialogue and an insistance on the primacy of freedom of expression that does not produce an instictive allegation of Islamophobia".

I understand this to mean that if a Muslim group says they feel offended, then Voltaire thinks I should bow to their demands; otherwise he will describe me as a fascist and BNP supporter - a base slander and lie which I find pretty offensive, actually.

11:13 am  
Blogger Will B said...

so just because a woman is muslim means she is part of the MAC group?

She was pivotal in manipulating the organiser of this march to capitulate to their demands - whether she is a member is irrelevant, she championed their cause.

> Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? I can see she really got to you then!

No, she "got to" the march, and absolutely *gutted* it. What would the turnout have been if Peter had not dive-bombed it at her behest?

> Anything in her speech about not supporting free expression? No.

yes. she has repeated MAC's bullshit that freedom of speech is a "two way street" and you should show "respect". She danced to the other side's tune, and that's reflected in the media stories on the event.

MAC had a clear agenda from day one, so did this March - they stuck to theirs, and Peter flip-flopped at the 11th hour causing people to walk away in disgust.

As for Peter's wonderful little attack today - People who seek to confront Islamist attempts to supress freedom of speech with violent threats are not "extremists" - and we sure as hell are not fascists just for not agreeing with you!


Thank you Ian for that wonderful defence while I was away!

11:15 am  
Blogger aeneas said...

I am glad that members of the Muslim Community felt able to come to the rally. However, I was very disappointed with the speech from Sayyida Rend Shakir al-Hadithi. She did come across as a reasonable, tolerant, and highly intelligent lady. However, I was disappointed that she did not specifically condemn the activities of Mr bin Laden and his band of fanatical followers. I was also disappointed that she did not call for the release of Abdul Rahman whose freedom of expression appears to be have been severely restricted at the very least. I was disappointed that she didn’t explain the benefits of Sharia law or whether is should have a place in contemporary Islam. If there is part of her speech that I missed that contained such statements then I would be grateful if someone would point them out to me, as I was a bit distracted by the Tony Blair effigy incident and as I’m only human I could have missed something.

On a positive note I was very impressed by the Iraqi gentleman, who was not on the speaker list but came from the crowd to give, as I see it, a brilliant critique of religious radicalism. He spoke from the heart with passion and sympathy to western culture and its values. If that man is not a British citizen then he should be.

I learnt quite a lot from the speakers so I am glad that I made the journey from Yorkshire to be there. However, overall I think the day turned out to be a disaster for our cause. Since we don’t appear to have freedom of speech anymore, we do perhaps have the freedom to be offended. Perhaps we should adopt the arguments of our opponents and focus on this. Perhaps we should complain to the police that certain aspects of the Koran seem to encourage intolerant and perhaps illegal behaviour. We should make a list of offensive passages and insist that any copies of this book sold in British bookshops should have these passages removed. It’s just a suggestion, what do people think? Perhaps this would be a way of debating the issues and bringing the teachings of the Koran to public attention. This might lead to a kind of Islamic Reformation that would be beneficial to both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. This should be the next step - perhaps there is a way to link this to our discussions on blasphemy?

11:20 am  
Blogger Will B said...

All this has turned into is an attack on the far right and people that don't agree with where Peter took this, people who wish to actually confront the Kafirphobes whose Islamic doctrine is nothing more than religious totalitarianism. This is not an attack on people who seek to limit our freedoms, not an attack on Islamic doctrine, and definately not an attack on the current government who are actively seeking through legislation (ID Cards, Terror laws, and to an extent L&R reform bill) to limit our freedoms for their own gain and for the gain of Islamofacists like the M.A.C. But an attack on anyone who does not want to appease kafirphobes. I'm astounded at Peter's flip flopping. I think it is true what the M.A.C. has said about what they did and I think Peter is lieing through his teeth. What did you tell me Peter the day before the protest when we where talking about your U Turn? I believe your words where "I had no other choice". You owe it to us all to tell us who intimidated you and how. My gues is the M.A.C., one of your speakers and the police.

11:27 am  
Blogger Will B said...

Lets not forget the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill! The contents of the bill makes it basically Illegal to speak ill of Islam as Islam and its followers are a bloc as we have seen over the last few months.

11:39 am  
Blogger mostazaf said...

The Islamist lady speaker "repeated MAC's bullshit that freedom of speech is a "two way street" and you should show "respect"."

And this idiot Peter bought this moronic argument? UNBELIEVABLE. What she is refering to is a central tenet of Islamic Shariah law called "Qesaas" - which is an "eye for an eye, a finger for a finger". What she is saying is that if you critcize Muhammad or the Qur'an, we will racially attack your Jews, spew hatred about them - not about their religion or prophet - but on them personally based on their race and ethnicity as a group.

SHE IS EQUATING PUSHING RACIAL and DISCRIMINATORY HATRED WITH ORDINARY CRITICISM or PARODY OF AN IDEA, AN IDEOLOGY (religion), OR A HISTORIC FIGURE (Muhammad) - all protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is what she f***ing means by "two way street".

And the MORON Peter bought this idiotic anti-humanistic racist and Qesaas argument? Unbelievable.

Javad

11:51 am  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

The fact htat MAC is moaning should be seen as a success.

http://muslim-action-committee.blogspot.com/2006/03/metropolitan-police-ignore-muslim.html

12:05 pm  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

Thanks to Javad for your explanation!

12:09 pm  
Blogger mostazaf said...

Peter writes: ... it had become clear that Muslims who agree with this campaign would have felt unable to attend the rally. That's why I have asked people not to display the cartoons and it is the only reason why...

Hey idiot - how can you agree with freedom of expression but get oh so self-righteously offended by the display of a mildly critical cartoon?

I am a Muslim, and I would attend, and carry all 12 cartoons, as did Reza Mofidi. Your stereotyping of Muslims is pathetic.

Get on with your friggin job and responsibility to organize a rally and the sound system - and leave the content to others who have more than half a brain.

Javad

12:13 pm  
Blogger Andy M said...

The full text of Sayyida Rend Shakir Al-Hadithi's speech is up on MAC's website, here:
http://muslim-action-committee.blogspot.com/

I'm afraid I and my companion found her speech profoundly dull. It seemed almost entirely void of meaning. She rather lost the crowd as well, I felt, who were in any case distracted by the stewards' attempt to make the protestor with the Blair mask put his swastika away. What was that all about? Was it just the swastika that got them worried? And weren't we supposed to be there to defend people's rights to call Blair a nazi if they wish to?

I'd be grateful if any of the organisers could explain why that man's right to free expression was infringed.

12:25 pm  
Blogger Ismaeel said...

"The stewards were advised that a bylaw prohibits the display in Trafalgar Square of any foreign flags, so they had to cooperate with the wardens and the police in asking people to lower Danish and American flags. That's a shame, but thank you to the people concerned for complying with good grace (and sometimes managing to "wear" the flags in a way that was allowed to pass)."

Congratulastions for making the march, however that is not freedom of expression. Would you like to make a comparison to what the restrictions were on the protest against the cartoons? Many flags have been shown at these events too, mainly the flag of the Palistinine Arab refugee Authority, which is a terrorist entity and definately a recist entity. But no Danish flags! Right. No Danish cartoons.... right.


At our anti-cartoon demo on the 18th I only remember one flag being waved which translates as saying "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah" Some people draped themselves in Iranian flags.

12:37 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

"Listen you idiots. I am a Muslim and I WANT TO SEE the Muhammad cartoons displayed, because the future of my country depends on freedom of speech and on liberties.

That idiot who said don't bring the cartoons because it may offend us is one f***ing racist bigot to 1- assume all Muslims are as stupid as he is, and 2- to limit my freedom to speak.

Get lost bastard dhimmis, masquerading as open minded folks. To hell with BNP, I don't give a rat's behind for them, and they shall not give idiots a pretext to limit free expression.

Javad"

Javid, I commend you.

12:37 pm  
Blogger Will B said...

Javid! Hurrah! Please go teach Ismaeel a leasson or two...

12:44 pm  
Blogger And said...

"TOONOPHOBIA?" I said to myself obtusely at the rally, on seeing this word on a placard... "Irrational prejudice against Geordies? I hadn't realized that that existed outside of Sunderland."

1:04 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

What a wonderful day. It was great to amongst like minded thinkers and to speak with those in the crowd. We really were from all backgrounds I had a great chat about the state of the world with a very well informed Indian chap. I noted was how few young people there were, we were all mature and stood in the rain to hear people speak their mind without the constraints of Political Correctness. This was not a G8 protest, we knew why we where there.

My favorite moments were at the beginning, there was a BBC reporter desperately looking for far right people, desperately looking of Muslim haters. He was bitterly disappointed. There were some long beards about, I smiled at them and in return they turned their faces in disgusted.

Just before the speakers started, an Iranian ex Muslim stepped forwards with a sign containing the 4 strongest Danish cartoons. At first he was very shy, but we all stood around him protectively and encouraged him to speak "here, here, well said that man", the journalists rushed to get quotes from him. He explained what each of the cartoons mean to him, he pointed at one and said "this is about the suppression of women", he was angry about women being stoned to death by followers of Islam, and that Islam specified the size of stones to use. He stated that he had been tortured by the Iranian government, he said he came to England to be free from persecution. Us people around him said “you are welcome here” and the Islamist interviewers visibly shook with anger at this.

One speaker said “Anyone that proposes that they back the concept of ‘free speech’, but free speech with ‘respect’, is talking about respect on their grounds. This is not free speech at all. These are false friends”.

I admire Rend Shakir for trying to build bridges and stating that Muslims are not demons, I agreed with her and cheered her initial comments. As she went on she did not speak out against the rise Political Islam and the injustices that are acted out in its name. She didn’t acknowledge the benefits that free speech has brought this country. She proceeded to run over her time and tried to explain that free speech shouldn’t really include the right to insult. In my opinion she deliberately extorted Peter by offering to speak, then he announced it, soon after she withdrew her support unless he bowed to the demands of the MAC, which he did, just to have her there.

Rend Shakir is a false friend.

Overall I think that it was right that Peter asked people not to bring the cartoons, they were there, but they only held by ‘brown’ people, not white people. This beautifully sidesteps accusations of ‘white supremacy’. Had I bought one and held it aloft it would have tainted the message.

The only shame is that the without the pictures the Rally become a discussion group, it was not a really a protest. Had it been a protest the turn out would have been better, but I don’t believe the discussion would have progressive.

Many of my friends refused to come because they were scared or believed that the rally was being held for the wrong cause, they read the statement and asked “who is this Peter, why do you lend your support to him?”. Post the success of this rally, they would certainly join us for the next one.

I thank Peter for getting the ball rolling and the insightful speakers that stepped forwards to speak.

He is right, the wave has broken and the tide has started to turn.

1:14 pm  
Blogger Ismaeel said...

Yes "Javaid" u teach me a lesson or two, the pathetic impersonation of a "Muslim" by a BNP supporter is really really poor, in fact laughable

1:20 pm  
Blogger another said...

this was a sellout freedom of speach is to say wot otheres dont want to hear
Peter Risdon you are a quiesling
did they offer you a 70 year old virgina?

1:20 pm  
Blogger Will B said...

another.. can you type properly please? I can barely understand your posts.

2:06 pm  
Blogger EducSubNorm said...

Ah Well,
Perhaps it's time to do as they do in Islam - get out the AK47 and start kicking a few heads.

2:14 pm  
Blogger Lynda said...

I was more than a little disappointed that more wasn't said by speakers about the imprisonment of David Irving in Austria and the hideous "defaming the dead laws" in Germany where they have imprisoned thousands for this crime. One man, Ernst Zundel. A German/Canadian was kidnapped from his home in the US, sent to Canada where he was held (without charge) in solitary confinement for two years before being extradicted to Germany to stand trial. He has been in Germany now for almost a year and his trial has not got beyond the initial stages. In Germany lawyers are not allowed to challenge the law re: holocaust denial nor to give evidence as to why their client takes his view. If they do they too will be prosecuted under the law. He can not possibly receive a fair trial. All members of the EU should be denouncing this terrible law. But instead, silence.

I expect holocaust denial will eventually become law in Britain. The politicians will not resist it.

2:15 pm  
Blogger Juan Golblado said...

I would like to think yesterday was a beginning, albeit a very flawed one.

However I am not optimistic, first and foremost because it seems to me that the majority of the people in this country and even the majority of the people involved in this demonstration, including at least a large percentage of the people who came to the demo, do not in fact accept that freedom of expression is a necessary part of the infrastructure of a free society.

I say this because I gathered from what speakers said, what people reacted to at the demo and what people did not react to, and what people have said here, that the majority position is that freedom of speech should be tempered by a prohibition against incitement to racial hatred.

It seems to me that the law against incitement to racial hatred is the thin end of the wedge of an ongoing attack on freedom of expression, and hence an attack on free society, in the UK.

The mere fact that Peter thought it wise to compromise on freedom of expression to gain more Muslim backing for a freedom of expression demonstration shows he does not understand the role of freedom of expression in a free society. The fact that so many people went along with that is mind-boggling to me.

I don't know how to react in such a situation. I realize that I have been "spoiled" by spending so long in the United States where freedom of expression means what it says.

So I'm going to bow out of this movement, though I had high hopes for it.

I suppose I wish it will. Obviously I have some emotional attachment to even a naive but well intentioned push under the banner of freedom of expression. Where the overall atmosphere is one in which people seem to be overwhelmed with a need not to offend, I don't see what role I can play. So that is reason to leave it.

But intellectually I'm still not sure that success for such a compromised position would be a good thing. If it doesn't lead to a repeal of the prohibition on any incitement to hatred, if it strengthens such an approach to freedom of expression, then it is a step in the wrong direction.

2:16 pm  
Blogger Will B said...

Peter when are you going to tell us what happened between you and the M.A.C.? Will the cartoons be at the debate between you and the M.A.C.? Seems they will not allow it: http://muslim-action-committee.blogspot.com/2006/03/786-new-york-university-nyu-instends.html

talks of a debate at NYU where the Cartoons are to be displayed.

Everyone reading this please, If you support Free expression send an email to John Sexton at john.sexton@nyu.edu, the president of NYU. As well as Bob Butler at bob.butler@nyu.edu , the director of student activities as NYU to implore them to stand up for free expression, free debate and exchange of ideas and make sure the cartoons are displayed.

2:19 pm  
Blogger FreeSpeech said...

If one speaker was refraining from showing up due to threats then there might have been other treats ("If you show the cartoons we will xyz"). And the police saying they can't protect everyone.
The organizers could not really make that public, could they?

Would that be an explanation? I think so. Stay vigilant. Keep going.

2:56 pm  
Blogger Temporary said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:41 pm  
Blogger Charles Martel said...

update - Abdul Rahman case has been overturned. he'll be released (just heard it on radio)

4:09 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Despite my skepticism and pessimism I think not all has been lost. Not only due to the hard work of the organisers but also thanks to the fanstastic bunch of supporters who turned up. I can bet many more would have come had it not been for the unforunate U-turn of Volatire, advising people not to bring the cartoons. This decision has angered and discouraged a great number of supporters judging by their furious reaction in the blog's comments. The speakers
were excellent as well (except for Rend Shakir - her speech was full of empty, worn-out slogans and
platitudes), and Maryam Namazie became a star of the rally with her passionate and uninhibited
diatrabe against islamic intolerance and dogma. The people reacted with applause. During all
the speeches they showed an amazing sensitivity and propriety, rewarding with feverish
clapping words of wisdom, truthfulness and courage, and booing any bullshit and insincerity with an equal
passion. Despite the fact that almost as soon as I arrived and displayed my Polish and
Danish flags I was asked to put them away some people wrapped themselves in Danish flags and there were others (including myself) wearing T-shirts with "support free speech - buy Danish) pictures.
And ...now hold your breath...the cartoons were shown by a brave Iranian man, who completely
intercepted everybody's attention for the first 10 minutes of the rally with a great speech
against in defense of the carttons "I am not afraid" - he stated firmly holding proudly the
banner with the cartoons. Half an hour later he got arrested by the police as someone filed a
complaint. I wish this person had owned up to their stance (what a coward!. Then great Maryam took up the banner and asked everybody in the crowd to pass it around - "they can't arrest everybody!" - if nothing else significant happened at the rally
(and a lot of DID) then it would have been worth just witnessing and sharing this amazing experience of solidarity with this man). Needless to say people rushed to respond to her appeal - the banner stayed with us taken care of throught the rest of the rally and nobody else was arrested.
The cartoon did not leave us even for a second though. It reminded me of a flag picked up by
someone else as soon as the who carried it "fell in the battle" - this was symbolic and very meaningful to me.

6:35 pm  
Blogger aeneas said...

Polish Solidarity with Denmark

A good description of what happened.

7:05 pm  
Blogger Polish Solidarity with Denmark said...

Aeneas, thank you! Great that you interrupted your voayge and sailed into the rally. No matter how we evaluate it, we have made the first move, we have taken the first step in the crawling fight for freedom of expression. Also great news about Rahman's release. I just hope that dark forces of sharia won't murder him as sonn as he steps outside the jail.
I love your comments as well and (braeking your copy rights ;-)?) I am going to quote it on one of my regular reading list websites.

7:38 pm  
Blogger RosaCassells said...

what an unholy alliance - Peter Tatchell & the BNP!

Nevermind, the pitiful turnout says it all - seems people who actually cherish free speech don't believe in jumping on an Islamophobic bandwagon in order to make the point.

A 'good start' it was not - just goes to show that thousands and thousands of people around the UK will march under the banner of 'Defend the Muslim Community' (as was the case last Saturday) and only a handful will come to a divisive Muslim-bashing rally.

Tatchell calling on the police to 'stop being afraid of upsetting the Muslim community, they are not above the law' was simply outrageous. The police are certainly NOT afraid of upsetting Muslims, in fact quite the contrary. Muslims are stopped and searched more than any other group in the UK. They are locked up in Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons, packed off to Guantanamo Bay or threatened with extradition to the US with no evidence of wrongdoing. Tatchell can get lost with his divisive and racist bile - he should work for one of the right-wing rags with that sort of attitude.

8:34 pm  
Blogger jonz said...

Thanks for organising this Peter.

I am being asked if this will be repeated? That's the first rally I've been to, and quite a few others said the same. Had a great time and would love to do it again.

drunkenblogging.blogspot.com

9:23 pm  
Blogger mostazaf said...

Ismaeel said...
Yes "Javaid" u teach me a lesson or two, the pathetic impersonation of a "Muslim" by a BNP supporter is really really poor, in fact laughable

Listen Ismaeil f*** your BNP - to hell with them. And stop your personal inquisitioning and ad hominem. Who the h*** are you to question my sincerety? Who gives you the right to label posters on this board? Is this more Islamic type debate? To attack the person? It's none of your friggin business. Get a life, or get out.

Goh xordi ahmaqe nafahm. Be tow che hammal? Oon peyqambare jakesheto midam sag begaye, fahmidi korreh olaq?

10:25 pm  
Blogger mostazaf said...

Ismaeel said... "
Yes "Javaid" u teach me a lesson or two, the pathetic impersonation of a "Muslim" by a BNP supporter is really really poor, in fact laughable "


Ismaeel, what makes you think that all Muslims are of the same mind, brainlessly supporting Islamic doctrine and a pedophile prophet?

Your racist remark against all Muslims is pathetic.

Are you implying that since blasphemy is a capital punishment in Islam and Shariah law, then that should force all Muslims to be of the same agreeable mind?

That dissenters have to be by necessity the agents of fascists? Well the only fascists I see around here are those who wish to eliminate Muslim dissenters by engaging in ad hominem.

10:35 pm  
Blogger Paul Bell said...

Thanks for organising this event. It was a great event, even if the police were gting ready to be fitted for their new "Thought Police" uniforms. We can no longer no nothing. Thanks again.

Paul Bell
www.paulbell.org

10:42 pm  
Blogger mostazaf said...

Voltaire writes: "Rend Shakir made a nuanced and complex case for tolerance and freedom. "

Let us deconstruct some of these abused terminology:

In Islamist jargon, "tolerance" means "if you do not tolerate my self-righteous sanctities which I deem to be beyond all criticism, then I will not tolerate your enlightened "human rights" either, and will attack jews, dissenters and others, and spew racist, discriminatory and violent hatred.

In other words, "tolerance" means "extortion". True to the character of the Prophet, who in his early years was a shakedown bandit and enforcer in Medina.

Voltaire's "nuanced and complex" means, "I fail to rationally understand the issues behind such self-sanctimonious yearnings, and therefore, there must be something profound and meaningful about it."

10:57 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

> Goh xordi ahmaqe nafahm. Be tow
> che hammal? Oon peyqambare
> jakesheto midam sag begaye,
> fahmidi korreh olaq?

I've no idea what that means, but I've been having a quiet snigger for about two minutes now!

Go Mostazaf! Go!

Would you like me to hold your coat?

11:18 pm  
Blogger TheFriendlyInfidel said...

I would like to think that Mostazaf's point is that Islam is bigger than the prophet himself.

But what do I know, I'm only an infidel and a friendly one at that.

11:20 pm  
Blogger extabgrad said...

I was disappointed by the turnout. But I got the impression that apathy, rather than other political shenanigans, was the reason for it. I told lots of people about the rally and I knew others who had heard about it from elsewhere. The impression I got was that most weren't aware there was an issue to be fought; and others believed that endorsing the right to offend was risking endorsing offensive speech. This is the kind of wrong-thinking it may take a long time to break through, but the rally made a start. Note that whether or not cartoons could be brought was irrelevant to all these people, as far as they were concerned the rally would be about protecting free speech, not asserting the right to express one particular point exclusively.

I think a rally where the cartoons are displayed should probably be held, but it would be a very different kind of rally, one where the threat of violence would be real and the level of militancy higher. This is not the kind of rally I wanted to go to. I wanted to go to hear speeches and show solidarity, to get actively involved in the debate. This is, after all, a debate. If Muslims genuinely think their lives, or their souls or whatever, are at risk from these cartoons even existing - well, we can't combat that just by telling them flatly that they're wrong because there isn't any god in the first place and certainly not one as petulant and infantile as that. We have to have a debate.

If our free speech really was causing physical harm to their 'souls' then there must be a discussion about which right takes precedence. It is very similar to the debate over smoking law, the right to be free to smoke vs the right to be free from smoke. The health lobby had to show that there was damage being done to people's physical health. The Muslim lobby must show there's genuine damage being done to theirs. It's debate.

I had a great time and I was very moved by many of the speakers. In particular Labi Shiffre's unscheduled speech was beautiful and poignant. I hope I can get a transcript of his, and indeed all the speeches. Will this be possible? What about audio?

Joss
tabtasm.blogspot.com

1:42 am  
Blogger Admiral Allan Ackbar said...

As soon as Sayyida Rend Shakir started equivocating I decided she wasnt even worth heckling. Other than a brief "aaaaah diddums" to her impassioned plea for the hurt feelings of the poor lickle islamobigots. I decided that TonyBlair/Swastika/SupermanGuy deserved more of an audience & cheered him on instead.

Her stuff about enforcing the aggressive peace of the Moslem made me quite sick and was pleased that her comments were met with a dignified silence. I may not agree with what she says, but I would vigorously defend her right to f*ck right off.

Rent-a-gob Peter Tatchell seemed to kind of miss the point somewhat, calling for the dissolution of the C of E and to insult the queen. I think you are batting for the wrong side there Peter...

Perhaps I shouldnt have started so negatively. Maryum Namazie was inspirational. I didnt catch the name of the black man who spoke of our duty to offend and insult - he was also excellent.

A shockingly poor turnout though, it must be said. On the plus side, I went for a drink with some great people I met afterwards - something I havent done following the previous anti-toon demos.

11:27 am  
Blogger Admiral Allan Ackbar said...

Reply to Juan Golblado:

"I suppose I wish it will. Obviously I have some emotional attachment to even a naive but well intentioned push under the banner of freedom of expression. Where the overall atmosphere is one in which people seem to be overwhelmed with a need not to offend, I don't see what role I can play. So that is reason to leave it."

C'mon - Work it out Juan Man - the answer to De-fensive PC madness is to be off-ensive. Say what they dont want you to say. Express. Freely. Not just an individual liberty, an individual duty. Dont be a cop out. WTF BS part of America did you live in and what kind of Yank are ya that dont even know how or dont have the cojones to be truly offensive? Re-read your own post to see the massive contradiction / tautological error in what you are saying.

AAA

11:46 am  
Blogger Admiral Allan Ackbar said...

Holy s*** - just saw the above post - I didnt even recognize, the guy whose name I didnt catch...

Labi Siffre!!!
I'm off to find his website & post some adulatory comments, join his fan club.

11:56 am  
Blogger demolitionred said...

I was shocked at the tiny turnout for this rally. While we can argue and fight over why that was and who was to blame, I'd rather be part of a movement that was finding new and better ways to spread the word.

There are many quite terrifying pieces of legislation in the pipeline or currently passing through the HoC.

If people are aware, they feel too daunted to do anything.

Bitching and in-fighting isn't going to give them heart.

Lets please move on. If not we'll be telling the next generation in hushed tones that we nearly did something.


I'd rather be with them on the streets outside the HoP discussing freedoms we maintained or won back.


please keep focussed on what we have to do.

12:23 pm  
Blogger British National Party member said...

censorship on a blog organising a free speech rally.

Well done.

11:26 pm  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Screw the BNP - YOU FUCK

10:53 am  
Blogger Anonymous said...

And BNP Member:-

No wonder you complain about censorship - it affects your ability to spread your purile message. Glad you're pissed off - it's a very good sign that Voltaire did something right.

You were going to use the march for your sick aims weren't you?

10:55 am  

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