Originally posted at The Independent: Elizabeth Barrett reports on the efforts by campaigners in the UK to prevent pastor Terry Jones, better known for his (cancelled) International Burn a Quran day, from speaking in the UK.
While I completely disagree with Jones, the campaigners are wrong to attempt to prevent him from entering the country. Their efforts amount to censorship. Free speech must be allowed, even if we disagree with the speech.
Campaigners are calling for a controversial US pastor to be banned from entering Britain to share his views on Islam with far-right activists.
Terry Jones previously sparked condemnation by threatening to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
A statement on Jones’ website revealed the English Defence League had invited him to attend a rally on February 5 next year in Luton, Bedfordshire.
It said: “During the protest, Dr Terry Jones will speak against the evils and destructiveness of Islam in support of the continued fight against the Islamification of England and Europe.”
Anti-extremist group Hope not Hate condemned the move, saying Jones should be banned from the UK.
Its director Nick Lowles said: “Pastor Jones should not be allowed to set foot in the United Kingdom. Only extremists will benefit from his visit and, as we know, extremism breeds hatred and hatred breeds violence.
“It is yet another example of how the EDL exists only to sow the seeds of intimidation and division”.
“Hope not Hate is launching a petition to call for Jones to be banned from the UK.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”
It is understood Home Secretary Theresa May has the power to deport or exclude a person deemed to threaten people’s safety, national security or public order.
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: “Terry Jones is coming here to whip up Islamophobia and racism. We intend on calling a mass demonstration where everyone can oppose the growth of racism and fascism in this country.”
George Readings, a spokesman for counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam said: “Terry Jones is only coming to the UK to address a rally by the EDL, a far-right group whose protests have a track record of degenerating into violence. This suggests that his presence in the UK will not be conducive to the public good.”
“The EDL has only invited him here to stir up trouble.”