Universities, at least to my mind, should be places where different ideas are discussed. They should be places where people, especially young people, learn about different political, social and religious views and where they fit into the life of the world. The academic life should include passing on received wisdom from the past and also have space for curiosity and discovery, as well as learning how to formulate and to express the ideas, philosophy and facts that a person has taken on board. What universities and other institutions of higher learning should not be, is the home of a monothought, Leftist, clique that shuts out those other views which are unpalatable to those on the Left, or to Islamists.
The founder and former leader of the English Defence League was recently invited to speak at several British universities. As well he should be. Anyone who has viewed his speech to the Oxford Union or his recent speech to the Pegida demonstration in Dresden will realise that here is a person who not only has something valuable to say, but also says it in an engaging and intelligent way. Someone who speaks well on subjects that may be outside the experiences of the students (and some of the academics as well I might add) is exactly the right person to be invited to give a talk. Some may say that Mr Robinson is ‘controversial’ but surely the best place to air and discuss controversial subjects is in a university, a place of learning? A speaker should be able to speak freely, knowing his audience will listen and debate his views with him, not shout him down or physically attack him. Are his views really so dangerous that people will be converted to his way of thinking as soon as they hear him? Are the students so unable to think and reason that they have no comeback except personal abuse and physical attacks on him?
The right of students and academics to hear differing views has been compromised by the actions of students and university authorities as Mr Robinson has been banned from speaking at both Edinburgh and Durham Universities. Brietbart London exclusively reported yesterday that an invitation to speak at Durham university on the subject of freedom of speech and how policing has become overly politicised, has been withdrawn. Brietbart said that the president of the Student Union at Durham had withdrawn the invitation, in the light of the speech that Mr Robinson gave in Dresden. This is a very weak excuse and appears to be just as politically motivated as some of the policing that Mr Robinson was allegedly going to speak about.
Unlike some, who have jerked the knees without engaging their critical faculties, I have watched the speech at Dresden and, even as a former Left-winger, didn’t see much in it that would have been too objectionable. Yes, Mr Robinson described the ideology of Islam as a threat, but then a growing number of people are thinking the same way. It was obvious from the speech that Mr Robinson was not threatening individual Muslims with violence, only pointing out that no matter how good the average Muslim is, that doesn’t mean that there is nothing to worry about in Islam itself. Could it be that debating Islam without repeatedly shouting the word ‘religion of peace, religion of peace’ is now forbidden in British universities? It looks that way to me.
However, there are other parts of the speech that are guaranteed to send Left wing, Islam-friendly student activists and academic staff into a tail spin and that is when he speaks about Israel. In his Dresden speech, Mr Robinson said that Jew-hatred was wrong and that Israel has a right to exist. Could it be that saying Jews have a right to live unmolested and to have a homeland which has so enraged the Leftist and Islamists in the Student Union? It would not surprise me if that was a factor in the ban. Politically-led Israel-hatred and Islam-led Jew hatred seems to be a growing problem in British higher and further education institutions.
Tommy Robinson should be heard, just as other people who speak on controversial issues should be allowed to do so. Universities have, at least in the recent past, been places where people have been free to discuss issues such as women’s rights, racism, politics, sexuality, gender and religion. I can see no valid reason why Mr Robinson should be banned from speaking at Durham or any other place of higher learning. What is so frightening about Mr Robinson’s beliefs that it warrants banning him? Is it because he is a person from outside the middle-class Leftist mindset that appears to dominate the British education system? Or could it be that those in that Leftist clique are concerned that Mr Robinson telling the truth about Islam will allow students to see through some of the lies that they have been previously taught about Islam?
Durham University have, according the Brietbart report, claimed that ‘security issues’ were causing the University and the Student Union some problems. However, such security issues didn’t seem to bother Durham when they hosted Islamic hatemongers such as IERA (Islamic Education and Research Academy) who provided a speaker, Yusef Chambers, who supports brutal punishments for sex outside of marriage and for homosexuality. It appears to me that someone like Chambers is far more dangerous, and is likely to make some minorities feel far more unsafe, than Mr Robinson ever could.
This is censorship pure and simple, and it can be shown to be so by the fact that Durham SU had not contacted Brietbart or, it seems, anyone else to point out exactly what is objectionable about the Dresden speech. It can also be shown to be censorship as the SU and the university authorities do not seem to have much problem with allowing appalling Islamists and closet and not-so-closet Jihad supporters such as Chambers to speak.
Britain’s students, and indeed the rest of us in the non-academic community, deserve better from universities and student organisations. They and we all, should to be able to hear and see Tommy Robinson speak, uninterrupted by violent Muslims or violent Leftists, provided he does not infringe any laws.
Support Tommy Robinson’s right to speak, because if you don’t stand up for his rights today, the Left and the Islamists will be taking away your rights to speak tomorrow.
Don’t let tomorrow belong to the censorious or the liars or to those who wish to impose their views with violence, let freedom of speech within the law ring loud, proud and clear. It is not enough for that freedom to apply only to those with whom we agree, it is fundamental to our democracy that it applies to those with whom we disagree too. An institution of learning should be a place where unpopular views can be heard and challenged by means of reasoned debate, not silenced for fear of upsetting people.
I stand with Tommy Robinson on his right to speak, whether people agree with him or his views or not.
Report from Brietbart on the banning of Tommy Robinson from Durham
A Leftist take on the same story from the Huffington Post
Student newspaper ‘The Tab’ on the proposed speech by Tommy Robinson at Durham
Tommy Robinson’s speech to the PEGIDA rally in Dresden, Germany