The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders intends to travel to London next week after an immigration tribunal ruling overturned a ban on visiting Britain.
The Home Office said it was disappointed after the tribunal rejected its claim that his presence could “inflame community tensions and lead to inter-faith violence”.
The Freedom party leader immediately announced his intention to meet Ukip’s Lord Pearson of Rannoch to discuss a showing of his anti-Islamic film Fitna later this month in the House of Lords.
Judge CMG Ockelton, who chaired the tribunal, said that Wilders’s opinions were expressed strongly and in a way that was bound to cause offence but that the right of freedom of expression was important in a democratic society.
“Substantial evidence of actual harm would be needed before it would be proper for a government to prevent the expression and discussion of matters that might form the opinions of legislators, policy makers and voters,” he said.
The ruling said there had been no evidence of public order problems or damage to community relations as a result of a previous visit by Wilders to Britain. “It was more important to allow free speech than to take restrictive action speculatively,” said Ockelton.
The judgment goes further, saying that even if there were evidence that Wilders posed a threat to public order it would still not have been necessary to ban him because the police would have been able to ensure no disorder took place and remove him if there was trouble.
See also BBC News, 13 October 2009
Update: Ed West writes: “Wilders has called it ‘fantastisch nieuws”, and I for one agree.” After all, “Wilders for his part has never preached hatred against any people, only a religion”.
West concedes that Wilders “has talked about a growing Islamic population with dread. He said: ‘Take a walk down the street and see where this is going. You no longer feel like you are living in your own country. There is a battle going on and we have to defend ourselves. Before you know it there will be more mosques than churches’.”
But Wilders is not inciting fear and hatred against Muslims, you understand, only against their faith.