The very welcome ban on hate-mongers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer visiting the UK to join a disgusting publicity stunt planned by the English Defence League predictably had its critics. Equally predictably, one of them was Melanie Phillips.
“What on earth have we come to, after all, when the British Home Secretary is banning people on the basis that they criticise Islam and warn against jihadi violence?”, Phillips demanded indignantly. “Is this not exactly the menacing argument mounted by Islamic extremists, that any condemnation of Islamic extremism is to be banned as ‘Islamophobic’?”
Laying into Hope Not Hate for launching a petition calling for Geller and Spencer to be denied visas to enter the UK, Phillips claimed that HNH had “misrepresented and smeared them by claiming they called all Muslims savages (they did not)”.
This ignores the fact that the notorious advert placed by Geller and Spencer was just a paraphrase of Ayn Rand’s racist statement that she supported Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war on the grounds that Arabs “are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are.”
However, Phillips had a serious tactical criticism of Geller and Spencer, accusing them of undermining “the defence of the west against the Islamic jihad” by allying themselves with thugs and racists: “I do not support the approach taken by either Geller or Spencer to the problem of Islamic extremism. Both have endorsed groups such as the EDL and others which at best do not deal with the thuggish elements in their ranks and at worst are truly racist or xenophobic.”
For Robert Spencer, this was an act of betrayal. In an article for FrontPage Magazine he accused Phillips of “playing along” with “the Left and Islamic supremacists” in smearing and demonising the EDL. Spencer asserted: “In fact, the EDL has nothing racist or xenophobic about its platform, and removes such individuals from its ranks when they’re found. It is only ‘thuggish’ in that its members fight back when attacked by Islamic supremacists.” If Spencer genuinely believes that, you can only wonder what planet he lives on.
Just to give one recent example, at last month’s demonstration in Newcastle the EDL’s North East regional organiser Alan Spence, who stood beside Stephen Lennon on the platform, was heard to shout “Send the black cunts home” during the EDL leader’s speech, to loud applause from the crowd. Spence is a former BNP parliamentary candidate who was jailed in 2011 for leading a violent assault on a community centre where a left-wing meeting was due to be held. Yet the leaders of the EDL have made no attempt to remove Spence from its ranks. On the contrary, they are quite happy for this convicted thug to hold a prominent post in the organisation.
As for Robert Spencer’s assertion that he has no idea who Phillips could be talking about when she refers to the EDL “and others” who tolerate thuggery and promote racism and xenophobia (“What others?”, Spencer wants to know), we can’t say for certain which organisations Phillips had in mind. But it’s a fair bet that one of them is the Swedish Defence League, who hosted the so-called “First Worldwide Counter-Jihad Action” in Stockholm last year.