SPEAKERS’ Corner in Hyde Park is the oldest free speech platform in the world. Many famous, and some infamous, people have spoken at the venue and it's It been a free speech venue since the days of public hanging when the condemned could make a final speech from the gallows of nearby Tyburn.
Speakers' Corner was enshrined in law. An Act of Parliament in 1842 set aside this London space for public speaking and Since then speakers of every type and persuasion have been able to go there and sound off, present their arguments and counter arguments. George Orwell called it "one of the minor wonders of the world" whilst Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Oswald Mosley among others have spoken there, completely free to do so.
But Speakers' Corner is no longer a space for all. Last month a Christian preacher was removed by police and held in custody overnight before finally being released without charge. A Christian preacher, in a Christian country, speaking at a venue enshrined in law for the very act of free speech. Her 'crime'? She criticised Islam.
The Preacher, Hatun Tash, regularly preaches at Speakers’ Corner. According to those who have witnessed her speak, she is very well informed regarding Islamic apologetics and is expert in engaging in the cut-and-thrust of debate that traditionally occurs there. Although a relatively small woman, she has a strong presence and refuses to be intimidated by the crowds of mostly Muslim men who surround and heckle her every time she speaks.
Last year, in a separate incident, Hatun was frog-marched out of Speakers’ Corner by police because she was 'being critical of Islam'. Before the latest incident she had been warned that there were Muslims who wanted to kill her and that it was therefore dangerous for her to attend Speakers’ Corner and openly criticise Islam. But undeterred, Hatun refused to give in to intimidation, remembering that she was in a Christian country, espousing Christian views in the location set aside by parliament. Even though she has been physically assaulted she continues to preach there every week.
More incredibly, Hatun used to be a Muslim herself, and spent the first 27 years of her life in a Muslim country, so she knows it from the inside. She's talking from a position of knowledge, something that appears to wrangle her enemies even more. Hatun may be deliberately provocative, as is traditional at Speakers’ Corner but she has broken no UK law. She has not called for violence against those she mistrusts, and she hasn't slandered anyone, including Mohamed himself.
In September the supposed offence which led to Hatun being escorted from Speakers’ Corner was showing a copy of the Qur’an with holes drilled through it as a visual aid to point out that there are holes in the narrative around the Qur’an. she'd put some holes in a book and that was enough to get her forcibly removed from the area. An area that some of the world's most toxic and bigoted people have been free to speak at unmolested by the law.
We know that no other book with holes in it, including the Bible, would cause any problems, and no other book ever published would demand police intervention for its mistreatment.
Only if we are in effect enforcing sharia law would the display of a damaged Qur’an be considered an offence worthy of police intervention.
Last Sunday Hatun was wearing a T-shirt bearing a cartoon of Muhammad. Again, no UK law has been broken, cartoons are not against the law. A few marks on paper by a felt tip cannot be against the law. And Cartoons of any other figure, including religious figures, are clearly within the bounds of free speech. It was, however, too much for the 50-strong mob of Muslim men who surrounded Hatun, threatening her with violence and attempting to shout her down. Whilst the mob of Muslim men threatened, intimidated and abused the tiny woman in broad daylight, the police did absolutely nothing to stop them. Clearly, by their lack of any action to ensure the woman's safety or to protect her fundamental right to free speech, there of all places, the police were already taking sides.
The mob of Muslim men who gather at speakers' corner have, effectively taken it over. It is now a no-go area for anyone not quoting from the Qur'an in the most glowing of terms. If, as has been suggested, Hatun was removed from Speakers’ Corner this time as a means of protecting her from violence there would have been no need for her to be detained overnight and those threatening her would have been detained and questioned instead. No, Hatun was treated like a criminal, for 'offending' Muslims with a cartoon of Mohammed. The Police had received information that a hate-crime had been committed and swooped in to arrest the woman.
Baroness Warsi may be of the opinion that prejudice against Muslims is the last acceptable prejudice. This may be true of trendy dinner parties in Hampstead and Notting Hill, but in the real world it is evident that Muslims are a protected class in today’s Britain, not to be questioned, criticised, or challenged in any way, Worst still, they appear to have control over the police who obligingly arrest anyone who they have been offended by.
Criticism of Cressida Dick, the highest ranking officer in the Met, has been well founded. Her Common Purpose training has brainwashed her into believing that Muslims are a 'special case' and that any criticism of Islam is a Hate Crime. Whilst Sadiq Khan has abused his powers as London Mayor to push Sharia Law as an alternative to UK law. Both of them pick and choose which laws to apply and which not to.