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Prime Minister Theresa May questioned over Smith ban

Prime Minister Theresa May questioned over Smith ban

It’s good to see free speech advocates vigorously fighting back against the ludicrous suspensions imposed on Olympic gymnasts Louis Smith and Luke Carson for mocking Islamic prayer.

A petition has been launched calling for the ban to be lifted, and yesterday in parliament Tory MP Charles Walker, above, accused politicians of having “looked the other way” over the reaction to Smith’s conduct.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, he told MPs:

When people make fun of Christianity in this country, it rightly turns the other cheek.

When a young gymnast, Louis Smith, makes fun of another religion widely practised in this country, he is hounded on Twitter by the media and suspended by his association.

For goodness sake, this man received death threats and we have all looked the other way.

My question to the Prime Minister is this: what is going on in this country because I no longer understand the rules?

In response, Theresa May said a “balance” needed to be found between “freedom of expression” and “tolerance” for religions, but the Prime Minister reminded Mr Walker of the “responsibility” that comes with free speech.

I understand the level of concern that you have raised in relation to this matter. This is a balance that we need to find.

We value freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this country – that is absolutely essential in underpinning our democracy.
But we also value tolerance to others. We also value tolerance in relation to religions.

This is one of the issues that we have looked at in the counter-extremism strategy that the Government has produced.

I think we need to ensure that yes it is right that people can have that freedom of expression, but in doing so that right has a responsibility too.

And that is a responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance to others.

Louis Smith

Louis Smith

The petition described Smith’s ban by British Gymnastics as “utterly absurd”.

It adds:

Firstly, regardless of whether he was mocking Islam or not, why does that constitute a ban? It is not illegal nor is it wrong to criticise or mock any religion, especially since this is meant to be a democratic country. Not to mention, he and his friend were clearly joking and meant no harm or offence by his actions, something that was reflected by how he subsequently apologised for his behaviour.

As such, it seems ridiculous to ban Smith after such actions, especially considering all he has contributed to British sport throughout his career. This is an injustice and it’s time we act against it.

The issue was also raised on Talk Radio UK yesterday when Benjamin Jones, Communications Officer for the National Secular Society said that Muslims are trying to put themselves into a “special category” where they can’t be mocked.

Jones said he believes the code of conduct mapped out by British Gymnastics needs to change, as they are “bowing down” to a “large number of Muslims” who are trying to make mockery a “cultural taboo”.

Jones also believes this cultural taboo suggests “Islam is trying to put itself into a special category,” whilst other religions in this country:

Accept that religion is not in a special category that can’t be criticised or mocked.

The NSS has also written an open letter to British Gymnastics calling it to reverse the Smith’s two-month suspension.

NSS President Terry Sanderson said in the letter British Gymnastics “has contributed to a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views” of religious extremists.

Rather than defending free expression, one of the most precious pillars of our liberal democratic society, you have chosen instead to side with extremists and patronise British Muslims by assuming they will take offence at the trivial actions of these two athletes.

British Gymnastics’ condemnation and punishment of Louis Smith and Luke Carson will only serve to embolden the religious extremists who reject free speech and religious tolerance by demanding that Islam must not be mocked.

Sanderson added:

We urge you to consider whether by taking the actions it has, British Gymnastics has further endangered the safety of these two athletes by giving succour to those who seek to silence all criticism and mockery of their religion.

14 responses to “Prime Minister Theresa May questioned over Smith ban”

  1. Barty says:

    Islam is dangerous … go look at what is going on everywhere tainted with islam.

    Mockery is to islam is like a stake through the heart of a vampire. Shy away from mockery in the face of violence and you are casting away free speech and democracy.

  2. Barty says:

    In response, Theresa May said a “balance” needed to be found between “freedom of expression” and “tolerance” for religions, but the Prime Minister reminded Mr Walker of the “responsibility” that comes with free speech.

    WRONG … free speech is the cornerstone of democracy. The balance is in the hands of the pious to tolerate criticism and mockery and then get over it. It is religion that comes with responsibility … responsibility to tolerate the rights and freedoms of non believers and believers in other faiths. No religious person has the right to resort to DEATH THREATS just because his faith is a source of amusment. Are your feelings hurt? Tough, grow up, get over it and get on with your prayers and ablutions. Want to live in a country where you are free to follow your faith? Then learn to laugh at yourself and get in line. Trouble is the as the execrable AK said “There is no joy in islam … islam is deadly serious. Muslims have a long way to go and if they carry on like this then they are going to have a long hard struggle on the hands.

  3. Trevor Blake says:

    “And that is a responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance to others.”

    … unless it is islam that is being casually mocked, in which case no tolerance to the one who mocks is to be offered.

  4. zombiehunter says:

    Theresa may is one of those “I believe in free speech BUT…..” types

    so she doesn’t believe in free speech at all

  5. AgentCormac says:

    As a society we are standing here, paralysed by fear and political correctness, watching these hatemongers take away our freedom of speech from under our very noses. Petition duly signed.

  6. L.Long says:

    What is so mocking about point your ass at heaven and showing your gawd that you are not only an ahole, but you have one!?!?!??!

  7. I myself have always wanted to receive an online ‘death threat’. Do other readers have any advice on how I can I can go about getting one? (To receive a death threat from you-know-who for insulting their Prophet would however be far too easy to achieve and–to be honest–would also be a bit of a let down.)

  8. What on earth does Louis have on his hands in the photograph above? Anthrax? Have the religious fanatics reached him already? Nothing in the least can surprise me in such dangerous times as these.

  9. StephenJP says:

    I am glad to see that there is a good deal of pushback across the media against the absurd and repressive stance taken by the British Gymnastic Association. The Grauniad and the Torygraph both have articles to that effect today, as does The Times, by Matthew Syed, himself an Olympian. Unfortunately it is behind Murdoch’s paywall; it concludes: “When an Olympic athlete can be prevented from participating in the sport that he loves for having the temerity to mock an institutionalised superstition, freedom itself is in danger”. Bravo!

  10. 1859 says:

    I have a feeling – and someone please correct me if I’m wrong – that there are two words that do NOT exist in Arabic – one is ‘satire’ and the other is ‘comedy’. And so when these two words are combined to create the concept of ‘satirical comedy’ or ‘comical satire’, there is probably more chance of frying an egg on the moon than of an Arab speaker understanding their meaning. They would no doubt enjoy custard-pie comedy, but anything that remotely challenges their preconceptions or prejudices – forget it. Islam can’t laugh at itself.

  11. ‘Comedy’ in Arabic is ‘al-shah-wadi wadi’ and ‘satire’ is ‘el-khasi’.

  12. 1859 says:

    Thanks for this. But does ‘al-shah wadi wadi el-khasi’, or el-khasi al-shah wadi wadi’ exist?
    But what a profound indictment of a culture ? Even though, according to MFR, the word ‘comedy’ and ‘satire’ exist, islam is still not able to laugh at itself.

  13. chrsbol says:

    @1859
    Could be MFR was mocking Islam.
    Showaddywaddy the band and khasi=toilet. Death threats to follow.Unless these words actually do exist,in which case I will need to visit some mosques and be retuned.

  14. 1859 says:

    @chrsbol: Ahh I suspected as much! MFR is indulging in a bit of shady toilet humour! What a slippery fish MFR is!