I hadn’t heard of Revd Dr Alan Clifford before Norwich City Council banned him from having a stall in the because of his booklet about of Islam. I don’t know how large his congregation in the Norwich Reformed Church is, but the 1,000 hits his latest video-sermon gained in one day presumably enlarges it.Like others in the English Defence League I find it hard to agree with everything Revd Clifford says, eg about homosexuality. He himself probably isn’t a member of the EDL LGBT Division. But that’s the cornerstone of free society – an acceptance that people who disagree with you aren’t necessarily wrong. To put it only slightly differently, healthy democracy demands we recognise that disagreeing with a viewpoint doesn’t warrant banishment of the dissenter.
Suppression of dissenting voices always ends badly. To give an obvious example, when Winston Churchill was relegated to political Siberia in the 1930s because of his visceral opposition to appeasing fascists, Europe lost its last best hope for peace. If he’d been given his head and allowed help put together an expeditionary force when the Nazis were still weak, millions of British, German, Russian and of course Jewish lives might have been saved.J’Accuse, his letter condemning French President Félix Fauré on the anti-Semitic arrest of Richard Dreyfus on charges of treason. The French establishment’s pursuit of Zola strengthened the hands of anti-Semites, and contributed to the meat-grinder awaiting 2 generations down the line.
It’s not insignificant that Revd Clifford accuses the one person who complained about Why Not Islam – a complaint that the police rightly rejected – was himself spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric. Why was this person not banned? Are we sleepwalking towards another meat-grinder? Suppression of dissenting voices always ends badly.
Watch Dr Clifford's video sermon below or click here to watch it on YouTube