If only Britain had something comparable to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution then we’d enjoy greater freedoms than is currently the case. Three cheers, then, to Bagehot for defending liberalism and liberty from the predations of the law and, naturally, the Sun newspaper.
The case? An easy one that might have been designed as a litmus or Rorshach test designed to discover who actually really believes in the "values" we like to congratulate ourselves for holding and those for whom such values and concerns are unimportant and may be abandoned at the first sign of trouble or the dreadful prospect that someone, somewhere is doing something of which you disapprove.
The Sun, never-knowingly under-jackbooted, whines:
What kind of deterrent is £50 to other Islamic fascists bent on sowing hate throughout Britain? How much longer must we tolerate their free speech over-ruling the sanctity of the Remembrance Day silence?
A lot longer I hope. Not least because the ability to tolerate (non-violent) acts you personally find distasteful is one measure of a civilised person or, as in this instance, a civilised society. Moreover, it is always entertaining to be given lessons on anti-fascism by tabloid newspapers, not least because one need have no doubt that the mentality that produces the average British tabloid would
Choudhary is an unpleasant piece of work but even dreadful types have rights and while his protest was crude, squalid and calculated to offend that should not be enough to convict him for what is, in the end, the crime of causing offence.
For that matter, the attention lavished upon Choudhary and his goonish pals by the Sun and others is just the kind of thing that pleases them. Better, surely, to treat them with the scorn they merit but retain a dignified and withering silence in the face of their witless provocations. Their aim is publicity and a society riven along religious lines. Why assist them in any way?
The contrast with the United States Supreme Court which recently upheld the right of the equally goonish, even ghoulish, Westboro Baptist Church to picket military funerals is as instructive as it is depressing since it casts speech-liberties in Britain in such an unflattering light. Of course, our solution to the Westboro "problem" is simply to deny them entry to the United Kingdom – a policy I favor no more than I approve of past efforts to exclude the likes of Geert Wilders from this blessed isle.