The controversial Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi has been refused a visa to visit Britain.
The Home Office said the UK would not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify acts of terrorist violence.
During his last visit in 2004, Dr Al-Qaradawi defended suicide attacks on Israelis as "martyrdom in the name of God", during a BBC interview.
Dr Al-Qaradawi applied for the visa eight months ago, so that he could receive medical treatment in Britain.
Reacting to the decision, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) called it deplorable, and said the government had caved in to unreasonable demands spearheaded by the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron.
Inayat Bunglawala of the MCB said the decision had "worrying implications for freedom of speech".
"Whatever one may think of some of Qaradawi's views, the way forward is surely to allow them to be aired and then, if appropriate, to challenge them openly."
You know, calls for free speech always sound so much more convincing when made by people who don't have a track record of trying to suppress the free speech of others. As I have previously noted, Bunglawala was an enthusiastic supporter of the restrictions imposed on free speech by the Religious Hatred Act, and was among those calling for the laws against "inciting racial hatred" to be expanded in scope after Nick Griffin's acquittal. Why is it that Bunglawala thinks that Qaradawi's opinions should be challenged and debated, but that Griffin's should be silenced?
Furthermore, it is almost universally accepted that the right to free speech does not extend to the right to incite others to criminality, which is what Qaradawi certainly came very close to doing, when he sought to justify acts of mass murder.
In any event, this is not really a free speech issue. Qaradawi is not having any of his human rights violated: there is no right to be granted a visa to enter the UK, and the question of a right to exercise free speech here only arises once someone has arrived here. Accordingly, it is perfectly reasonable for the government to make this decision based solely on the question of whether or not his presence would be beneficial.
Last week Mr Cameron called Dr Al-Qaradawi "dangerous and divisive", and called on the government not to allow him an entry visa.Well said Cameron. Not something I say a lot, but when set against the likes of Inayat Bunglawala, even Call Me Dave comes up smelling of roses.
"This decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture", said Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council.Well, that tells you rather a lot about the Muslim world, doesn't it? As I wrote in my last post, there are very few shared values between them and us.
He said Dr Al-Qaradawi was respected as a scholar throughout the Islamic world.
He's right about it sending the wrong message about "the state of British society and culture", though. This is, after all, an unusually tough response on the part of the government to Islamic extremists, and as such sends a rather misleading message. The more usual response to such people is to stick them on a government taskforce.
Mohammed Shafiq, from Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation, criticised the decision.
He said: "We've had figures like Nick Griffin and the BNP operating freely and promoting violence towards ethnic minorities, and nothing is done.
"This smacks of double standards, and will isolate Muslim communities further."
So far as I am aware, there is no evidence that Nick Griffin, or the BNP as a party, has ever promoted violence towards anyone, and certainly not towards non-whites in general. Nor is it accurate to say that "nothing is done". As Shafiq might recall, Nick Griffin, and his associate Mark Collett, were twice brought to trial on charges of "inciting racial hatred" (a crime which is itself a restriction on free speech). The police and CPS have hardly shown themselves to be averse to prosecuting Mr Griffin: on the contrary, they seem all too keen to do it.
Indeed, the only cases that I can think of in which people have openly incited violence and got away with it have involved Muslims. I am thinking in particular of the police response to last year's television programme, Undercover Mosque. As readers will no doubt recall, that programme featured Islamic clerics inciting a variety of crimes, including murder. And yet the response of the police was to investigate the possibility of having the film-makers charged with "inciting racial hatred", before making a complaint about the programme to the media regulator, Ofcom (a complaint which was subsequently rejected). So, while there may well be double standards, it doesn't look like they are operating against Muslims.
It should also be noted, once again, that Qaradawi has no right to enter the UK, and, as such, cannot have a right to exercise free speech here. Nick Griffin, by contrast, is a British citizen, and does, therefore, have the right to live here, and to exercise free speech here. As, indeed, do the likes of Bunglawala, Bari, and Shafiq. Considering the above, I have to say that Shafiq's remarks, based as they are on a possibly libellous accusation, a misleading comparison, and a falsehood so severe that it completely inverts the truth, serve only to demonstrate the utter weakness of Muslim claims that they are being oppressed and discriminated against.
Anyway, Qaradawi isn't coming, and, as an added bonus, we may also be getting shot of Abu Hamza pretty soon. Now, if only we could find someone willing to take Rowan Williams...