I write in the aftermath of Tommy Robinson being dispatched to prison at lightning speed and with restrictions still in place when it comes to reporting on “the case” such that in order to find out what is happening one needs to look outside the UK. I have already said a lot of what I wanted to say in my earlier “Tommy Robinson arrested for ‘breaching the peace’” article. Yet there remains several loose ends to tie up, especially when it comes to providing some historical context to what actually did take place.
Opinions are sharply divided as to the rightness or otherwise of Tommy Robinson (aka Stephen Lennon) being deprived of his freedom. Some see him as a criminal who simply broke the law (reporting on a trial when explicitly banned from doing so) and since he is a nasty piece of works – hooray! Others see this as a gross miscarriage of justice, reflecting a political system that is increasingly becoming authoritarian in its shutting down of free speech and is ignoring the Islamic threat, and with one “Free Tommy” petition now approaching half a million who have signed.
Like many, I have been aware of Tommy for some time and I was quite prepared to go with the flow in calling him out as a far right extremist, racist, Islamophobic bigot, and this view was reinforced when seeing him in action. When early last year the London Bridge terror attack took place, I was struck by a video rant by someone; I did not know who he was. While the authorities were pushing the narrative this was an isolated act by a deranged person, the ranter was making the point this was yet another example of Islamic terrorism that the inept authorities had partly contributed to because of their past inaction. It turned out this person was Tommy Robinson and I was defriended by at least two persons when I shared this on my Facebook page and later was criticized when I blogged: “Islamic terrorism – call it for what it is”.
In the past year I have read / watched a lot of stuff where Tommy featured, notably his speech to the Oxford Union telling his story (even then circumspectly given restrictions placed on him because of earlier run ins with the criminal justice system). Over that time my antipathy toward Tommy was replaced by admiration. There was little he said I disagreed with. The fact that he was saying something people needed to know and there would be a price to pay for speaking thus makes me feel justified in saying so. That doesn’t mean I agreed with all his actions for I don’t. His latest one that has just seen him sent straight to jail (do not past Go) is an example of possible lack of wisdom, although I wonder if we have come to a time when civil disobedience is needed, in the same vein as did Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and successfully.
The big weapon in the Tommy Robinson armory is his anti-Islam rhetoric – pointing out that a certain interpretation of Islam is something we should take seriously rather than simply going along with the narrative that Islam is a religion of peace. It should be said, I do not see him as anti-Muslim but I do see him as attacking the Islamic ideology that some Muslims embrace and that it is the practice of this ideology that has caused all sorts of problems in the British way of life. Because the authorities would rather not see these arguments publicly aired under the guise of curbing hate speech, Tommy has become an official target. I make these points as one who has done more than most to befriend Muslims and understand Islam, and proud to have a number of good Muslim friends, yet share many of the concerns that Tommy has raised.
One of the monumental scandals of recent years is that of sex grooming gangs operating in several English cities, targeting thousands of children and inflicting unspeakable crimes. Whether there has been official cover up or it is sheer incompetence, the scandal is that too little has happened too late to redress it. Over ten years ago, Tommy began to expose what was happening and was vilified, partly because he pointed out most of these crimes were carried out by Pakistani Muslim men, which was resisted by the politically correct establishment. for this and pointing out our freedom of speech is being eroded, rather than sending him to prison, he should be given an award for rendering a public service.
To say that I am angry and feel deep unease of what is happening and that friends I would expect better from are happy to have Tommy off the scene for at least a season, when they should be considering the issues that are at stake and venting their anger at a system that curtails free speech, ignores real danger and fails to protect children at risk, is maybe an understatement. I don’t believe this will go away soon and the rising tide of anger that our country is going in the wrong direction will only escalate. Besides warning of the dangers, my response is the only solution that will work is a Christian revival and right now we are in desperate need for one.