The Freedom To Offend


Bagehot responds to to the £50 fine imposed on a Muslim extremist, Emdadur Choudhury, after he burned Remembrance Day poppies and chanted anti-military slogans during a two-minute silence on Armistice Day last November 11th:

I am pretty uncomfortable with the idea that non-violent political protests can lead to criminal convictions in today's Britain. Judging by his actions and public declarations, Mr Choudhury is a nasty provocateur and possibly a religious maniac, emerging from court to brag that he could not care less about the death of British soldiers, that others would pay his fine for him, that he did not accept the authority of British law and acted for the "sake of Allah".

But I would still rather he had not been charged at all.

Me too. The same goes with charges (ultimately dropped) against a preacher in Cumbria inveighing against homosexuality on the sidewalk. Ditto Britain's banning of Fred Phelps compared with last week's First Amendment decision. Free speech is being chipped away in Britain and Europe. Thank the Founders - one more time - for the First Amendment.

(Photo: Emdadur Choudhury, Mohammad Haque and others take part in a protest as they leave Belmarsh Magistrates Court for lunch in south-east London on February 23, 2011. By Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)