On the 7th January earlier this year, when three perpetrators caused the deaths of 17 innocent lives, we were quick to band behind France. We were quick to defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to freedom of expression, and quick to shame these terrorists for trying to curtail Charlie Hebdo’s right to express their opinions, no matter how controversial. Je suis Charlie Hebdo for weeks after the attacks was our nationwide motto, but since then that sentiment has languished.
The fight to defend freedom of speech as curtailed as shown by when Oxford University banned a free speech magazine deemed to be to offensive, and when at the same university protests against the leader of the controversial right-wing National Front party in France, Marine le Pen took place in an attempt to prevent her from speaking. From petitions to ban Katie Hopkins to protesting against a stand-up act because said comedian because of her beliefs, it seems we have forgotten what it was we stood with Charlie Hebdo to defend proudly, freedom of expression. The next test has now presented itself with Donald Trump.
Donald Trump has odious opinions. From wanting a ban on Muslims, to building a “great wall” on the Mexico-United States border, the very fact that Trump is still seen as a reasonable candidate is a surprise to many. Donald Trump however is not a fringe candidate, rather the frontrunner for the Republican Party nominations. He is a candidate who has millions of supporters, and is at the forefront of American politics. Donald Trump is not a zealous, iconoclastic demagogue appearing once in a while on Newsnight. He isn’t the American Russell Brand, a so-called ‘revolutionary’ we can avoid, but rather Donald Trump is in the running to be the President of the United States and how we as a nation respond to Donald Trump and his controversial beliefs matters because he is here to stay for months to come.
Trump’s policies are bile, but they are a result of an even more toxic ideology, fuelled by a mixture of fear, xenophobia, islamophobia, intolerance and ignorance. When faced with Donald Trump, we stand our ground with pride. We don’t want to restrict freedoms and make rash decisions based on ignorance. We are tolerant and hold an ideology of peace. We stand in solidarity with Muslims and immigrants worldwide, and therefore we take on a responsibility in challenge Trump and his ideals. However in doing so one of the methods we have adopted is to attempt to ban Donald Trump from entering the UK, and said petition has raised over 560,000 signatures. Though appearing a strong, ideological position based at challenging Trump which shows how we value tolerance, it is the wrong way to show that we are against Trump.
We cannot argue that we are tolerant of people then ban Trump from entering the UK because we don’t tolerate him. It sends the message that we are only tolerant of those who agree with us and this is where the problem begins. Trump’s popularity partly stems from the fact that he comes across as brash and truthful. To his supporters, in a world of political correctness and leftist cultural Marxism, Trump is a beacon of hope, and if we ban Trump from entering the UK then we’ve only in their minds proved them right.
Trump represents freedom of speech, no matter how controversial, and to curtail freedom of speech because we disagree with him in the eyes of Trump supporters, gives him the moral high ground. If we defend Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of speech then attack Donald Trump’s right to speak his mind we’ve lost even more principle in a debate about principle. We are not going to be able to engage in a debate about Trump’s intolerance and harmful principles if we put ourselves in a position to seem intolerant and not principled.
We have to as a nation be willing to defend Trump’s right to speak his mind, but then apply our right to speak out against him. We have to engage in that debate against Trump and aim at proving why his supporters are wrong. If we don’t want to bolster Trump’s position and don’t want to see him in power, we can’t block him out. We rather have to let him in and let him know that we do not stand for what he believes in. Banning Trump from entering the UK would be a grave mistake, and if we do want to stand against Trump, it would be a terrible thing to do.
words by Conrad Kunadu