Recently there have been a spate of free speech controversies, from Phil Robertson's temporary suspension from Duck Dynasty for comments made on homosexuality and race, to the resignation of Firefox CEO Brandon Eich over a political donation made six years ago in support of traditional marriage, to the revocation of an honorary degree and cancellation of a commencement speech to be delivered by human rights activist and Muslim apostate Hirsi Ali at Brandeis University for critical statements on Islam.
But Americans can take heart that they are not subjected to the stringent speech laws of Great Britain, where an event transpired this past weekend that takes the cake when it comes to censorship.
Paul Weston, a member of the GB Liberty Party, and current candidate for the South East England constituency of the European Union Parliament, delivered a speech in Winchester, a part of his constituency, in which he quoted from Winston Churchill's 1899 book, "The River War: An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan." In particular, Weston quoted Churchill on the topic of Islam. As a result of his speech (and his refusal to stop speaking), Weston was arrested.
Here is the passage that Weston quoted from Churchill's book on the steps of Winchester Guildhall during the afternoon of April 26th, while addressing a group of passers-by on the street via megaphone:
"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.
The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities - but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome."
As the Liberty Party press release on Weston's arrest noted, following this portion of his remarks:
"Reportedly a woman came out of the Guildhall and asked Mr Weston if he had the authorisation to make this speech. When he answered that he didn’t, she told him "It's disgusting!" and then called the police.
Six or seven officers arrived. They talked with the people standing nearby, asking questions about what had happened. The police had a long discussion with Mr Weston, lasting about 40 minutes.
At about 3pm he was arrested. They searched him, put him in a police van and took him away."
We reached out to Mr. Weston for details on what transpired via email, and he wrote [with slight grammar modifications ours, and a link inserted per Weston's email]:
"I was initially arrested because my words were likely to cause "distress" to those listening. I was told to move on, or face arrest for breaching a "Section 27 Dispersal Notice." When I refused to stop speaking I was arrested under this article, and taken to Winchester (in the county of Hampshire) police station and locked up for several hours.
I was then "re-arrested" in the police station after the police had made "enquiries" and charged with a "Section 4 Racially Aggravated crime" under the Public Order Act, which carries a potential sentence of 2 years imprisonment."
We contacted the Winchester police station for any details and/or comments, and will update accordingly.
Churchill's "The River War," from which Weston quoted, is a historical account of Great Britain's re-conquest of the Sudan during the Mahdist War, in which Churchill participated as a member of the British Army. It includes his views on not only Islam, but the British attitude toward the war, modern weaponry at such time and Churchill's critiques of his superiors, among other topics.
Weston's invocation of Churchill in his criticism of Islam is consistent with the Liberty Party's views on the religion, as reflected in its Manifesto:
"Liberty GB considers the threat of Islamist extremism in the 21st century to be comparable to that of Nazism in the 20th century. This is not driven by a racial/religious dislike of Muslims, but by the knowledge of the violent and expansionist history of Islam driven by the Koranic verses laid out by the prophet and warlord Mohammed."
The Manifesto goes on to propose a number of associated legal, immigration, cultural/social, financial, religious and foreign affairs policies, "In order to protect our [Great Britain's] traditional liberal democracy and the rights of women, homosexuals, Christians, Jews, non-Muslims and all those threatened by a resurgence of militant Islam."
Weston, for his part, is no stranger to controversy, as echoed in a number of politically incorrect videos he has posted to Youtube, including his most-watched video, with over 220,000 views, "My name is Paul Weston, and I am a racist."