All right, the competition is over. Britain wins.
For years I thought that Britain's long tradition of open debate and individual liberty would enable it to stand up more firmly to the encroachments of Islam than other Western European countries. I worried more about the Netherlands, where Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh were murdered, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was hounded into exile, and Geert Wilders, a member of parliament, was put on trial -- and still is on trial this week -- for criticizing Islam in public. I worried more about Denmark, where Lars Hedegaard, a serious historian, was tried for criticizing Islam in the privacy of his own home, and where the Jyllands-Posten cartoon crisis caused riots. I worried about Norway, where people at the highest levels of government conspired to force an apology out of the editor of a tiny Christian periodical who had dared to reprint the Danish cartoons. I worried about France, where the suburbs of major cities were increasingly becoming sharia enclaves, and Sweden, where a cordon sanitaire was put around the one party that dared criticize that country's own steady Islamization.
But I was wrong. It is Britain that is falling fastest to Islam. It is Britain, our mother country, home of the Magna Carta, that is most firmly betraying its own history and values. It has already banned Robert Spencer, a serious and cogent American critic of Islam, from its shores, even as it lets in the looniest of sharia preachers. More recently, three other critics of Islam – American Brittany Pettibone, Austrian Martin Sellner, and Canadian Lauren Southern – were turned away by British border authorities.
Now, Tommy Robinson has been arrested – not for the first time. Born Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, he is a lifelong resident of Luton who helped found the English Defence League, which he left in 2013 because he disapproved of its focus on race rather than ideology; since then, he been involved with Quilliam, a reformist Muslim think tank; with the Canadian alternative-media group Rebel Media; and with Pegida UK, the British chapter of a German anti-Islam organization. Robinson has been an outspoken critic of Islam, and has been imprisoned several times, sometimes for relatively minor physical disturbances and other misdemeanors – he has admitted that he is no saint – and sometimes simply for speaking his mind. I have never met the man, but I have watched hours of interviews with him and other videos in which he does speak his mind, interviews others, and covers various events, and I must say that he comes off consistently as a decent man who is free of prejudice but legitimately concerned about Islam.
It is his concern about Islam that has made Robinson a target of British authorities. A few years ago, knowing his public profile as a critic of Islam, they put him into a penal institution, Woodhill Prison, where they knew he would be surrounded by Muslim convicts and vulnerable to physical abuse if not jailhouse murder. Indeed, he was assaulted there, and it was apparently only thanks to intervention by Maajid Nawaz, the founder of Quilliam and a prominent Liberal Democratic Party politician, that he was moved to a safer lockup. Since his release, he has been repeatedly harassed by British police. In May of last year, after he was hired as a Rebel Media correspondent, he was arrested while reporting from outside a court in Canterbury where a Muslim rape trial was underway.
Just a few weeks ago, Robinson was the headliner at a "Day of Freedom" free-speech rally in London. Other speakers included UKIP leader Gerard Batten, YouTube celebrities Gavin McInnes and Carl Benjamin (who goes by the name "Sargon of Akkad"), Anne Marie Waters of the political party For Britain, and Milo Yiannopoulos. I watched it on YouTube. It was impressive. It gave me a bit of hope for that scepter'd (but battered) isle.
Now Robinson has been arrested again. On Friday, while livestreaming on Facebook from outside a court in Leeds, where yet another trial of Muslim child rapists was underway, he was taken into custody by a phalanx of police officers. The charge? "Breaching the peace." In fact, anyone who watches the video of his arrest can see quite clearly that he was only doing what any reporter for the BBC would have done – standing in front of a courtroom, talking into a microphone, and being filmed by a camera. The difference is that the BBC and other mainstream media are determined to give as little coverage as possible to the mass Muslim rape of infidel girls. As for the police, they knew about these "grooming gangs" for many years (as did armies of social workers) but did nothing for fear of being labeled racist or sparking Islamic uprisings. These same cops arrested Tommy Robinson on Friday not because he did anything wrong, but because he was drawing attention to Muslim crimes that they would rather see ignored – and drawing attention, too, by extension, to their own genuinely criminal failure to defend innocent children from what was essentially jihadist torture.
It gets worse. Within hours, according to some sources, Robinson was tried and sentenced to thirteen months in prison. To send him to a British prison, where a very high percentage of inmates are likely to be Muslim, is to condemn him to a life of brutal harassment and, very possibly, a violent death. Even in Islam-appeasing Britain, this seems inconceivable. It sounds like Soviet or Nazi "justice," not like British jurisprudence.
Make no mistake: however Tommy Robinson may have strayed from the straight and narrow over the years, he is a champion of those victimized children, a voice for freedom, and a living rebuke to the cowardice of the British media, police, social workers, and other officials and public figures who knew what was going on in flats in Rotherham, Newcastle, and elsewhere, but stayed silent. Anyone in the United Kingdom who believes in freedom, recognizes the danger of Islam, and has any self-respect should rally to Robinson's cause.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.
See also: Petition to Free Tommy Robinson