Today Hope not Hate has expressed their disappointment over Theresa May’s decision not to ban Gábor Vona from the UK:
Sadly it seems as though the Home Secretary Theresa May has failed to ban the noted extremist leader, Gábor Vona, from the shores of the UK. ‘That he should be arriving on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, when his party and its politicians have open and disgusting antisemitic views, is all the more deplorable.
I don’t think many here will disagree that Vona and his Jobbik Party are racist extremists:
Vona has advocated segregation for Hungary’s 800,000 Roma. His foreign policy spokesman Marton Gyongyosi has called for a register of Jewish people who allegedly pose a “national security risk”. He subsequently apologised.
The party’s paramilitary wing, Hungarian Guard, likened to the Nazi brownshirts for the habit of wearing traditional dress, with black boots and trousers, was banned in 2009.
Its representatives openly articulate Holocaust denial:
A lawmaker for the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party in Hungary said the Auschwitz death camp museum “may not reflect real facts.”
Tamas Gaudi-Nagy made the statement Thursday during a discussion in parliament on a proposal to facilitate visits by teenagers and young adults to the former Nazi camp in Poland.
The Hungarian news agency MTI reported that Gaudi-Nagy said the site “may not reflect the real facts of history,” and that schools should not be “forced to take up such an expensive venture.”
The statement drew condemnations from Hungary’s ruling party as well as from its leading Jewish group.
Vona’s views are also extremely homophobic:
“The economic crisis is merely a façade that will never be solved because the essence of the real crisis is that Europe has sunk to the rock bottom of its crisis of values which has been ongoing since the 18th-19th centuries. When homosexual marriage becomes a central issue in the political sphere, there is big trouble.”
However it is possible to deplore Jobbik while being unsure a UK ban on Vona is the right step – perhaps on libertarian grounds or possibly for strategic reasons, so as not to create ‘free speech martyrs’.
Deciding where to set the threshold is a difficult question – but it does seem that Theresa May’s decision is not fully consistent with last year’s ban on Robert Spencer entering the UK. I find his opinions and rhetoric extremely unpalatable, but he does not (as far as I know) have a formal political agenda as bigoted as Vona’s. It is certainly difficult to argue that he is any worse than Vona, who leads a party which has contemplated forcibly removing Roma children from their parents and sending them to boarding school.
Although it might be argued that there were specific public order issues surrounding the ban on Spencer (an invitation to address an EDL rally) there are similar problems with Vona, with the added outrage of his visit coinciding with Holocaust Memorial Day.
Even though I am strongly opposed to Spencer I can see why he (and others) were frustrated by the ban. The letter informing Spencer of the decision notes that his blog Jihad Watch is ‘widely criticized for being Islamophobic’. Only one direct statement from Spencer is picked out as a reason to ban him, a sweeping comment about Islam. It encapsulates one common (and I think fully justified) objection to Jihad Watch – that it treats Islam, and Muslims, as a monolithic block. It’s possible to be pretty uncompromising when it comes to Islam, from a secular perspective, but still welcome liberal or reformist voices. Most here, for example, even if they don’t like Mehdi Hasan or Fiyaz Mughal, do at least support Maajid Nawaz and have shown appreciation for posts by Mehrdad and Lejla Kuric. Whereas Tommy Robinson gave every sign of being sincerely pleased to find Muslims he could work with, Spencer seems to have dug around in order to find some justification for taking against Quilliam – a short post from 2009 expressing concerns over Operation Cast Lead.
But if one is to ban Spencer on such grounds then why not ban Mohammed Al-Arifi, allowed into the UK last year? Al-Arifi is an anti-Shia bigot, who is also, judging by this video, an antisemitic fantasist. (Do note though that some of the wilder claims about his views regarding Syria are fake.)
And why on earth not ban Gábor Vona? Free speech is one thing, but people do not have an absolute right to enter the UK, and, based on the pattern of precedents, I’m not sure why Vona was allowed in.