“Saddening to hear Christian preacher Hatun Tash say Speakers’ Corner – a bastion of free speech since 1872 – has become ‘hostile and dangerous'”, tweeted Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the National Secular Society. “The threat of a de facto blasphemy law enforced by the threat of violence is there for all to see”, he added, stating what everyone knows (if they have eyes and ears), but is rarely expressed for fear of the consequences. But if a sharia blasphemy code creeps into Speakers’ Corner, in can be enforced just about anywhere – by the implicit (and sometimes quite explicit) threat of violence.
After all, there is a still an RE teacher missing from Batley Grammar School, in hiding somewhere with his family, in fear for his life, simply because he showed a picture of Mohammed in an educational context, and all Jahannam broke loose.
But he’s yesterday’s news.
Hatun Tash is a thoughtful, intelligent, passionate Christian preacher. As an ex-Muslim, she has a lot to say about Islam and Jesus, or the prophet Isa, as she previously knew the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God. And as she was preaching in Speakers’ Corner a week ago, she was stabbed.
Some were quick – perhaps too quick – to blame Islamists for the attack (which was, let’s be honest, attempted murder), but as the BBC point out, she was in Speakers’ Corner wearing a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt. In fact, that’s all the BBC tells us, so we are left infer that Hatun Tash was stabbed by someone who objected to a satirical magazine which once caricatured Mohammed on its front cover: there was no mention of Hatun Tash’s faith, no mention of her being a convert from Islam, no mention of her preaching, and there has been no update to the article at all. We are simply told that she had the audacity to wear a Charlie Hebdo T-shirt in Speakers’ Corner, which was awfully foul and hateful, if not bigoted and racist, and so ‘she had it coming’. The words of Det Supt Alex Bingley are left hanging: “I would ask people not to speculate on the motive for the attack until we have established the full facts.”
So people don’t speculate, for that would be Islamophobic. Or perhaps the speculation that it would be Islamophobic to speculate would be Islamophobic.
Yet we have the words of Hatun Tash herself: she told The Times that Speakers’ Corner has become a hostile and dangerous place for Evangelical Christians. She has been verbally and physically assaulted at Speakers’ Corner before, and alleges she has been arrested and detained by the Metropolitan Police for expressing opinions which one may no longer apparently express in Speakers’ Corner – that is, opinions which stir up ‘hate’.
She said: “I am upset and disturbed by what has happened to me. I am asking myself if have done anything wrong? I am convinced I have not broken any law or incited hate. All I did was question Islam and I wanted to debate discuss and to tell people about Jesus Christ. Speakers’ Corner is a great place to do this, it is a shame that this has happened at the home of freedom of speech.”
She added: “I can’t believe this has happened in broad daylight at Speakers’ Corner. You do not expect such things to happen in Great Britain. My attacker was not even afraid of the police as he did it right in front of them. It is heartbreaking that we live in a society where police do not want to arrest a Muslim for fear of being called ‘Islamophobic’.”
You can hear more HERE (age-restricted: available only on YouTube).
Hatun Tash is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre with her legal action against the police.
She is not supported by the Mayor Of London, Sadiq Khan, who said last year that he supports the arrest and ejection of preachers like Hatun Tash – even from Speakers’ Corner – over those who threaten violence and breach the peace:
As you know, freedom of speech is a principle that I hold dear. One of the best things about London is the fierce way in which we protect this right and people’s ability to exercise it. However, as I’m sure you will appreciate, the police have to balance this right with managing behaviour that could lead to public disorder. It is crucial that healthy debates do not lead to violence, and I support the rights of police officers to remove individuals in order to prevent a breach of the peace.
She is not being supported by any senior politicians (in Government or Opposition) in her robust defence of the freedoms of speech and expression.
And she is not being supported by any Bishops of the Church of England, who have no time for this sort of interfaith dialogue; no time for debating the Qur’an or preaching the gospel of Christ in the public realm like St Paul used to do; and no time to demand that Speakers’ Corner – that national, indeed global bastion of free speech – remains free from a backdoor blasphemy law.
To all these, the religious extremist here is the Christian preacher: she had it coming.