Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been banned from entering the UK. The French comedian has long been a controversial figure in his home country, but he became internationally known when West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka celebrated a goal with the now infamous quenelle — a sort of inverted nazi salute created by Dieudonné, his friend.
Dieudonné argues he is simply standing up to the establishment, and that the quenelle is an anti-establishment gesture. The facts tell a different story. He has made a number of clearly antisemitic comments, and has been convicted in France of inciting racial hatred.
Dieudonné was set to visit the UK to support Anelka, who has been charged by the Football Association over the incident, and faces a minimum five-match ban. As a colleague pointed out, it’s unclear how, exactly, further links to Dieudonné would help Anelka, but that is now beside the point, as he has been “excluded from the UK at the direction of the Secretary of State”. A letter from the Home Office, obtained by Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger, states that he should not be allowed to board carriers to the UK. If he gets as far as the border, he’ll be turned away at the door, as it were.
But Dieudonné is not alone. Over the years, a number of controversial speakers, covering pretty much the entire spectrum of extremist ideologies, have been banned from entering the UK. The reasons given from the Home Office are almost always along the vague lines of the person in question not being “conducive to the public good”. Below are some the most high-profile cases.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer
The American “counter-jihadists” were last May invited to speak at an EDL rally in Woolwich, London, at the scene of the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. However, they both received letters from the Home Office, informing them that based on past statements they were barred from entering the UK. One of Geller’s comments highlighted was: “Al-Qaeda is a manifestation of devout Islam… It is Islam.” In a joint statement, they declared that “…the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead”.
In 2009, leader of the far-right Dutch Party for Freedom was set to travel to the UK to show his controversial film Fitna — which has been widely labelled as Islamophobic — in the House of Lords. Despite being told by the Home Office before travelling the he was barred from entry because his views “threaten community harmony and therefore public safety”, he still flew to Heathrow, where he was eventually stopped at the border. “Even if you don’t like me and don’t like the things I say then you should let me in for freedom of speech. If you don’t, you are looking like cowards,” was his message to British authorities at the time. The decision was later overturned.
Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper
The father and daughter, both members of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church — know, among other things, for picketing funerals — were planning on coming to Leicester to protest against a play about a man killed for being gay. The UK Border Agency said at the time: “Both these individuals have engaged in unacceptable behaviour by inciting hatred against a number of communities.”
The American pastor became known across the world when he threatened to stage a mass burning of the Koran in 2010 to mark the anniversary of 9/11 — something which in the end did not take place. In 2011 he was invited to attend a number of demonstrations with far right group England Is Ours. However, he was banned by the Home Office, which cited “numerous comments made by Pastor Jones” and “evidence of his unacceptable behaviour”. Jones responded saying: “We feel this is against our human rights to travel and freedom of speech.”
Dyab Abou Jahjah
The then Belgium-based founder of the Arab European League spoke at a meeting of the Stop The War Coalition in March 2009. He left the country with the intention of coming back after a few days, only to discover that he was barred from entering Britain. His organisation had previously published “a series of antisemitic and Holocaust revisionist cartoons in response to the Danish Muhammad cartoons controversy.” Around the time of his visit, the president of the Board of Deputies, Henry Grunwald QC, wrote to then-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith “raising concerns about Jahjah”. In a post on his website, he said he believed his ban was “mainly to do with the lobbying of the Zionists”.
The American Nation of Islam leader has been banned from entering the UK since 1986, due to racist and antisemitic remarks like calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and Judaism a “gutter religion”. The ban was briefly overturned in 2001 by a High Court ruling, but the government won out in the Appeals Court the following year.
In 2009, then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced a 16-person banned-list, made public in a bid to explain the authorities reasoning for barring people from entering the country. On the list was shock-jock Savage — a popular American talk radio host, who has outraged listeners with comments like “Latinos ‘breed like rabbits'” and “Muslims ‘need deporting'”. He was banned for being “likely to cause inter-community tension or even violence”. Savage reacted with disbelief, claiming he would sue Smith. The ban was reaffirmed in 2011.