Time to celebrate our differences

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.ukPeterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
As a far greater writer than me once scribbled, 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'

In other words, freedom of speech is so important that however difficult it is to stomach, it must always be allowed, to safeguard an important cornerstone of our democracy.

It is tough to argue against that premise without weakening the very foundations that our present-day society was built on. But, when it comes to attacking people purely due to their race, religion or ethnicity, then I do have a problem with democracy and the way in which it can be twisted.

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I cannot remain silent when radical Islamists spout their filth about our way of life, equally I must speak up when right wing racists attack people in my name, just because they worship a different god or have a different colour skin. Take the English Defence League, who have announced that they will be marching in Peterborough on October 21st and distributing their unique brand of Fascism and hatred on the streets of our city, all under the guise of ‘freedom of speech.’

They oppose what they say is the spread of Islamism and Sharia in the UK, and describe themselves as an anti-racist, human rights organisation, which is akin to describing Hitler as a keen traveller.

They also claim that Islam ‘challenges an English, Christian way of life.’

Now, it may just be me but I can’t remember the last time that I was prevented from eating fish and chips by a mosque or stopped from going to church by people waving placards, with quotations from the Koran, emblazoned upon them. These far right hoodlums are not defending my way of life, they don’t speak for me or my family, their only reason for being is to cause tension and stoke up racism.

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And for me, that’s where these people cross the line when it comes to freedom of speech. It says something when leader, Tommy Robinson decided to resign, after concerns that the group had been infiltrated by extremists! The last time the English Dribbling League (that’s what I am going to call them from now on) went for a little walk around Peterborough, local businesses shut, the centre of the city resembled a ghost town and our way of life was seriously compromised. It also cost the police hundreds of thousands of pounds they haven’t got to look after these dribblers and ensure their stroll was peaceful. That is our money that could and should be better spent elsewhere. Nobody invites these rent-a-radicals here and virtually nobody wants them here, they just turn up, intent on driving a wedge between our communities, just because we happen to be a multi-cultural city. I am sure that there is the odd Muslim who thinks that Sharia Law is the way forward, just as I am sure that there are plenty of hardline Catholics who believe that Protestants will end up in the fires of hell, but mostly, we rub along just fine, accommodating each other, celebrating our differences and enjoying our diverse cultures.

That is true democracy, true freedom of speech; the majority have had their say, it’s just a shame that the authorities aren’t listening.