Nine years ago, a coalition of which I was a member was successful in persuading the Home Office to ban that the Muslim hate preacher, Zakir Naik, from entering the United Kingdom. Naik is a tremendously popular televangelist, who delivers obnoxious diatribes on women, gays and terrorism. Liberal Muslims cheered his exclusion, but his many supporters were furious. They insisted that the refusal to admit him was motivated by Islamophobia.
There is something of Zakir Naik in Yosef Mizrachi. Both are somewhat comic figures, peddlers of implausible conspiracy theories. Indeed, I have regularly heard Islamist hate preachers voice many similarly incendiary views to that expressed by this man. Mizrachi tells his followers that women who are not virgins are “like an open bottle of Coke”. Cancer is caused by “the way the women dress, and that’s because of the sins that guys and girls makes together”. Down Syndrome and autism are “a punishment as a result of a previous life”. People “make fun of rabbis” because they are influenced by “the gay professor in the University”. “Liberal people, lefties, all kinds of gays” are not merely wrong: they are “wicked people”.
The Chief Rabbi, too, is a “clown” and a “very wicked person”. Why? Because “he promotes homosexuality, he promotes Christianity, he promotes Eurovision in Israel, this is what he promotes, everything that Hashem hates”. When the Chief Rabbi speaks, says Mizrachi, “Satan is very happy”.
Mizrachi cannot open his mouth without sowing hatred. He is a malign influence on his audience. I have to say, it is a source of pride that the Jewish establishment, from the Chief Rabbi down, has been united in their opposition to his planned visit to the United Kingdom. It is very easy to oppose extremism from other communities: less so when it emanates from our own.
What is dangerous about Mizrachi is not simply the unpleasant things he has said. Rather, it is that he divides the world in two: the righteous and the wicked. Gays, liberals, Jews and Rabbis who don’t agree with him are all wicked. Mizrachi and his followers alone have a monopoly of virtue. Our society has become increasingly polarised. We need to stand firm in the face of those seek to sow division. That is particularly so when a message of hatred is delivered by somebody who claims religious authority, and is directed against some of the most vulnerable people in Britain.
Last week, Mizrachi claimed that Muslim extremists were allowed to speak in Britain, but that freedom of speech is denied, uniquely, to “the rabbi who teach the real Torah”. That is simply untrue. Scores of Islamist hate preachers have been banned from entering the United Kingdom. I have been involved in many of these exclusion campaigns. So I can tell you that the people who oppose Mizrachi are the very same activists who campaigned against those Islamist agitators. Indeed, on the morning of his exclusion, the Counter Extremism Commissioner, Sara Khan – who has been viciously attacked by Islamists for her opposition to their politics – expressed her deep concerns about the proposed speaking tour. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.
This is not a matter of freedom of speech. Mizrachi’s message can be viewed freely on the internet. However, Britain has a right to control its own borders. It must do so in the interests of all our fellow citizens. It is a privilege to enter this country: not an entitlement. There are very few Jews in this country who will not applaud the decision of the Home Secretary to exclude this appalling man.