02 November 2016

Louis Smith’s mockery of Islam was neither clever nor funny. But his suspension for it is outrageous

The decision by British Gymnastics to suspend Louis Smith for two months for he and a mate pretending to pray to Mecca (at a private party) is appalling. His actions were neither clever or funny. But religious freedom (including mockery) and a belief in a private sphere are two of the cornerstones of not just British but Western and enlightenment culture.

Had Smith assaulted or deliberately abused Muslims going peacefully about their daily business I would be the first to call for action against him. But we have a longstanding division between ideas and people in this country: the latter are protected, while the former are rightly fair game.

Nearly three decades ago the death threats against Salman Rushdie drew revulsion from across the political spectrum. Yet now the state is indirectly attacking an individual, who has received death threats, rather than take action against those threatening him: for British Gymnastics is a quango that could not operate without state funding – receiving £11 million from 2014-17. [ConservativeHome] Read more