Hugh Fitzgerald: At Speaker’s Corner, It’s Time to Show Muslims Some Respect

When I first went to London, decades ago, I was shown around by an English friend who wanted me to observe the Parliament in session, to see justice being administered at a criminal trial at the Old Bailey, to visit the Tower of London, and most of all, he wanted to show me that living example of free unfettered speech, Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park, celebrated all over the world as a place where anyone could stand up and speak his piece, from an articulate political orator to an end-of-the-world-is-coming crank, without fear of being shut down either by the government, or by private parties. Speaker’s Corner was formally recognized as the place for such free speech by an act of Parliament in 1872. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Communists and capitalists, holy-rollers and atheists, all were welcome to speak their peace. It was give-and-take, speech and counter-speech, let-me-talk-and-then-you’ll-have-your-turn, on every conceivable topic. Foreign visitors, especially those from countries where speech was controlled by the government, were much impressed.