by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
April 8, 2014
Prominent counter-jihadis like Geert Wilders, Michael Savage, and Robert Spencer have the distinction of being banned from entry into the United Kingdom – and, now, Her Majesty’s Government, in its wisdom, has also banned two websites connected to me. It’s not quite the same, admittedly, and I am working to get this ban removed, but I also wear it as a perverse badge of honor given that government’s shameful record vis-à-vis Islamism.
Say you’re in the British Library, the national depository library and a government institution, roughly equivalent to the Library of Congress in the United States or the Bibliothèque nationale in France. Say you want to read what David Brog writes about declining Evangelical support for Israel in the latest Middle East Quarterly. You type in MEForum.org and get the following result:
The distinction between the two sites particularly charms me. The British Library categorizes MEForum.org as “Religion, Intolerance” and DanielPipes.org as “Religion, Adult Sites, Intolerance, Blogs.” (It’s probably titles like “Arabian Sex Tourism” that won me the X-rating.) Oddly, both sites are blocked for the same reason: “Intolerance.”
Should you, however, be in the British Library and wish to develop hatred toward Jews, no problem! Here are some antisemitic sites, all accessed in the past few days:
- Exposing the Holocaust Hoax Archive: the name tells it all
- Gilad Atzmon: the personal website of a toxically antisemitic Jew
- Jew Knowledge: contains learned inquiries into Jewish control of Hollywood, Jewish connections to 9/11, and the like
- Muslim Public Affairs Committee, UK: an antisemitic jihadi group
- The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion: the “warrant for genocide” is available in multiple versions
Then, if you need firing up to go murder people on jihad, the British Library makes rich pickings available to you:
- Al Muntada: runs some of the worst hate preachers in Europe and stands accused in Nigeria of funding Boko Haram
- Anjem Choudary: possibly the most extreme of British Islamists, he praised the perpetrators of the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks
- FiSyria: promotes the Sunni jihad against the Assad regime in Syria
- Friends of Al-Aqsa: a pro-Hamas British group
- Hizb ut-Tahrir: an international movement seeking to replace existing countries with a global caliphate
- Islamic Education and Research Academy: a Qatari-funded Salafi group that includes a number of openly pro-terror operatives. Its trustees openly incite hatred against Jews, women, et al.
- Muslimah’s Renaissance: an anti-Semitic, anti-Shia group
- Al-Qassam: the military wing of Hamas, widely categorized as a terrorist organization
- Palestinian Forum of Britain: a Hamas front
- Palestine Return Centre: another Hamas front
- Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine: deemed a terrorist group by both the European Union and the U.S. government
And then, perhaps the worst of all:
- Tawhed: al-Qaeda’s Arabic-language ideological website which promotes writings by Osama Bin Laden and Ayman az-Zawahiri
There could be a technical explanation for this bizarre situation. The British Library issued a press release in December 2013, “Web filtering on the British Library’s WiFi service,” explaining that
in our public areas where there are regular visits by school children, we filter certain online content, such as pornography and gambling websites. We have recently introduced a new WiFi service. It’s early days in the implementation of this service and we are aware that the new filter has been blocking certain sites erroneously. We are actively working to resolve this issue.
Might this be the problem? I have written the library and requested that it unblock the sites. Now, let’s see if the censorship was “erroneous” or intentional.
(In contrast, the British Library has not yet excluded me from the UK union catalog of books; so, the same organization that bans my website permits my books. That makes as much sense as the rest of the British government’s policies.)
Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
UPDATE: The British Library, I documented yesterday, had blocked my website and those of the Middle East Forum while letting through some of the most foul antisemitic and Islamist sites. The article ended with mention of my writing to the library, a government institution, to request that the blocks be removed. Also, a substantial number of readers wrote to the library in protest.
As a result, I am happy to report, the blocks have been removed. A representative of the library’s Electronic Services wrote me:
Apologies for the fact that the websites you listed below were blocked by the Library’s WiFi service. … I am writing to inform you that all sites listed are now available via the Library’s WiFi.
The library’s press office (@BLpressoffice) announced the end of the block on Twitter.
@DanielPipes re. your websites being blocked erroneously by @britishlibrary wifi: these have now been unblocked. Apologies for the mistake.
So, the library owned up to its mistake and corrected it expeditiously. I am pleased and reassured by this response.
But its replies raise deeper questions: Why did it take a library patron trying to access DanielPipes.org to learn about this problem? How could a major British governmental agency block these high-quality mainstream, informational, sites? How could it simultaneously give access to extremist, antisemitic, radical, Islamist, and jihadi websites?
The library informs me that it relies on an automated filtering software made by a company called Smoothwall; it adds that it is “unable to advise [me] on the details of the algorithm” which Smoothwall utilizes for deciding which sites to block.
But that does not suffice. Even if unintended, this pattern of banning the friend and letting in the enemy sends a powerful and distressing signal. I therefore pursued this matter with further questions:
- Asking the British Library about policy: How do you define intolerance? Now that you know that jihadi sites can be accessed on your WiFi system, will you continue to allow access to them?
- Asking Smoothwall about algorithms: Do you plan to make changes to the software that blocks DanielPipes.org and MEForum.org but permits Al-Qaeda’s operational website?
I will report on these exchanges when they are concluded. (April 9, 2014)