The British broadsheets gave saturation coverage to a high-court judge’s decision to allow Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan into Britain. Successive home secretaries (interior ministers) over the last 15 years have barred him from entering the country, considering him a threat to racial harmony and public order. The prohibition will remain in force until Oct. 1, when the judge will provide a full explanation for his decision, which the government may appeal. The judge apparently accepts Farrakhan’s lawyers’ contention that excluding him from Britain contravenes the Human Rights Act, a European Union convention incorporated into British law in October 2000. (The Guardian reported that 229 people—including a U.S. anti-abortion activist, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, and the leader of NORAID, a U.S. group that raises funds for the IRA—are currently banned from entering the United Kingdom.)
The Times said the judge’s decision “will particularly alarm the Government because the judge has taken the rare step of intervening in a matter involving a senior minister’s personal discretion.” The paper called Farrakhan “a symbol of racial hatred” and mocked his beliefs: “[He] claims to have conversed on a flying saucer with Elijah Muhammad, spiritual leader of the Nation of Islam. He also believes that whites were created by an evil scientist called Yacub and claims to have detected hidden Masonic symbols in the Lincoln Memorial.” An editorial in Britain’s other conservative broadsheet, the Daily Telegraph, accused Farrakhan of inciting racial hatred (a criminal offense in Britain) and concluded, “In the matter of personal liberty, the freedom of the Jewish minority to live without threat is at least as worthy of defence as one individual’s right to act as a demagogue.”
The liberal Guardian applauded the decision, declaring: “Our anti-racial incitement laws have also been strengthened. If Mr Farrakhan indulges in his old rhetoric, it would not be difficult to arrest and deport him. If he resists such incitement, he has a right to be heard.” The Independent concurred:
Exclusion merely bestows upon him a heroic status in the eyes of his devoted followers which he does not deserve and would otherwise not be able to receive. There is no reason to exclude anyone from this country, however vile, contentious or unpopular their views, unless there are genuine fears that their presence would lead to violence or abuse. … It is the mark of a strong democracy and a confident nation that it can cope with views it finds profoundly distasteful.
Alphabet soup: As of Aug. 1, the Azerbaijani language will be written in the Latin, rather than the Cyrillic, alphabet, a change supporters hope will move the country in the direction of Europe and modernization and away from Russian influence. According to the Financial Times, Azeri was written in Arabic script until the Communist revolution of the 1920s, when it went Latinate until Joseph Stalin imposed the Cyrillic alphabet during the Soviet era. Newspaper editors fear the change will lead to plummeting circulation, since most Azerbaijanis over 30 can only read their native language in Cyrillic form. The FT noted, “The move could also weaken the position of Azerbaijan’s political opposition, which relies on newspapers to put its views across to the public.”
Best unpromising newspaper series of the week: The appearance of a story billed as “the first in an occasional series on summer bottlenecks around the world” is a sure sign of a newsroom hard hit by the vacation schedule. Nevertheless, the Financial Times’ piece on the motorized caravan of North Africans leaving France and Spain and heading home for the holidays, their cars sagging “under the weight of a year’s earnings turned into dutiful gifts or tradeable goods: chairs, fridges, television sets and mountain bikes,” was fascinating. Two million Moroccans and Algerians will cross the Strait of Gibraltar during the first two weeks of August, a testament to “the growing importance of North African labour to Europe’s legal and black economies.” Spain’s Civil Guard erects Arabic-language signs indicating rest spots along the route from the French border to Algeciras, the most common embarkation point for Africa. On Wednesday, Spain’s El País reported that more than 500,000 foreigners applied for “regularization” of their immigration status in the last 12 months; fewer than half the applicants were successful.
Asylum from the games: There were few standout performances during the Fourth Francophone Games, which took place July 14-24 in Ottawa and Hull, but after the event, participants filed a record number of asylum requests. According to Canada’s Globe and Mail, at least 106 participants from 17 countries petitioned Canadian officials for asylum, claiming a well-founded fear of persecution—based on race, religion, political opinions, or membership in a particular social group—if they returned to their homelands. A piece in the National Post revealed that although the games are staged in the name of “francophone solidarity,” many of the competitors don’t speak a word of French, and only half the 54 nations invited to take part (at least two delegations didn’t show up) have French as an official language. The host country provided a triple threat, fielding three teams: Canada, Canada-Quebec, and Canada-New Brunswick. Les Jeux de la Francophonie are not limited to sporting pursuits—poets, sculptors, photographers, dancers, singers, and storytellers also compete for medals. Alas for the street entertainers, their discipline was just a demonstration event this year.