Ben Brittain: Louis Smith and The Curious Incident of Islam

The incident of Louis Smith has shown us that if you want to make fun of any religion make sure it's Christianity. If you mock Islam you will be hounded, ridiculed and disgraced. It's safer to laugh at drunk Irish vicars and black nuns.


Louis Smith debuted at the London 2012 Olympics and his performance reminded Britain that we can achieve great things in a sport that had been previously neglected. At the Rio games this year Team GB’s triumph in gymnastics was a legacy of Louis Smith and his victories at the previous olympics, which had attracted so many new people to the sport. Following a leaked video of him and some drunk friends mocking Islamic prayer, his skill, talent and diligence has now been dismissed as the pious defenders of the consensus of faith bay for his blood.

This sporting champion now receives daily death threats. The encircling hysteria has resulted in him being harassed, abused and shamed, and he has since been banned from British Gymnastics. Instead of attending the Manchester parades like all other Olympic champions he was instead paraded on TV so he can be attackedwhilst he passively sat there and hung his head in shame, repeatedly begging for forgivenessWhen he appeared on Loose Women ITV had to draft in extra security to protect him because of the death threats.  

This whole hysteria begs the question; To whom do you decided what is harmful speech, or to whom is the harmful speaker? To whom would you delegate the responsibility of deciding for you what is offensive or not, what you can mock or not, what you can laugh at or not, or what you can or cannot hear? British Gymnastics seemingly think they can decide and have taken it upon themselves to censor what you can find offensive and have now banned their shining champion. The result is that British Gymnastics are the moral guardians of polite society, whereby if you don’t bow to the wishes of Islam, you are banished from its kingdom.  

Historically British culture has championed mockery of religion. The bedrock of its world famous humour is mockery of faith. From Monty Python to the Vicar of Dibley right to Father Ted – all mocked Christianity. Even the Americans, with Sister Act and Black Jesus, realise how indispensable mockery of religion is to secular society. So why if an individual at a private party with friends mocks a religion do we raise the placards to shout "behead those who insult our religion", take to twitter to spout our outrage, and post personal death threats? The answer is that Louis Smith mocked the wrong sort of religion.   

Islam, it would seem, is religion that claims such privileged status that it must be shielded from humour. It is so insecure and so burdened with its own self pity and self piety, it demands that it never be belittled by humour, such as a cartoon, or by a British Gymnast and his mates. Islam must realise that mockery of religion is a vital feature of modern society for it symbolises the first stage on the long road to the emancipation of authority, oppression and tyranny.  

But, who is the one under threat? The one who promulgates hatred and contempt, who publishes death threats, and yells for the beheadings of those that mock their religion? No? How about Louis Smith, who thought religion was so silly you can have a laugh with some mates about it? 

So when Charles Walker MP stood up at PMQs and asked the PM what is going on in this country because he no longer understood the rules of free speech, it wasn’t simply hyperbole or outrage. Instead it was a genuine question that cries out for clarity. The simple answer is that Britain either submits to the silencing wishes of Islam or we emancipate ourselves from its tyranny. That starts, first, by mocking it. If we don’t do this we risk giving up what is most precious to us in free society.  

Ben Brittain is Conservative Party activist and works for the mental health service. He has previously served as a Local Elected Authority Governor, as well as a committee member on the Birmingham Governors Network.

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