I can't say I agree with David Cameron on this. A member of Muslims Against Crusades burned two plastic poppies during last November's Armistice Day ceremony. Yesterday he was fined £50. In my view he should not have been. The act was outrageous to some; indeed it was intended to be. But outrage at such acts is the price we pay for freedom of expression, which is still one of the key characteristics that distinguishes this society from many others. In this particular instance we actually lag behind the United States where flag burning, despite Americans' veneration for their flag, is a constitutional right. You can't say that about many things where genuine freedom is concerned.
While we are right to pay homage to those who have fallen fighting for our freedoms, we also have to acknowledge that some of those who fell, particularly in recent years, have given their lives in much less morally certain ventures, and while their bravery should be saluted, the cause in which they fell should not. Opinion is genuinely and deeply divided on the merits of some of our recent wars. Outrage may be genuine, but, if outrageous acts are stifled through the use of the law, it only serves to block moral debate and make equally outrageous ventures more likely in future. We are currently considering whether and how to use force against Gaddafi's regime. A week ago Cameron was all too eager to commit our forces again in a gesture which would have made them risk death, being burned, maimed or humiliated and most likely given Gaddafi a perfect foil for uniting his people on his side. Reminders of the moral ambiguity of such ventures, as well as the possible human cost, serve to prevent them happening unnecessarily. I hate what Emdadur Choudary did, but he should never have been taken to court, let alone fined.