London (CNSNews.com) - A U.K. appeals court on Tuesday reinstated a travel ban on Louis Farrakhan, overturning a previous decision that might have allowed the Nation of Islam leader to travel to Britain.
Farrakhan has been seeking to address members of the country's fledgling Nation of Islam movement, but successive U.K. governments have upheld a ban since 1986.
The decision was reaffirmed in November 2000, when immigration officials ruled that a visit would "pose an unwelcome and significant threat to community relations and in particular to relations between the Muslim and Jewish communities."
The order was overturned last year when a judge ruled that there was scant evidence of tension between Jews and Muslims in Britain and that officials had not adequately justified the travel ban.
Although the ruling overturning the ban was published in October, the decision was first announced last July and High Court Justice Turner hinted that his ruling may have been different after Sept. 11.
A three-judge Court of Appeal panel reinstated the immigration decision Tuesday.
Striking a balance
"Prevention of disorder is one of the legitimate aims that can justify placing restrictions on freedom of expression," the judges wrote. They ruled that the decision to bar Farrakhan "struck a proportionate balance" between order and freedom of speech.
Home Secretary David Blunkett, the latest minister to uphold Farrakhan's travel ban, released a statement shortly after the ruling was announced.
"I am very relieved that the view taken by successive home secretaries has been vindicated and the right to exclude someone from the country whose presence is not conducive to good public order has been upheld," he said.
Farrakhan 'Outraged'; Jewish groups pleased
Farrakhan's lawyers called the decision "outrageous" and said the minister posed no threat to public order. The legal team said Farrakhan preached a message of "self-discipline and atonement" and could address problems in the black British community.
Farrakhan's U.K. supporters say that the British travel ban is unique in the world and that Nation of Islam events in Britain are peaceful. His lawyers argued that trouble has failed to materialize during the black leader's visits to several countries, including Israel.
Jewish groups, meanwhile, were pleased with Tuesday's ruling. Neville Nagler, director general of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that he considered Farrakhan a menace to society and "destructive to the process of racial and religious integration in Britain."
"At no time has he retracted any of his offensive statements against Jews, whites, Christian leadership or homosexuals," Nagler said. "He has provided no evidence to support his claim that he is a reformed man, and we have every reason to believe that had he been allowed to enter Britain today, he would have caused racial and religious discord."
Lord Greville Janner, chair of the Holocaust Education Trust, said that the court had "acted justly" and said that racial unrest could boost support for far-right groups such as the British National Party (BNP).
"At a time of political unrest in the Middle East, Europe and here, with our local elections this week, the BNP do not need encouragement from the likes of Farrakhan," Janner said.
Although he has toned down his rhetoric in recent years - the British court noted that most of Farrakhan's objectionable statements date from before 1998 - the Nation of Islam leader has at various times called white people "devils" and Jews "bloodsuckers." He has also praised Adolf Hitler and once called Judaism a "gutter religion."
E-mail a news tip to Mike Wendling.
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