Daniel Johnson: Luke, you're a businessman, operating in a number of different fields from bookselling to broadcasting, restaurants to greyhound racing. What's been your experience of terrorists and political activists and the ways in which they try to manipulate business?
Luke Johnson: I wrote recently about this in the Financial Times, it was stimulated by a fairly vigorous campaign, which isn't necessarily full of direct threats to life, but has an undertone of menace about it, as regards a particular book that extremist Islamic groups clearly don't want published because they believe it is sacrilegious and offensive. There is clearly some form of orchestrated campaign to try to object at every level of the book distribution world, be it publishers or booksellers.
DJ: This is The Jewel of Medina.
LJ: Exactly. And I hadn't seen this much written about, although I have read about the fact that the publisher's offices had been firebombed. I believe there have been some arrests over that. It struck me that it was only one of several instances of businesses that I'm involved with which have had to deal with extremists of one sort or another, and radical Muslims are by no means the only sorts of groups who have threatened them. In fact, the much more pervasive and difficult group that I've been dealing with over a couple of years now are animal rights activists, some of whom object to greyhound racing. These are not people you can reason with, and they have in certain instances resorted to very violent behaviour, and in one case arson. There was then another instance, all of these are quite unrelated, of an individual who hurt himself with a home-made bomb, luckily no one else, in a restaurant I'm involved with in Exeter, which got a lot of attention, and he's since been charged and found guilty of certain offences.
I suppose I saw, pattern is the wrong word, but an experience of a number of cases of threatening extremist behaviour impinging on normal lawful business. How does business react to this challenge, is it a growing problem for business, what are the different strategies that one could use to cope with it, how do the authorities react, vis-à-vis the commercial world? That's what stimulated me to write. If you run a business you are dealing with the public, you have staff, you have to think about your reputation. The challenge is, are you willing to stand up for political and moral principles, but at the same time potentially endanger your people, and threaten your profits and the interests of your shareholders? These are difficult issues, ethical issues and others, that business owners and managers have to consider, if they're in certain areas, particularly industries like the communication business.
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