The Geert Wilders Trial
You may not agree with his politics, but his trial will be a watershed for European democracy.
The bizarre trial of Dutch political leader Geert Wilders, for having allegedly insulted Islam and incited hatred against Muslims, may have major long term repercussions on Europe.
Voted politician of the year in Holland in 2007, the highly charismatic Wilders has had a meteoric public career. The Freedom Party which he leads gained 24 seats in the recent elections, making it the third largest parliamentary party. With the new government now dependent on its votes to retain office, he has considerable influence in the formulation of policy.
Wilders represents the antithesis of political correctness. He courageously condemns the prevailing craven appeasement of Europeans to the intransigence and threats of violence emanating from Islamic fundamentalists. He considers the widespread migration of Muslims to European countries as an Islamic fundamentalist Trojan horse, and predicts that if the jihadists are not resisted, "Eurabia will be just a matter of time."
Last week in a speech in Berlin, Wilders stated:
"They [the left] want us to feel so ashamed about our own identity that we refuse to fight for it... The same leftists who turned a blind eye to communism then, turn a blind eye to Islam today... we even hear a repetition of the old moral equivalence mantra. They used to say that Western "imperialism" was as bad as Soviet imperialism. They are now saying that Western "imperialism" is as bad as Islamic imperialism... Are we about to repeat the fatal mistake of the Weimar Republic? Are we succumbing to Islam because our commitment to freedom is already dead? No it will not happen."
Although accused of being a fascist, Wilders adamantly opposed and explicitly condemned right-wing extremists like Le Pen and Heider. "We will never join up with fascists." he repeatedly says.
He is also a passionate admirer and supporter of Israel, where he lived for two years and which he has visited over 40 times, frequently describing the Jewish state as "the West's first line of defense."
The threats and rewards offered by Islamic extremists for his murder are taken seriously, especially after the murder of media personality Theo Van Gogh by a Dutch Moroccan Islamic fanatic. Wilders has been under 24-hour police protection during the past six years.
"I am on trial, but on trial with me is the freedom of expression of many Dutch citizens."
The trial he faces will be a watershed for European democracy. He is being accused of inciting hatred because of the documentary film (Fitna) he produced which graphically links Islam to the violence prevailing in many Muslim societies. It highlights practices such as the stoning of adulterous women, beheadings, execution of apostates, honor killings, hanging of homosexuals, amputation of limbs for petty crimes, forced child marriages, female circumcision and other odious practices which to this day are prevalent in many Islamic countries.
Wilders went overboard by calling for the banning of the Koran, which he compares to Mein Kampf, citing numerous passages from texts which call for violence and the murder of infidels. Yet, if one examines the sacred texts of other major religions, one will also find violent passages. It all comes down to a question of interpretation, and the problem we face today is that it is Islamic extremists who set the tone for many Muslims. Thus, calling for banning the Koran, the holy book for one and a half billion of Muslims throughout the world, is counter-productive. And aside from being anti-democratic, it further undermines the already pitifully weak position of moderate Muslims.
However, it is surely Wilders' democratic right to express such views without facing criminal prosecution. Particularly so, when he condemns Islam as an extremist ideology but urges his followers to eschew violence against individual Muslims.
More importantly, his demand that Muslims in our society be integrated and that those imams and their followers who incite to violence be vigorously prosecuted and deported is a crucial prerequisite to any form of accommodation with Islamic migrants.
When his trial resumed last week, Wilders was entirely justified in saying "I am on trial, but on trial with me is the freedom of expression of many Dutch citizens."
In truth, this trial exemplifies cowardly European appeasement and capitulation to Muslims threats of violence and intimidation against any critics.
This trial exemplifies cowardly European appeasement and capitulation to Muslims threats of violence and intimidation against any critics.
It should perhaps encourage us to focus on the prevailing death threats and constant intimidation and violence perpetrated by extremist Muslims groups against all critics of Islam. For example Salmon Rushdie in 1989, or the Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, and climaxing with the recent shocking case of American Molly Norris who was forced to go into hiding and adopt a new identity to protect herself against death threats from a fatwa issued after she had drawn a cartoon in a regional newspaper deemed disrespectful of Islam.
The Wilders trial should also be viewed in the context of the campaign by the 57 member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to criminalize all criticism of Islam. It blends with President Obama's undertaking to actively combat "negative stereotyping of Islam" and the subsequent US co-sponsorship of a UN resolution originating from the discredited UN Human Rights Council calling on all states to criminalize "negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups." All parties realize that in practice, this will be primarily directed towards muzzling critics of Islamic practices and behavior.
Many of the constituents of the OIC brazenly deny freedom of expression and worship to Christians and Jews and sustain a culture in which the media and religious environment is saturated with hatred of other religions. For such a group to demand criminalization of all forms of criticism of Islam is surely the height of hypocrisy. The continuous claims by Muslims that they are subject to Islamophobia should also be viewed in the context of the truly Nazi like stereotyping of Jews in many Islamic communities.
The Wilders trial is clearly an attempt by the Dutch establishment to muzzle criticism and exposure of extremist Muslims excesses. It was imposed on a reluctant public prosecutor by the former Minister of Justice for clearly political purposes and should now be adjourned or canceled.
But if it proceeds, the outcome of this trial has implications for us all. If a leading Dutch politician can be criminalized for criticizing Islam in a society in which calls for "death to the Jews" are regular occurrences and rarely prosecuted, it will be a message to the West that freedom of expression must be curtailed when it applies to Muslims. It will also set a precedent for exploiting the judiciary to impose political views that could ultimately lead to Stalinist type show trials becoming the order of the day.
It will mean that offensive language can be directed towards everyone except Muslims and this will be used as a vehicle to curtail freedom of expression and ultimately destroy our democratic values. It will also provide jihadists throughout the world with cause for celebrating the erosion of the will of democracies to stand up and resist intimidation and embolden them to intensify their violence.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post