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Walking on the Wilders side

15 October 2010

Europe is historically a citadel of liberty and tolerance, a place where opinions can be freely exchanged without censorship or repression. If only that were true today. The current trial of the pro Israel, anti Islamic Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, reveals all too clearly that in modern Europe, some opinions are deemed so unacceptable that they lead to court action.

Prosecutors in Holland have brought five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against the maverick Dutch MP. His comments, according to the Dutch Court of appeal, rendered a 'criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers.'

The key word here is 'insult.' In politically correct Europe, to hurt the feelings of a religious community is now tantamount to a hate crime. No wonder that Wilders has said that ‘the freedom of expression of at least 1.5 million people is standing trial together with me'.

For those unfamiliar with his opinions, Wilders is an implacable foe of Islam which he has labelled ‘a fascist ideology’. He has compared the Koran to Mein Kampf and campaigned for it to be banned in Holland. He has also expressed opposition to the burqa and called for an end to Muslim immigration to Holland.

In his short film Fitna, he intersperses Koranic verses with images of terrorist murder in an effort to prove that there is a seamless ideological connection between the two.

Some believe that Wilders’ critique of Islam goes too far. Undoubtedly radical Islam is a fascistic and totalitarian ideology which seeks to impose a medieval form of Islam on secular societies. The intolerance, racism, homophobia and fanaticism of its believers merits the sternest condemnation.

Yet Islam is still open to different interpretations and modes of expression, and even Wilders admits that Islamism is not the dominant creed in Holland. In any case, to call for freedom of speech and a ban on the Koran is somewhat questionable.

But surely that is the point: his views should be questioned, debated, scrutinised and discussed in the court of public opinion, not in a court of law. No one, certainly not a leading politician, should be criminalised for merely having a misguided opinion.

If Wilders had called for Muslims to be killed, it would be quite in order for him to be put on trial and convicted of inciting hatred. If he had called for mosques to be looted or burnt, the same sanction would apply. It is people and property that need protection under the law, not ideas. Islam does not deserve special treatment, nor can Muslims claim the right not to be offended.

Yet Islam has been given a special pass by these prosecutors. Instead of dealing with offences, they are condemning a man for causing offence. This is nothing but cultural totalitarianism, an attempt to censure ‘unenlightened’ views by judicial dictat. Such a heresy hunting mentality smacks of the Inquisition.

All of this matters to Jewry because the pathology that underlies the treatment of Wilders also explains the EU’s hostility to Israel.

On his website Wilders argues that mass immigration is ‘affecting our heart, our identity, our culture’ and worries about Holland ‘being absorbed into a bland international omniculture.’ His party platform is blatantly nationalistic, seeking to uphold Dutch culture and Judaeo-Christian values. He advocates taking a robust line against his country’s enemies, not appeasing them.

Israel is an embodiment of similar ideals. She too has a proud national story which revolves around the glories of Jewish history and civilisation. Despite consisting of many non Jews, including one million Arab citizens, Israelis are determined to maintain their state’s Jewish character. And as it refuses to compromise on its security, Israel unilaterally takes robust action against terrorist states and Palestinian extremists.

Yet nationalism, religious values and militarism are antithetical to the defining values of the European project. The European Union, founded on the promise of outlawing war, harbours an inherent distrust of nations that unilaterally exercise power.

The guiding assumption is that conflict resolution must proceed by discussion and negotiation, guided by the dictates of international law. Judaeo-Christian ideals have been expunged from the European constitution and replaced by multiculturalism.

These problems are exacerbated by the presence in European countries of a vocal and radicalised minority of Muslims. In the face of their relentless intimidation, Europe’s response has often been marked by retreat, cowardice and appeasement. Thus when Wilders demands the strongest measures against Islamic supremacists he, like the Israelis, incurs the harshest censure.

Depressingly then, this trial symbolises Europe’s abject response to the terror threat. When we need to defend the West’s core values, including the freedoms of speech and thought, a man is put on trial for expressing his opinions. With a judiciary that hollow, it is little wonder the Islamists are laughing.

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31 December, 2013
Sharon the pragmatist

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