Sunday, 10 July 2011

Geert Wilders - Innocent!

How many native English speakers around the world are aware of the name Geert Wilders?  Of those who are, I suspect that only a small proportion have succeeded in avoiding the totally biased media message that he is a right-wing politician who has been stirring up hatred about Islam.  Fewer of us can pronounce his first name properly.

Although I have not heard Wilders speaking, I suspect that his British counterpart is the 'foaming-at-the-mouth' Pat Condell, who has a reputation for speaking out against the privileges of religion.  In particular on his recent podcasts and Youtube videos he has taken a strong stand against islamisation.  His style of speech is certainly not to everyone's liking, but it is hard to argue against the truth of his words and the depth of his knowledge on the danger that Islam poses to the western style of life.

For those who are not aware of the Wilders story so far, over the last few years there has been an embryonic anti-islamic backlash in the Netherlands, and one of the figureheads of this movement is the democratically elected politician, Wilders.  Not only is he elected, but he is leader of the 'Party for Freedom'.  He has been accused of criminally insulting religious and ethnic groups and inciting hatred and discrimination.  In his own defence he has claimed that

"While Islamization of our society grows, the political elite looks in the other direction and ignores the real problem, namely, the impending loss of our freedom. I am fighting not against Moslems, but against the influx of a totalitarian ideology called Islam."

According to Wilders himself, it was not he who was on trial, but his "freedom of speech" and that traditional European freedoms were at stake.

You should consider the context of his concerns.  Over recent years the tolerance that The Netherlands has shown to Islam has been serially abused.  It is dangerous to exercise your right to free speech in Netherlands if you should happen to stray onto the topic of criticism of Islam.  Notable examples include the death threats against another democratically elected politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (see tomorrow's post) and the actual murder of film maker Theo Van Gogh.  It is hardly surprising that some people are starting to object to the behaviour of militant islamists.

In the first attempt to take Wilders to trial last year, the judges were deemed to have acted unlawfully by showing bias against Wilders and in particular of trying to persuade a witness that the trial was justified under the law.  When the 'show-trial' was restarted in 2011 under new judges this turned out (surprisingly) to be a minor factor, and the trial proceeded.

I find it interesting to speak with some Dutch friends and colleagues on this topic.  All my colleagues have been very guarded about their opinions.  They will tell you that "not everyone in Netherlands likes the approach that Wilders takes".  They have stopped short of saying that they personally were against the way that he has been pilloried by the courts and the media.  In fact, in each case I detected a quiet admiration for the man who is saying what nobody else dares to say in public.  (I have detected similar views among British friends who know of Pat Condell.  They dare not approve too loudly.  Of course, there is also one significant difference.  Wilders is elected and Condell is self-appointed.)

Only on one occasion has a Dutch friend actually raised the subject of Wilders in my presence.  She was speaking with two members of her family, in Dutch and I think they were surprised that I picked up what they were talking about.  I detected no reticence in their views.  They were delighted that the trial was over and that the outcome was so sensible.

At last, on 23 June 2011 Wilders was acquitted on all counts:
  • Group insult
  • Inciting hatred against Muslims because of their religion
  • Inciting discrimination against Muslims because of their religion
  • Inciting hatred against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race
  • Inciting discrimination against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race
His statements were, as presiding judge Marcel van Oosten put it, "acceptable within the context of public debate."

Now we wait in dread that those poor helpless 'insulted' plaintiffs will try to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.  We can only hope that they don't introduce a new 'right not to be offended'  That would be the end of free speech as we know it.

Related links:

Trial of Geert Wilders
BBC bias on the result of the trial
Learning from Islamic History 

Related posts this weekend:
7/7 - Imagine no religion
Geert Wilders - Innocent - this post
Ayaan Hirsi Ali - victim of Islam -  coming tomorrow

Previous related posts:
Look out! Sharia about!
Adam and Eve featured
Draw Mohammed Day
Discrimination in Afghanistan

Small note:  Does anyone detect a similarity between the appearance of Geert Wilders and that of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies?  Is this a coincidence?  (Malfoy was translated to Dutch as Malfidus.)

1 comment:

Laurens de Vos said...

You portray Wilders as if he is savior of the Dutch. You fail to mention that he and his party only cover 24 seats in our parliament of 150. Rougly speaking this means that only 16% of the voting Dutch population voted for the PVV. Since the last elections however, they do take position in the ruling coalition. The funny part is that the PVV, not used to being such a big party, is behaving like a stubborn child. They were a rising star as opposition yet there's no clue on how to cooperate. Knowing their reign is a farce, the ruling coalition is squeezing every last penny out of the culture, education and healthcare sections. These changes effect about everyone in Holland except the elite. In the meantime, all Wilders does is play the media, shout some improper, irrational insults and fear mongering.

And here you go showing a picture of Wilders trying to mend the cracks in the wall of Western Civilization? You should've pictured him with a sledgehammer..