The Dutch Anti-Islamic politician, Geert Wilders, is currently on trial, which should prove to be rather interesting, because he is also playing a decisive role in the formation of a new Dutch government.
“The freedom of speech of at least 1.5 million people is on trial with me,” Wilders said on a social media site, referring to the number of voters his Freedom Party won at the June 9 elections. He added Monday would be a “terrible day.”
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a fine.
The trial comes at an awkward time for Wilders, whose party is poised to gain a powerful role in the running of the country through its support of a minority government made up of the Liberals (VVD) and Christian Democrat (CDA) parties.
A CDA congress voted in favour of entering into a minority government with support from the Freedom Party on Saturday, but still remains split over the prospect of relying on Wilders’s support and a final decision on the matter will be made on Tuesday.
OK, so lets take a look at what he is currently being charged with. He is basically facing three charges: incitement to hatred, discrimination against Muslims, and insulting Moroccan immigrants. The basis for all this are the the statements he has made in public, articles he has written, and also the film he produced: Fitna.
So do any of these charges have substance? Well, he has said that Islam is “evil”, a “violent religion” and an “intolerant and fascist ideology”. So far thats all factually correct. To my Muslim readers out there, regardless of the claims to being a religion of peace, a belief system that generates suicide bombers, stoning, outright condemnation of gay people, treating woman as second class citizens with no rights, and pronouncements of death to anybody who dares to leave Islam does more or less factually confirm both the “evil”, the “violent” and also the “intolerant” claims. Note that the accusation here is against the belief system that causes some to take this path, it is not suggesting that all believers are like this, when clearly they are not. Tragically the facts are, some do indeed walk such a road when motivated by this belief.
Is that all he says? No, he has also called for an outright ban on the Islamic holy book, the Qur’an, calling it the “Islamic Mein Kampf”. He refers to the prophet Muhammad as a “sick paedophile” who behaved “like a pig”, and he called for a “headrag tax” on women who wear a Muslim headscarf. Now this is where he and I part company, because here he steps over the line and breaches a very fundamental human right, “Freedom of Thought”.
I’ve said this before many times, there are two basic freedoms we all need to embrace (when I say “all”, I include both believers of all shades, and also non-believers).
1) Freedom of speech: We need to recognize that people have the right to criticize and even to be offensive in doing so. The Pope has the right to say (as he did in a rather offensive manner) that all Atheists are Nazi’s, and non-believers have the right to challenge that and label him as deluded and ignorant. If anybody seriously suggests we lock up people for saying something offensive, then I suggest they need to start with … the Pope perhaps. No of course not, that would be silly. Yes, he is a likable old rogue who does at times say some truly daft things and also needs to answer some serious changes that have been leveled against him. Can anybody seriously support the suggestion we suppress this conversation, or any other similar conversations within say, an Islamic context. Islam itself is very intolerant of any form of criticism, that however is not sufficient justification to stifle freedom of speech.
2) Freedom of thought: We also need to recognize that people have the right to believe whatever they wish, hence calls for the banning of any book or dictating what people should or should not wear is a breach of this basic freedom.
While I do recognize that Mr Wilders supports the concept of freedom of speech, where we part company is that he does not appear to embrace its twin right, freedom of thought. Now thats a very dangerous direction to go it. Dictating what people should think and wear is truly not wise, history is littered with examples of the consequences of such actions when practiced by religions such as Islam and Christianity, or political belief systems of all flavors.
When faced with folks who wish to tell you what to think, what to read, what to do, or how to dress … be skeptical … even if they are sheep dressed up as wolves.