Do the Dutch enjoy free speech?

Dutch politician Geert Wilders is considered by some to be the political heir to Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered in broad daylight in 2002 for his own political views by a Muslim extremist who evidently didn’t quite grasp the concept of “tolerance” which Dutch Muslims would now like to see imposed on Mr. Wilders.

For Mr. Wilders — a bleached-blond firebrand not know for his rhetorical moderation — is now on trial in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands has no First Amendment. So — whether they sympathize with all Mr. Wilders’ views or not — Americans not yet totally in thrall to political correctness may find the charges against him a bit odd.

The Dutch politician, probably best known for his 2008 short film “Fitna,” which juxtaposed verses from the Koran with images of terrorist violence committed by Islamic radicals acting in the name of that holy book, stands charged in his home country with the “crime” of “insulting a group on the basis of its religion and inciting discrimination and/or hatred.”

Good heavens. Would that include storming and burning down a Seventh Day Adventist church in Waco whose members owned fewer guns per capita than Texans in general, on charges of selling at local gun shows inert hand grenade plaques with amusing “Complaint Department; Take a Number” labels? Comparing Tea Party Christians to the Ku Klux Klan?

“I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” Mr. Wilders wrote in the newspaper De Volkskrant in 2007. “I’ve had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.”

“The Islamization of Europe continues all the time,” Wilders warned in a speech in Berlin Sunday. “But the West has no strategy for dealing with the Islamic ideology, because our elites say that we must adapt to them, rather than the other way round.”

In the current weird European world of the Thought Police, the trial’s result may actually hinge on the subject of that last reference: Does Wilders urge discrimination against the Muslim faith? Or is the issue here resistance to what many see as a political and cultural campaign to extend Muslim customs and Sharia law?

The politician’s popularity has expanded over the years as voters, fearful that non-European immigrants indeed seek to change Dutch culture rather than assimilate into it, have flocked to his tough anti-immigration banner.

Dutch voters “have reconsidered their famous tolerance amid fears their own culture is being eroded by immigrants who don’t share their values,” The AP reports. Thanks to liberal immigration laws, around six percent of the Dutch population is already Muslim. Differing birth rates seem likely to expand that number.

In fact, Wilders’s populist Freedom Party became the nation’s third-largest in June elections, and has agreed to support a new conservative Dutch government likely to take office this month. In return, his political allies have promised to carry out much of his anti-immigration agenda.

The Wilders-supported government plans to cut immigration from non-Western countries in half, making it difficult for foreign spouses or children to join families that have already immigrated. Plans to ban the burqa are also on the table.

During Monday’s court appearance, Wilders refused to apologize for his utterances, arguing he’s been “stating my opinion in the context of public debate.”

“Formally I’m on trial here today, but with me, the freedom of expression of many, many Dutch people is also being judged,” he said, referring to more than 1.4 million voters who supported his party in June.

“He is trying to turn the court into a podium for his political activities,” complains Rudy Andeweg, a professor of Dutch politics at Leiden University. “He enjoys the attention. He wants a political trial but judges won’t have that.”

So … the accused somehow forced the judges and the government to put him on trial in public against their will? And they now seek to try him on political charges but somehow hope to bar him from making political statements during his trial?

Oh, please.

Wilders is no conciliator. He has called for taxing clothing commonly worn by Muslims — he calls their headscarves “head rags” — because they “pollute” the Dutch landscape.

Such Archie Bunker nativism can be at least unattractive, if not repulsive. But is it criminal?

In a world where perceived insults against Islam in nations once proud of their tolerance and pluralism are now greeted with death threats and even grisly murders, the underlying issues here are valid and even urgent topics of public discourse. Attempts to chill such discussion, to enforce “politeness” and “inoffensiveness” in public discourse, manage to be doomed, ridiculous, and totalitarian all at once — an inauspicious hat trick.

The Dutch are an independent nation with their own laws; they doubtless welcome any attempt to interfere in their internal affairs no more warmly than Americans would. Nonetheless, even those Americans who cringe at some of Wilders’ words must deeply regret seeing a politician put on trial for speaking out boldly on issues of legitimate public concern.

If convicted he could face up to a year in jail, though a fine is more likely. He will keep his seat in parliament, regardless.

The Dutch court was initially scheduled to hand down a verdict on Nov. 2 … but it turns out the Netherlands commemorates on that date the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, by …. a Muslim extremist.

Ah, the religion of peace. Unless, of course, you choose to criticize it.

Instead, the verdict is now scheduled to be handed down on Nov. 4 … though a court official said the postponement had nothing to do with the anniversary.


3 Comments to “Do the Dutch enjoy free speech?”

  1. Bruce D Says:

    It is interesting to watch Geerts open remarks in court. While his solutions may seem over the top, it’s not necessarily so. After all, in allowing people into our countries do we not expect that they have come here because they like what they see and to some degree wish to benefit and contribute and move in our direction ideologically? While Geert is forced into court for calling Islam a violent religion, is it not ironic to see that the Muslim response is to call out for him to be killed? Does that prove they are a “religion of peace”? Why are they not taken to court? Essentially Geert asks the court when it became illegal to speak the truth. Interesting question.

  2. Bruce D Says:

    Check this out. The Kangaroo Court continues.. After a not guilty verdict!

  3. Burke101 Says:

    What this indicates is that behind the facade of “diversity,” there is a police state brewing.

    The Wilders case needs to be made into an international cause celebre. And while we are at it, promote gun rights in Europe.