Geert Wilders’ (Narrow) Victory for Free Speech
It is still legal to tell the truth in the Netherlands: Geert Wilders has been cleared. Wilders is the leader of the third-largest party in that country, and the protagonist in the largest Islamic challenge yet to the Western notion of the freedom of speech. He made a number of statements about Islam that, while entirely true and accurate, got him hauled into court on charges of “inciting hatred,” and the Netherlands came quite close to criminalizing the speaking of unpleasant truths. But Wilders was acquitted last week, and this bullet was dodged. Challenges to the freedom of speech, however, are still very much with us, and will only grow more virulent.
“It is my strong conviction,” Wilders remarked, “that Islam is a threat to Western values, to freedom of speech, to the equality of men and women, of heterosexuals and homosexuals, of believers and unbelievers.” These things are all true and rather obvious: Every day brings fresh stories about the oppression of women and homosexuals in countries ruled by Islamic law. Then there is the escalating persecution of Christians in Muslim countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia, and the suppression of free speech and open debate about Islamic supremacism and jihad violence all over the Islamic world—in accord with the provision of Islamic law that makes criticism of Islam and Muhammad a capital offense.
Nonetheless, this is the sort of statement that got Wilders prosecuted in the first place. And even as he was acquitted, the Dutch court affirmed the false and dangerous premises that made for that prosecution, including the idea that one could and should face legal action for saying things that others deemed offensive. Amsterdam Judge Marcel van Oosten said Thursday: “The bench finds that your statements are acceptable within the context of the public debate. The bench finds that although gross and denigrating, it did not give rise to hatred.”
Apparently van Oosten would not have hesitated to fine or jail Wilders if he had determined that his words gave rise to “hatred.” This is an extraordinarily dangerous legal concept. Who decides what constitutes “hatred”? If Wilders’ words were accurate, and yet Muslims nonetheless found them offensive, would van Oosten have fined Wilders anyway? It seems so. Yet if offending someone and inciting hatred is a crime, then anyone can claim that he was offended by speech that he would like to suppress.
That is the reason for “hate speech” laws in the first place. Criminalizing speech or thought is a tool to quash dissent, and is therefore a straight path to authoritarian government. “Hate speech” laws are designed wholly and solely to criminalize non-Leftist thought—as well as criticism of Islamic supremacism and jihad, which forces such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and its allies have been largely successful in convincing Western elites to regard as “racism.”
Wilders was quite right when he said this upon his acquittal: “Today is a victory for freedom of speech. The Dutch are still allowed to speak critically about Islam, and resistance against Islamization is not a crime.” But his acquittal is by no means the end of the Islamic supremacist challenges to freedom of speech and the freedom of expression in the West. The OIC is hell-bent on using Western “hate speech” codes to enforce Sharia blasphemy laws upon the non-Muslim states of the West, making honest discussion of Islam and jihad a crime to be punished instead of a necessary task in our defense against the Islamic supremacist threat.
We may only hope that this verdict will set a strong precedent that will make it even less likely that such cases will succeed in the future. Yet even as Wilders was acquitted, Els Lucas, a useful idiot in the Netherlands who pursued the prosecution of Wilders, said that she was not giving up, but would pursue her complaints against Wilders at the European Court of Human Rights or the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee.
Such challenges to our freedom will continue. “Hate speech” laws must be rejected as the tools of tyranny that they are. And we must never succumb to the temptation to bring them to the New World. If we do, Islamic jihadists will have carte blanche to do as they please here.