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Geert Wilders Is On Trial for Being Anti-Muslim and Talking About It

February 11, 2010
Image by –Tico– via Flickr

Is Geert Wilders on trial for being anti-Muslim, or is he on trial because he is the one who is talking about it?  Mr. Wilders’ constituents have placed him and his party’s platform in the majority of the country, meaning that no matter what the government’s position is, the majority of people agree with Mr. Wilders. If the iconography on the web is any indication, Mr. Wilders speaks for the majority of the populations in his outrage at Muslim tactics designed to impose Shar’ia law on other nations.  So, is Mr. Wilders on trial for talking about how he is anti-Muslim?

Wilders, a 46-year-old with bleached-blond, bouffant hair, made international headlines in 2008 when he made a short film called Fitna, in which verses from the Koran were displayed against a background of violent film clips and images of Islamic radicals’ terrorism. Described as “offensively anti-Islamic” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the film led to protests in the Muslim world and prompted Britain to ban Wilders from entering the country. But it also brought Wilders more popularity at home. His Party for Freedom finished second in last year’s European Parliament elections, winning 17% of the Dutch vote. His party also holds nine seats in the Dutch parliament.

It appears that there is a new form of crime being punished only in cases of speaking out against Muslims, a determination of “hate speech.”  What is the Netherlands’ governmental authority saying, that they will arrest and put on trial everyone who speaks out against a religion they don’t agree with?  Have the Netherlands’ officials watched the news lately?  Muslims make hate speeches against Western civilization everyday, dance in the streets when hundreds of Americans were killed in 9/11, but when a lawmaker speaks out he is prosecuted?  Is the Netherlands effectually muzzling their lawmakers from speaking about only that which is approved by some council?  Who does get to say what is appropriate when Mr. Wilders’ party enjoys wild success, meaning the majority of the population agrees with him, but the government wants to shut him up?

At what point are the Netherlands authorities naive or simply pushing their own agenda to pacify the Muslims in the country?  Britain did allow Mr. Wilders into the country, but the Netherlands response is to prosecute Mr. Wilders for his speech?  How strange.

Wilders really believes that Islam is a direct threat to the women and children in his country, and that type of fear goes deep.  How is it that the Netherlands authorities think they can control a man’s fear or willingness to fight if he feels his wife/daughters/children/partners will be brutalized by an invading force?  I can only see violence emerging from this type of situation.  Extremism begets extremism.  If the Muslim vocal authority didn’t advocate rape, pedophile sexual attacks, and attacks on Western women and their own daughters, then perhaps the men and women from Westernized societies wouldn’t feel the need to fight back.  But there is no deeper instinct than a person’s desire to protect his or her family.  Wars have begun over invading forces brutalizing women and children in the name of their religions, and this is sincerely what Mr. Wilders believes will happen:

Wilders is often compared to the leaders of Europe’s other far-right parties, such as Nick Griffin of the British National Party and Jean-Marie Le Pen of France’s National Front. But he claims (though his opponents strongly disagree) that his policies are rooted in the Dutch tradition of tolerance: he says that Islam is a threat to women’s rights, and he criticizes Muslims’ anti-gay rhetoric. Now under 24-hour surveillance because of the many death threats he’s received, Wilders told TIME last year that Islam itself stirs hatred. “The Koran is full of incitements to violence,” he said. “Islam wants to dominate every part of life and society. It does not want to integrate or assimilate, but to dominate. It should not be compared to other religions but with totalitarian ideologies like communism or fascism.”

So what is the Muslim response?  The clerics there have begged the government to help them keep “moderate Muslims” in place unless more zealots enter the picture.  So the response is:  if you don’t support us, worse men will show up?  Not the way to stop a violent backlash against a Muslim minority when Dutch men feel their families are at risk.

But even if Wilders offers an extreme and distorted view of Muslims, it is a view that has increasing resonance with voters, says Ian Buruma, author of a book about the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim radical, Mohammed Bouyeri. “There is real anxiety over immigration and the Muslim issue, globalization and economic uncertainty. That climate of insecurity and resentment makes voters vulnerable to the kind of populist demagoguery that Wilders is very good at.”

So who is being punished here?  And why is Wilders being punished if, ostensibly, he is speaking for his constituents? Does logic really enter into this equation if fear is the master?  Wilders is getting a warm reception from his constituents because they believe he is speaking for them, but unfortunately, he may pay a very steep price.  The fact that he may die only would make him a martyr.  Careful, careful here:

Speaking to the court last month, Wilders even quoted Thomas Jefferson, saying that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. “I believe in my heart and soul that freedom in the Netherlands is being threatened,” he said. “It is not only our right but our obligation as free people to speak out.”

He is speaking from his heart.  He is speaking openly, and he appears to not be cowed by court proceedings.  I wonder if the Netherlands officials have not bitten off more than they can chew.

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