Saturday, January 24, 2009

Free Geert Wilders !! Free Speech in Europe Under Attack

Warning: The disturbing videos at the bottom of this posting are recommended for mature audiences only, due to highly disturbing content

NATO was founded to defend the free nations of Europe. The sinister vision of a hard won democracy being crushed under the treads of Soviet tanks was enough to unite Europe around a consensus.

The Soviet Union has disbanded. The new threat to Europe's freedom comes not from military conquest but from militant immigrants from Muslim countries. The most vocal among them have contempt for the values and people of their host countries. There has been violent crime, demonstrations calling for Islamic law to rule Europe and riots when the free wheeling western tradition of free speech touches on Islam.

The three most well known confrontations about free speech in Europe revolve around the following three topics.

1) The Danish cartoons depicting Islam's founder, Muhammad. There were riots around the world and even fatalities in the numerous violent demonstrations that ensued. Instead of a defiant rally to the defense of western values, most newspapers would not even print the cartoons, which were pretty tame. It was reported as fact in many places that Islamic law prohibits the visual depiction of Muhammad. In fact, there has been different rulings in Islamic law regarding the depiction of Muhammad. There are numerous depictions of Islam's founder in manuscripts and museums around the world.

2) Submission. This film was produced by Theo Van Gogh, the great grand son of Vincent Van Gogh's brother. This film was a social critique of the mistreatment of women in Muslim society. For his role in producing it he was murdered by an assassin on November 2, 2004 who left a five page note pinned to his nearly decapitated body. It is telling that the film criticised the actions of those purporting to be Muslims. It did not repudiate Islamic teachings. I mention to this simply to point out how stifling the restrictions upon free speech have truly been. Even most communist societies made some distinction between opposition to basic ideology and criticisms of its implementation.

3) Fitna This is a film that traces modern day acts of terrorism to the Koranic verses that are cited in their defense. It does not call for violence against Muslims. It describes negative behavior and quotes religious texts that relate to the offending behavior. It is also interspersed with video footage of Muslim leaders condoning such behavior.

The latest attack on free speech was not by crazed Muslim mobs but by the quivering courts in the Netherlands. They have charged Geert Wilders, head of the Party for Freedom with hate crimes for producing the short film Fitna, which they say offends the "religious esteem" of Muslims. The English translation of their ruling is printed below. (Spelling errors are not mine)

"Amsterdam, 21 January 2009 - On 21 January 2009 the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered the criminal prosecution of the member of parliament Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about Muslims and their belief. In addition, the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism.

The Court of Appeal rendered judgment as a consequence of a number of complaints about the non-prosecution of Wilders for his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. The complainants did not agree with the decision of the public prosecution which decided not to give effect to their report against Wilders.

The public prosecution is of the view, amongst others, that part of the statements of Wilders do not relate to a group of worshippers, but consists of criticism as regards the Islamic belief, as a result of which neither the self-esteem of this group of worshippers is affected nor is this group brought into discredit. Some statements of Wilders can be regarded as offending, but since these were made (outside the Dutch Second Chamber) as a contribution to a social debate there is no longer a ground for punishableness of those statements according to the public prosecution.

The Court of Appeal does not agree with this view of the public prosecution and the considerations which form the basis of this view.

The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation. This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether a possible criminal prosecution or conviction would be admissible according to the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court based thereon, which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the initiation of a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on as well, provided that it is proportionate, does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.

Thirdly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether criminal prosecution of Wilders because of his statements would be opportune in the Dutch situation (the question of opportunity). According to the Court of Appeal the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.

As regards the insult of a group the Court of Appeal makes a distinction. In general the Court determines that the traditional Dutch culture of debating is based on tolerance of each others views to a large extent while Islamic immigrants may be expected to have consideration for the existing sentiments in the Netherlands as regards their belief, which is partly at odds with Dutch and European values and norms. As regards insulting statements the Court of Appeal prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law, as a result of which an active participation to the public debate, by moslims as well, is promoted.

However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf”). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.

The Court of Appeal concludes that the way in which the public debate about controversial issues is held, such as the immigration and integration debate, does not fall within the ambit of the law in principle indeed, but the situation changes when fundamental boundaries are exceeded. Then criminal law does appear as well.

Otherwise, the Court of Appeal emphasizes that this is a provisional judgment in the sense that Wilders has not been convicted in this suit of complaint. The Court of Appeal has only judged whether there are sufficient indications – at the level of a reasonable suspicion – to start a criminal prosecution against Wilders. The penal judge who will ultimately render judgment in a public criminal trial will answer the question if there is ground for conviction, and if so, to which extent.

LJ Nummer
Bron: Gerechtshof Amsterdam Datum actualiteit: 21 januari 2009"

It is a grievous blow to free speech that the Dutch courts are even hearing this case. Since when is "offending the religious esteem" of a community a problem? What is far more likely is that the prosecution is an attempt to placate the growing bloc of Muslim voters, who can leverage their influence well beyond their numbers in extracting political concessions from the government.

Name calling and prosecutions will not suppress a groundswell of anger at unrestricted immigration or the mushrooming crime rate that is fueled by it. Attempting to criminalise free speech only creates more extreme manifestations of hatred. Although I have presented both Fitna and Submission on this posting for educational purposes as well as a link to the Danish Cartoons I saw cartoons in the aftermath of the controversy that were pornographic and gratuitously insulting. They were clearly a symptom of a grass roots anger that is only fanned

Because the European Union is a much closer political association than the Europe of yesteryear, judicial attacks on freedom of expression have a malignant quality. It remains to be seen whether the newly seated Obama administration will move close to or distance itself from European sensibilities. It is important for Americans to speak up on this issue. Relations between Muslims in America and the non Muslim majority have been mostly harmonious and mutually respectful. There are indeed tensions revolving around immigration and the changes it is bringing to American society. It is not only border controls and legislation that must be reexamined in discussing the changing nature of European society. The plummeting birth rate in Europe has contributed to a situation where immigration is needed to prop up a pension system that requires new workers paying into pension plans. Although the problem is less significant in the US, it is still a significant factor.

The Muslims who attack free speech in Europe and to a more limited extent in America have an agenda within their own communities. There are divisions within Islam not only between Shia and Sunni but competing national and political interests as well. There are liberal trends and reactionary tendencies. There are elements in Islamic communities that would be disappointed if radical elements became their default representatives in the non Islamic world. Although it remains the moral responsibility of Muslims to repudiate those who advocate violence in their name, the west must also defend itself and its values.

There was a time when the Turkish empire was a place of refuge for Jews fleeing Christian Spain. There was an era in which the pursuit of knowledge flourished in Islamic countries, when works of Greek philosophers made their way into Arabic and then into European languages via Jewish translators. Islam like Christianity has gone through liberal and reactionary phases.

There needs to be frank discussion and vocal outrage at intolerance by Muslims but it must be surgically precise, focusing on behavior and not branding all adherents of that faith as reactionaries, misogynists and xenophobes. There has been in Christian history rivers of blood shed in the history of religious purity. The Huguenots, Jews and Waldensians are but a few of many examples of those who fell victim to Christian intolerance.

I do not mention this to dismiss or excuse Islamic attacks on religious freedom but to put them into a historical perspective. The most politically dominant form of Islam is today xenophobic, warlike and intolerant. There are political factions who hope to score short term gains by forging an alliance with the radical Islamists. It is these opportunists who must now be fought.

NATO was the united front of the free world in the days when the Soviet threat loomed large. Today, the threat to Western values is internal. The trial of Geert Wilders is a battle in this important struggle. We can not walk away from it. Whether it is through protest on the internet, street demonstrations or boycotting Dutch goods, we must not be silent. As I have done today, the material that is being banned in the name of Islam should be disseminated widely to convey the clear message that suppression of free speech will only lead to its defiant proliferation. We must not be silent ! Free Geert Wilders!

Fitna Part One

Fitna Part Two

Submission Sphere: Related Content


Muslims Against Sharia said...

Poll: Should Muslims living in non-Muslim countries integrate into host society?

Magdeburger Joe said...

When people agree to live in a community according to Islamic law, that is no problem. When a woman has her face slashed because it is not covered, that is non consensual Shaaria. Islamic law has been interpreted in different ways throughout history. I am troubled that the most reactionary interpretations seem to be the most politically dominant. I would like to see a scholarly treatment of this subject. There is a power struggle in the Islamic world and it seems that the worst guys are winning. There was a time when the Islamic world was a place of refuge from Christian intolerance. I think that some of these guys with turbans and dishdashahs don't care about G-d at all.They are interested in power for its own sake