Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Fate of Europe Hangs in the Balance: Wilders, Free Speech and Islamic Political Power in Europe

Geert Wilders is on trial in the Netherlands for daring to criticize Islam. But the trial is not going well for the leftist, ruling elite. The prosecutors are recommending to the judge that the charges be dropped. Reuters reports:

Prosecutors asked a Dutch court on Friday to acquit anti-immigration lawmaker Geert Wilders of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

The new Dutch minority government, made up of the Liberals and Christian Democrats which took office on Thursday, is reliant on support from Wilders' anti-Islam Freedom Party.

Prosecutors, who had already called on the court to drop a charge that Wilders insulted Muslims by comparing Islam to Nazism, said his comments were aimed at Islam and not Muslims as a group. They said he had the right as a politician to make statements about perceived problems in society.

"Wilders does not often refer to Muslims, but Islam. Criticism of a religion is not punishable," prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman said.

They added that, although several statements by Wilders incited discrimination against Muslims, they could not be adjudged as criminal since he made them as a politician in the context of a public debate.

Well, that sounds like common sense. So why did Wilders end up in court in the first place? Why don't we let someone who ought to know explain the answer to that question? Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former Dutch parliamentarian and a fugitive from Jihad who now lives in the United States. She writes in an article entitled: "In Holland, Free Speech on Trial:"

How is it possible that a mature European liberal democracy is prosecuting an elected member of parliament for his political opinions on the most pressing issue of the day—namely, Islamic fundamentalism? There are three main reasons.

First, there is the matter of traditional politicians' discomfort with Mr. Wilders. Historically, the Netherlands has insisted on the idea of "consensus." Though on paper this means compromise, in practice it has meant conformity of thought and a refusal to rock the boat on controversial issues.

No issue has tested this comfortable consensus more than the ascent of Islam, first presented by immigrants from Morocco and Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s, and then by asylum-seekers and refugees from various Muslim countries beginning in the 1990s. Most elites responded by preaching "tolerance." Give Muslim immigrants benefits and wait until they voluntarily integrate, their argument goes. Even if that process would take generations—even when it became apparent that some Muslims practiced female genital mutilation and honor killings, and imams openly urged their congregations to reject Dutch culture and law—citizens were not to criticize Islam.

A growing segment of the population—including Mr. Wilders and me, when I was a member of parliament from 2003 to 2006—doubted this facile and dangerous idea of "tolerance." This upset politicians, professors, journalists and other opinion-makers who tried to make us untouchables.

There were exceptions: Brave people in media, business and even in the military supported me politically, often behind the scenes. Still, I eventually left the country due to a combination of frustration with the campaign of ostracism and the extreme threats I faced from Islamists who wanted to kill me. Mr. Wilders, however, endured.

The second reason Mr. Wilders is on trial is the electoral power of Muslims in the Netherlands' four major cities. During local elections in March 2006, Muslim immigrants for the first time acted as an unofficial power bloc that could make or break a major Dutch party.

The supposed victims of Dutch discrimination were now a force to reckon with. Thus, major parties including Labor and the Christian Democrats—dominant since World War II—now support policies like increased immigration from Muslim countries and welfare benefits for Muslim voters. And they turn a blind eye to the implementation of informal Shariah law, particularly concerning the treatment of women.

Third, there are the efforts of countries in the Organization of the Islamic Conference to silence the European debate about Islam. One strategy used by the 57 OIC countries is to treat Muslim immigrants to Europe as satellite communities by establishing Muslim cultural organizations, mosques and Islamic centers, and by insisting on dual citizenship. Their other strategy is to pressure international organizations and the European Union to adopt resolutions to punish anyone who engages in "hate speech" against religion. The bill used to prosecute Mr. Wilders is the national version of what OIC diplomats peddle at the U.N. and EU.

The implications of this trial are enormous. In the short term, it could bring the simmering tensions between Holland's approximately one million Muslims and the 1.4 million voters who elected Mr. Wilders to a boil. The Netherlands has seen its share of Islamist violence before and could well see violent confrontations again.

On a more fundamental level, this trial—even if Mr. Wilders wins—could silence the brave critics of radical Islam. The West is in a war of ideas against political Islam. If free speech is not protected in Europe, we're already losing.

All three of these reasons are hugely important, but I just want to point out that number two might well mark a watershed. This is the first time I have read that that Muslims have actually used the political clout derived from their tendency to congregate in sections of major European cities to become a voting block to push their agenda. I have read plenty of predictions that this is bound to happen sooner or later, but it marks a significant new phase in the Islamization of Europe.

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