The trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders for inciting hatred against Muslims may have passed under the radar screen here for the most part. But it’s important, as is his acquittal, which indicates that at least a modicum of free speech is alive and well in the Netherlands.
Europe and even Canada have very different ideas about the scope of free speech than we do in this country ( I’ve had a bit of experience in the arena of French libel laws, for example; see this). Our laws are a great deal more liberal, in the sense of allowing liberty. It’s still somewhat difficult to imagine a trial such as Wilders’s occurring in this country, although it’s getting easier every day:
In a mere 20 minutes, judges dismissed all charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.
Judges called some of Mr Wilders’s comments “crude and denigrating”, but not illegal.
Although they found his warning of a “tsunami” of immigrants to be on the border of what is permissible, they said he had stayed within the bounds of the law, especially because his remarks were made during the country’s heated political debates on multi-culturalism.
Calling the wave of immigrants a “tsunami” is now on the border of impermissible hate speech? That seems chilling.
Wilders himself points out:
“I believe we have been too tolerant of the intolerant,” he told the BBC.
“We should learn to become intolerant of the intolerant.”
Reminds me of the well-known Jewish commentary, “Whoever is kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind.” The problem is how to define “cruel” and “intolerant”—some, of course, would see Wilders himself as both. I’m not familiar with all his statements about Islam, but I am strongly in favor of allowing him (or anyone) to make them. Not am I in favor of anti-hate-speech laws—but if a country such as The Netherlands decides to pass and then enforce them, I would imagine that certain Islamic jihadists would be prime candidates for prosecution.