A symposium conducted by National Review Online
As the Geert Wilders case goes into pre-trial, National Review Online asked our experts: Is there any legitimate reason he's in court? What are the implications of such a trial being held, nevermind its outcome?
Geert Wilders is a hero for those countless Europeans who cherish a free and democratic Europe — a
— Bat Ye'or is author, most recently, of Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis.
The American media's silence about the Geert Wilders trial is puzzling — the trial is explosive, much more so than most of
Apart from its direct and immediate threat to free speech, the trial exposes the growth of political violence and repression in the Netherlands, long lauded as the most tolerant country in Europe, if not the world. Thirty years ago, I interviewed then-prime minister Dries van Agt simply by strolling into his unguarded parliamentary office and asking his secretary if he could spare me a couple of minutes. Now it is a country where politicians and artists are targeted by vigilantes and the state.
In 2002, popular Dutch politician and gay activist Pim Fortuyn was murdered by an environmentalist who took offense at Fortuyn's criticism of Islam. In 2004, one of the country's leading documentarians, Theo Van Gogh, was murdered, and almost beheaded, on the streets of
The media's silence is also disturbing since it indicates their reluctance, even fear, when it comes to grappling with the West's increasing censorship of anything that might be deemed offensive to some Muslims. So far, the effects in the
Within much of the Muslim world, political and religious debate, especially amongst Muslims, is shut down in the name of preventing anything that could "insult Islam." Unless we strenuously defend Wilders's right — and our own right — to speak, especially to criticize and offend, we will stumble down the same path.
— Paul Marshall is senior fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.
CLIFFORD D. MAY
I used to think of the
Pretty much all you need to know about the prosecution of the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders was summed up in a single (if run-on) sentence attributed to the "Openbaar Ministerie," which is not, as the name might suggest, a place that serves free whiskey to pastors. It is the prosecution service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice.
In response to Wilders's request to bring in witnesses to establish the veracity of the opinions that got him in trouble with the law, that body issued this statement on January 17: "It is irrelevant whether Wilders's witnesses might prove Wilders's observations to be correct, what's relevant is that his observations are illegal."
In other words, the prosecutors believe that the truth is not a defense in the
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and militant Islamism.
Wilders is in court because the
The Islamic challenge forces Europeans to take stock of themselves in an unprecedented way. Colorful examples include the British ICONS project, which features 120 "national treasures" that help define English culture; the Dutch government's film for potential immigrants that features a topless woman on the beach and two men kissing; and the French prime minister's decision to expel a man from
— Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.
[Editor's Addition: Pipes has written this about Wilders and his Party of Freedom (PVV):
'The PVV is libertarian and mainstream conservative, without roots in neo-Fascism, nativism, conspiricism, antisemitism, or other forms of extremism. (Wilders publicly emulates Ronald Reagan.) Indicative of this moderation is Wilders' long-standing affection for
'In addition, Wilders is a charismatic, savvy, principled, and outspoken leader who has rapidly become the most dynamic political force in the
'Finally, the PVV benefits from the fact that, uniquely in
[...] '[H]e is his country's leading politician. Plus, due to threats against his life, he always travels with bodyguards and incessantly changes safe houses. Who exactly, one wonders, is the victim of incitement.']
The danger has not been mass imprisonment — actual convictions have been few — but the creation of a general deterrent to criticism of Islam or anything Islamic.
Such laws will not bring social harmony. Anti-blasphemy pushes in
— Nina Shea is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom.
The Geert Wilders trial ought to be an international media event; seldom has any court case anywhere had such enormous implications for the future of the free world. The case against him, which has all the legitimacy of a Stalinist-era
Even if he wins, a dangerous precedent has been set by the fact of the trial itself: It is a sad day for the freedom of speech when a man can be put on trial for causing another man offense. If offending someone were really a crime warranting prosecution by the civil authorities, the legal system would be opened up to absurdities even greater than the Wilders trial.
But of course what Dutch authorities, Muslim groups in the
— Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran.
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