The Dutch judicial authorities are going to prosecute Geert Wilders, one of the 150 members of the Dutch Parliament, for making the movie Fitna. In this short documentary, which explains what happens if a number of verses of the Koran are taken seriously, Mr Wilders compares the Muslims’ holy book to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He claims the Koran calls for violence against Jews and other non-Muslims. Fitna can be seen here.
The Amsterdam Court of Appeal ruled yesterday that the views of Mr. Wilders
“constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law […] both because of their contents and the method of presentation […] 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 […] by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.”
The Court is of the opinion that
“a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on […] 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.”
The Court also states that
“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.”
Since Mr. Wilders is the founder and leader of a political party, the Dutch Freedom Party PVV, which currently holds nine seats in Parliament and whose popularity is rising fast, the Court also addressed the question whether approval or disapproval of Mr. Wilders’ opinions should not be left to the electorate. The Court says that it, indeed,
“prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law […] 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 to a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.”
The Canadian lawyer and author Ezra Levant, remarks that
“Hatred is an emotion. Apparently in Holland, ‘making’ someone feel that emotion is a crime.”
Mr. Levant has himself been the victim of an official ‘hate crime investigation’ in Canada, following complaints by Muslims for republishing the so-called ‘Danish cartoons’ about the Prophet Muhammad. In Mr. Levant’s case, the complaints were dismissed.
Mr. Levant points out that the Dutch court also considers it a crime to
“incite ‘discrimination.’ Not just discrimination itself, mind you. But inciting someone to discriminate. The Dutch court has not announced the prosecution of anyone who Wilders has ‘incited’ to discriminate. But they’ll charge him with discrimination, once removed – even if that discrimination hasn’t happened, and isn’t logically tied to his political criticisms of Islamic fascism.”
The case against Mr. Wilders in the Netherlands bears a striking resemblance to the 2004 conviction of the Vlaams Blok, another popular political party, in neighboring Belgium. The Vlaams Blok, despite the electoral support of 24% of the voters, was disbanded following a court verdict that it should be considered to be a racist, hence criminal, organization. The party was convicted on the basis of an anthology of 16 texts published by local party chapters between 1996 and 2000. Many of these texts simply quoted official statistics on crime rates and social welfare expenditure, One of the texts dealt with the position of women in fundamentalist Muslim societies and had been written by a female Turkish-born Vlaams Blok member from the town of Aalst who had herself been raised in such an environment. The court said the Aalst section of the party published her story
“not to inform the public about the position of women in the Islamic world, but to depict the image [of non-indigenous people] as unethical and barbarian.”
The court stated explicitly that what the party had written “was not necessarily untrue,” but alleged that the party’s “intentions” in publishing the truth had been of a criminal nature.
The same applies to Mr. Wilders’ Fitna movie. Whether or not it is true what Mr. Wilders says does not matter to the Dutch court. It claims he has committed a crime by making statements which
“substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers […] by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief.”
A major argument in this regard seems to be that Mr. Wilders compared the Koran, with its many verses that call for murdering Jews, to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Mr. Wilders is one of Holland’s most outspoken defenders of Israel and the Jews. Ironically, his adversaries have on several occasions compared him to the Nazis, but none of them has been prosecuted for making this comparison. Countless non-leftist European have been compared to the Nazis in the past decades. The European Left has used terms such as ‘Nazi,’ ‘Fascist’ and ‘racist’ to such an extent that the words have become meaningless. Even Israel is regularly called a Nazi state. However, when Mr. Wilders uses the comparison, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal
“considers this insulting to such a degree […] that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.”
As in Belgium, the prosecution against Mr. Wilders is a political attempt to kill a politician and a party which threaten the ruling establishment. As Dutch public prosecutor Otto Van der Bijl told CNN, Mr. Wilders will be prosecuted because a total of nine (!) people filed complaints against him. One of these is Mrs. Els Lucas of the governing Labour party, a political opponent of Mr. Wilders’ PVV party, and a party which is rapidly losing its blue-collar voting base to the PVV.
What must one call the methods of a court that issues verdicts like the one in Amsterdam? The Wall Street Journal calls them Saudi methods. But perhaps Nazi methods is more appropriate. Or is it a criminal offence to say so because it might incite ‘hatred’ against the Dutch judiciary?
A petition in defense of Mr. Wilders can be signed here.