Two government-subsidized Brussels organisations, the “intercultural youth platform” Kif Kif and the “movement against racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia” MRAX, have lodged a complaint before the Belgian judicial authorities against Filip Dewinter, a member of the Flemish regional parliament and one of the leaders of the Flemish-secessionist Vlaams Belang, which is the largest party in Belgium. They demand that Dewinter be convicted for “incitement to racist hatred” and that his party be deprived of its funding. In Belgium, political parties are almost entirely government-funded, as accepting private donations is mostly illegal.
The reason for the complaint is an interview which Dewinter gave to the New York magazine Jewish Week (and which he put on his website). When asked whether he espoused xenophobia, Dewinter replied:
“Xenophobia” is not the word I would use. If it absolutely must be a “phobia” let it be “islamophobia”. Yes, we’re afraid of Islam. The islamisation of Europe is a frightening thing. Even distinguished Jewish scholars as Bat Ye’or and Bernard Lewis warned for this. If this historical process continues, the Jews will be the first victims. Europe will become as dangerous for them as Egypt or Algeria.
The fact that Dewinter used the word “islamophobia” has outraged the Belgian media, since xenophobia (and islamophobia) is a criminal offense. Under Belgium’s very broad Anti-Racism Act of 1981, racial discrimination is defined as “each form of distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference, which has or may have as its aim or consequence that the recognition, the enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social or cultural sphere or in other areas of social life, is destroyed, affected or restricted.”
Contrary to the European anti-discrimination treaties, the Belgian bill not only prohibits distinctions that have restrictions as their aim or consequence, but also distinctions that may have these restrictions – or even simply effects – as their consequence. Anyone who describes himself as an “islamophobe” is pronouncing a preference which may have as its consequence that the enjoyment of a freedom in an area of social life be affected. Moreover, the Belgian Anti-Discrimination Act of 2003 reversed the onus of proof. The complainant does not need to prove that the accused “discriminates” or propagates “discrimination,” but it is up to the latter to prove that he does not.
Last year, the Belgian courts convicted the country’s largest party, the Vlaams Blok, as a criminal organisation on the basis of these bills. This forced the party to disband, whereupon its members, including Mr. Dewinter, established a new party, the Vlaams Belang. In the same JW interview, Dewinter says:
Indeed, we were convicted. But the conviction was a sham. It was a political process [trial], aimed at curtailing an opposition party. In the United States, judges are independent. Even the president himself could not influence a judge, let alone the Supreme Court. But in Belgium the judiciary is a tool in the hands of the government. All judges are appointed by the three political parties that govern the country since World War I. Some judges are strong enough to shrug off the political pressure, but that’s exceptional. The separation of powers is just fiction. The laws used in this conviction were specially concocted to eliminate our party.
Meanwhile, the readers of the left-wing Belgian monthly Deng have elected Dewinter as the “worst Belgian ever.” Of almost 10,000 votes 27.3% went to Dewinter. Marc Dutroux, the convicted Belgian pervert who abducted children and locked them up in dungeons where he raped and murdered them, is second with 20%. The third “worst Belgian ever” (11.4%) is the country’s former king, Leopold II, who in the late 19th and early 20th century decimated the population of his personal Congo colony, killing an estimated 10 million people.
Deng has placed a portrait of Dewinter, the winner of its contest, on its December cover, but is selling this issue at a discount. “Owing to our disgusting cover Deng will be sold at half the usual price this month,” Deng editor Dany Ilegems says. The editor says he is proud of Deng’s readers for having chosen Dewinter: “Dutroux has raped and murdered children, but according to the court, unlike Dewinter, he is an ‘isolated’ pervert.”