The outcome of the current trial of Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders on charges of “incitement to hatred” will represent a watershed in Europe’s response to the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism.
Wilders, nicknamed Mozart because of his blond hair, is somewhat of a maverick. Voted politician of the year in 2007 by the Dutch media, he is a charismatic and popular politician who displays refreshing contempt for the hypocritical political correctness relating to Islam that has enveloped Europe. Some polls suggest that in an election now, his Freedom Party could become Holland’s largest parliamentary party.
Wilders opposes what he regards as the craven appeasement of the Netherlands and most European nations to intimidation and threats of violence from Islamic fundamentalists.
Against the background of the massive influx of Muslim immigrants, he fears that having embraced post-modernism and cultural relativism, most Europeans lack the stamina to maintain their core values and are capitulating to Muslims determined to impose Shari’a law in Europe.
Wilders refers to Islam as “the Trojan horse in Europe” and predicts that “if we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia will just be a matter of time. One century ago, there were approximately 50 Muslims in the Netherlands. Today, there are about one million. Where will it end? We are heading for the end of European civilization.”
As a youngster, Wilders lived for two years in Israel, which he describes as “the West’s first line of defense,” and has visited the Jewish state more than 40 times. He says that “we in the West are all Israel… The war against Israel is not a war against Israel. It is a war against the West. It is jihad.”
Two years ago, Wilders produced an explosive film titled Fitna, which graphically depicted the violence and denial of human rights prevailing in many Muslim countries. It highlighted practices such as stoning of adulterous women, beheadings, execution of apostates, honor killings, hanging of homosexuals, forced child marriages, female circumcision and other odious practices prevailing to this day in many Islamic societies.
Wilders denies he is a racist or fascist, insisting that “I make a distinction between the ideology of Islam and the people,” emphatically reiterating that “my allies are not Le Pen or Haider… we will never join up with fascists”.
IN THE current political environment, the critique of Islam carries heavy personal costs beyond political fallout. The rewards offered by Muslim extremists to anyone who succeeds in killing Wilders are not idle threats, as evidenced by the murder by a fanatical Muslim of Dutch media personality Theo Van Gogh several years ago. Over the past five and a half years Wilders has been under 24-hour police protection.
However, Wilders may have over-reached himself when he called for the banning of the Koran, which he compared to Mein Kampf, alleging that it incites Muslims to resort to violence. Whilst such provocative statements may have been deliberately expressed to dramatize the dangers confronting Europe, they alienated many who would endorse his calls to heed the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism because it would require Muslims to renounce their religious identity and sacred texts and thus run counter to all democratic principles.
This, together with his production of Fitna, led to him being charged with incitement to hatred and provided a rationale for many European politicians and governments to accuse him of demagoguery and promoting Islamophobia for political gain. For a time, he was even banned from the UK as an “undesirable person.”
That is not to deny that the Koran contains problematic sections which are cruel, violent, anti-Semitic and conflict with the human values which we cherish. But offensive expressions can be selectively extracted from sacred writings of all the major religions, including Christianity and Judaism.
Religions must be judged by the manner in which teachings are applied today. Wilders would have been better served had he concentrated on the fact that today, the dominant elements in Christianity and Judaism promote peaceful coexistence and tolerance whilst global Islam is associated with violence and murder.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is conscious of the growing anger and resentment of Islamic extremism in Western countries. To counter this, it has been employing its clout within the United Nations and other international organizations to create a climate in which any criticism of Islam, Islamic practices or behavior would be deemed a criminal offense and subject to prosecution. Since 2005, non-binding resolutions to this effect have been overwhelmingly endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.
The OIC is now attempting to impose resolutions that would oblige UN member states to implement these draconian restrictions of freedom of expression. They appear to be succeeding. Last October, as an extension of President Barack Obama’s undertaking to actively combat “negative stereotyping of Islam,” the US administration co-sponsored a UN resolution approved by the discredited Human Rights Council which, inter alia, called on states to criminalize “negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups.”
WE JEWS, more than any minority, have suffered from incitement to hatred. But having regard to the extent to which Christianity and Judaism and its symbols are routinely satirized, mocked and abused in Western society, it would represent a bizarre application of double standards to prevent a man like Wilders from expressing critical views about Islam even if many disagree with him. Whilst democratic societies should prohibit incitement to violence, Wilders is surely entitled to be as critical about Islam as others are about communism, capitalism, Christianity or Judaism.
Besides, Islamic countries are notorious for denying freedom of worship and freedom of expression to Christians and Jews. Their culture, media and mosques are saturated with hatred of other religions, especially incitement against Jews. To enable them to impose restrictions on freedom of expression in Western countries would amount to capitulation and appeasement to aggressive Muslim minorities. Particularly so now, when imams and radical Islamists continuously call for the assassination of critics of Islam as exemplified by the murderous response to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.
Genuine coexistence with Islam can only be achieved if the moderate Muslims become sufficiently courageous to leave the closet and assume leadership positions. To achieve this, Europe must demand that the Muslims living amongst them become integrated into a democratic society. If this fails, Europeans at best will face intensified chaos or, in the worst-case scenario, will undergo a civil war to prevent the flag of Islam from being imposed on them.
For all these reasons, the outcome of the Wilders trial in the Netherlands is of immense importance. His more extreme views about banning the Koran are a political response to the failure of law enforcement to curb the verbal and physical excesses of Islamic extremists. If Wilders is convicted of promoting “hate speech” in a country such as the Netherlands where Muslim violence and calls of “death to the Jews” are regular occurrences and rarely prosecuted, it will have grave repercussions on the future of Europe and the retention of global freedom of expression. It will also embolden Islamic fundamentalist extremists and provide jihadists throughout the world with a genuine cause for celebration.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post