Geert Wilders, the Dutchman who is Parliamentary Leader of that country’s Party for Freedom, is currently being prosecuted for “incitement to hatred and discrimination” owing to things he has said about Islam. Rick Darby has an eloquent post in which he excerpts several passages from Wilders’ statement to the court. Note especially:
The lights are going out all over Europe. All over the continent where our culture flourished and where man created freedom, prosperity and civilization. The foundation of the West is under attack everywhere…My trial is not an isolated incident. Only fools believe it is. All over Europe multicultural elites are waging total war against their populations.
Be sure to read Rick’s entire post. See also Robert Spencer, who says:
If the farrago of “hate” charges against Wilders stick, and he is convicted, it will herald the end of the freedom of speech in the West, as a precedent will have been set that other Western nations (urged on by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which is the organization most responsible for the global assault on free speech) will be certain to follow. The era of enlightenment and the understanding that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights will be definitively drawing to a close, and a new darkness will descend over Europe and the free world in general.
Sadly, this sort of thing is not limited to the Netherlands. In Austria, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff is being prosecuted under “hate speech” laws for her statements about Islam–many of them based on citations of the Koran and the hadiths–and is facing up to 3 years in prison.
In Denmark, Lars Hedegaard was prosecuted on similar grounds–specifically, for statements he made about dysfunction and abuse within Islamic family culture. Very fortunately, he has been acquitted. However, it appears that the acquittal was enabled only by the court’s determination that the remarks for which he was being prosecuted had not been “intended for public dissemination.” It would appear that the legal environment in Denmark is still one in which people are made to feel that they’d better watch what they say. (More on the Hedegaard case here.)
No one should assume that this is merely a European issue and that such things could never happen in the USA. In this country also, we have many highly-placed “progressives” who would like to sacrifice free expression on the altar of “avoiding offense.” In America’s universities there has already been much interference with free speech, both via official action by administrators and via outright thuggishness by leftist political groups. And it has been only a matter of time before the anti-free-speech attitudes inculcated in academia made their way into the political climate of the larger society. We are very fortunate in this country to have the First Amendment and a strong chain of precedents supporting it–but constitutional interpretations are a matter of Supreme Court majorities.
The key issue here is not whether you agree with Wilders, Sabaditsch-Wolff, and Hedegaard…the key issue is whether you support free speech. This should not even need to be said, but in today’s climate, perhaps it does.
In the context of the events in Egypt, much has been written–and appropriately so–about the importance of democracy and free elections. But free democracy can exist only when there is free speech. What does it avail Dutch voters to have the right to elect Geert Wilders when the representative they have chosen can face criminal prosecution for advocating the views for which they elected him?
We may soon face a situation in which Iran is in possession of nuclear weapons, and a little later a situation in which it can deliver those weapons via ballistic missiles. Given the current readiness of many European governments to prosecute their citizens for expression of opinions regarding Islam–how much more tightly will they seek to control such expressions when they are within range of the Iranian weapons?