As reported by today’s New York Times, Geert Wilders, Dutch politician and filmmaker, is going on trial for inciting hatred against Islam. He’s probably most famous for his 2008 movie Fitna, which calls attention to the violent excesses of Islam. (Do watch the 17-minute movie, which is here, and judge for yourself. Note that some of the scenes are not for the squeamish.) I’m not going to defend Wilders in general, because I haven’t followed all his doings, but it seems to me that the movie, at least, doesn’t incite hatred so much as call attention to Muslims who incite hatred. (There are a few dodgy right-wing bits that decry rising Islamic influence in the Netherlands.) Indeed, Wilders has lived under police protection ever since making Fitna, fearing that he’d meet the fate that befell Theo van Gogh, who was murdered by a radical Muslim after criticizing Islam. Who’s inciting the hatred?
While Wilders supporters see the trial as an attack on of freedom of expression, immigrant groups see it as a test of whether the Dutch government is willing to support minority rights, including freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination — guaranteed in the first words of the Dutch constitution.
Anti-racism groups have long sought Wilders’ prosecution, saying his remarks go beyond being offensive and compound ethnic tensions in the Netherlands, a country once regarded a beacon of tolerance.
”Racist incidents in the workplace are rising, and the labor unions say that too,” said Rene Danen of Nederland Bekent Kleur — Dutch for ”The Netherlands Shows Its Colors.” The group was one of several that filed a formal complaint against Wilders. ”One in three Muslims here now say they are considering leaving.”
He said Wilders’ remarks clearly violate hate speech laws and his case is no different from many other discrimination suits filed each year.
The Netherlands is not the US: here we can criticize religion as much as we please, so long as we don’t incite violence. I think that’s a better way to arrange things.
UPDATE: Russell Blackford has a defense of Wilders’s right to speak on his website.