This week, Dutch politician Geert Wilders goes on trial for hate speech after he compared Islam to National Socialism. Wilders is a right-wing populist, and his party has been gaining ground in recent years, with similar trends observable in other European countries where there are concerns about Muslim immigrant assimilation and the spread of radical Islam. He has spoken in Germany, where a book by Bundesbank director Thilo Sarrazin on these very issues recently sparked tremendous controversy. He has also spoken in the United States. His trial, then, is garnering interest far beyond the borders of the Netherlands.
- U.S. and Europe on Freedom of Speech Blogger Half Sigma argues that "it's only a historical coincidence that the United States left supports free speech. It goes back to the Eisenhower years when the government went after communist sympathizers." Remarks the blogger: "This apparently never happened in Europe."
- Ironic "Wilders," observes John at Powerline, "is being prosecuted for 'hate speech' because he says that Islam is a violent and totalitarian political creed. At the same time, he is given police protection because radical Muslims are trying to assassinate him."
- 'Why ... So Much Anti-Muslim Rhetoric in the Netherlands?' Slate's Chris Beam attempts to answer this question. Part of the issue is that "it's a tiny, densely populated country with a high immigration rate," he says, but one can't ignore that the "Dutch political system has also given a louder voice to anti-immigrant sentiments in recent months. Wilders' Freedom Party gained major ground in the last election, going from nine seats to 24 in the country's 150-seat parliament, to become the third-largest party," and one that the ruling parties need in order to govern. The Dutch-Muslim clash also gets played up in the international media, Beam writes, partly because of the recalled drama of "the sensational killings of Van Gogh and Fortuyn," and partly because of the interesting contrast with the country's reputation for tolerance in other areas.
- As a Dutch Immigrant, This Is Troubling "The burqa worried me too," writes Moroccan-born novelist Abdelkader Benali for The Guardian. He says he understands Dutch unease with lack of assimilation and thinks postwar multiculturalist ideology may not be helping Europe. That said, he sees Wilders's rhetoric as a "dangerous way of turning populist sentiments into cold-blooded politics and creating a new sort of fear. ... Certainly there is something rotten in multiculturalism, but turning the stereotypical victim into the stereotypical scapegoat is cheap and does not do justice to reality."
- Geert Wilders in His Own Words Islam is "not merely a religion" but a "political ideology," argues Wilders in a recent speech in Berlin. He quotes a number of historians and political scientists on this matter. Though "there are many moderate Muslims, ... the political ideology of Islam is not moderate and has global ambitions." Islam, unlike other religions, believes the Golden Rule "applies only to fellow believers, but not to Infidels," Wilders says, alluding to the argument of "Ali Sina, an Iranian Islamic apostate who lives in Canada." Wilders also points to an American political scientist's comparison of Islam and "totalitarian political ideologies" like National-Socialism and Communism. They share many characteristics, he says, the final being "the apparent inability of the West to see the danger." He ends with an attack on political correctness, insofar as it prevents resistance to Islamic fundamentalism:
One of the things we are no longer allowed to say is that our culture is superior to certain other cultures. This is seen as a discriminatory statement--a statement of hatred even. We are indoctrinated on a daily basis, in the schools and through the media, with the message that all cultures are equal and that, if one culture is worse than all the rest, it is our own. We are inundated with feelings of guilt and shame about our own identity and what we stand for. We are exhorted to respect everyone and everything, except ourselves. That is the message of the Left and the politically-correct ruling establishment. They want us to feel so ashamed about our own identity that we refuse to fight for it.The detrimental obsession of our cultural and political elites with Western guilt reinforces the view which Islam has of us. The Koran says that non-Muslims are kuffar (the plural of kafir), which literally means "rejecters" or "ingrates." Hence, infidels are "guilty."
- Keep Wilders Contained A team at Der Spiegel provides a fairly thorough takedown of Wilders, calling him "a Dutch politician of a stripe that doesn't yet exist in Germany: a populist who stirs up hatred against Islam and the establishment," and whose "tactics" include "pitting immigrants against pensioners." The team acknowledges the causes of Wilders's popularity in Europe: "the fact that the established parties have failed to give their voters the feeling that they are addressing ... issues" such as the burqa and other traditions "contrary to modern European values," and the added tension stemming from economic troubles. In addition, "Europe is aging, and other, younger regions of the world are catching up. Many people are worried about the future in a globalized world, one in which the balance of power is shifting." They note that Wilders has found a small but highly enthusiastic group of supporters "with right-wing Islamophobic groups in the United States," from whom he is "collecting awards for his supposed battle to uphold freedom of speech and giving talks to enthusiastic fans--and collecting handsome speaking fees in the process."
- Are Germans Overreacting to Wilders? Rainer Haubrich in Die Welt provides a counterpoint to the Der Spiegel article, calling "the reaction to Geert Wilders" in Germany "hysterical," and arguing that German criticism of Wilders "springs from an antiquated reflex" and involves a certain reluctance "to look at the facts"--the problems of the Netherlands are real and worth German study, as Germans are grappling with the same issues.