Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Dutch Sham Trial of Geert Wilders

Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who heads the fascist-leaning Party for Freedom (PVV), has gained much notoriety -- and deservingly so -- in the western world for his hate speeches inciting violence, discrimination, racism, bigotry and xenophobia against immigrants, in general, and the Muslim community, in particular. In the post-9/11 era of Islamophobia, he has often acted as its lead pit bull in Europe savagely attacking Islam and Muslims with his depraved and hateful statements and messages. He has called for banning of the Qur’an, comparing it with Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has also produced the hate-filled documentary film Fitna, which since its release in 2008 has been promoted and distributed by Ruder Finn, the same PR firm that was instrumental in crafting the public relations campaign for its long-time client Philip Morris (now Altria) that disputed the evidence that tobacco smoking is hazardous to health.

Thanks to his pro-Israeli and rabidly Islamophobic supporters like Robert Spencer, Itamar Marcus, Daniel Pipes, Shlomo Sharan and John David Lewis, Wilders and Ruder Finn were able to show the hate film in many parts of the world, beginning with a conference in December of 2008 entitled "Facing Jihad" that was organized at the Begin Center in Jerusalem.

Protests from the Muslim and immigrant communities (Nederlands bekent kleur) resulted in cases filed against Wilders. Attempts to prosecute Wilders under Dutch anti-hate speech laws in June 2008 were, however, dropped, with the public prosecution stating that Wilders’s comments contributed to the debate on Islam in Dutch society. The office released a statement reading: "That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable. Freedom of expression fulfils an essential role in public debate in a democratic society. That means that offensive comments can be made in a political debate."

The Muslim and immigrant victims appealed against the prosecution's decision to not pursue the case and on 21 January 2009, a three-judge court of appeal ordered the Dutch Public Prosecution Service to try Wilders. He was charged with five counts - group insult, inciting hatred against Muslims because of their religion, inciting discrimination against Muslims because of their religion, inciting hatred against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race, and inciting discrimination against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race.

The judges in the first trial were removed after a perceived bias against Wilders, and a retrial started in February 2011. The Public Prosecutor’s office, which initially had refused to prosecute Wilders, made a mockery of the retrial process by arguing that Wilders should be acquitted on all counts. So, just as expected of a sham process, on 23 June 2011, Wilders was acquitted of all charges, with Judge Marcel van Oosten noting that his statements, although "gross and denigrating," had not given rise to hatred against Muslims, and as such were "acceptable within the context of public debate." The judge however noted that Wilders’s statements were on the edge of legal acceptability.

“I am delighted with this ruling,” said Geert Wilders. “It is a victory, not only for me but for all the Dutch people. Today is a victory for freedom of speech. The Dutch are still allowed to speak critically about Islam, and resistance against Islamisation is not a crime. I have spoken, I speak and I shall continue to speak.” What a ludicrous claim to act as the champion of free speech from the same guy who calls for a ban on the Qur’an!

Comparing a religious Scripture that billions hold sacred to Hitler’s murderous tract is more than an exercise in literary criticism. Unfortunately, by acquitting Wilders the Dutch court has set the precedence that it is kosher to treat its nearly a million Muslim inhabitants who believe in the Qur’an like the Nazis, and that an all-out war against them would be justified. The Dutch court also forgot that there is a fine line between what is free speech and insult of an entire religious community. As noted by author Ian Buruma free speech is never that absolute; even in the USA, where citizens are protected by the First Amendment, there are certain words and opinions that no civilized person would utter, and others that open the speaker to civil charges.

If Wilders had confined his demented and offensive remarks against Muslims who use violent means to stop free speech, most of us would have no problem. But he refuses to make that distinction and wants to denigrate Islam and crucify its founder (probably posthumously!). Like his utterly evil and spiteful pro-Israeli Islamophobic peers on this side of the Atlantic - Gingrich, Palin, Pipes, Spencer and many other bigots -- he sells fear and is a Christian reincarnation of Julius Streicher of the Nazi era. As a terrorist provocateur he wants his Muslim and immigrant victims to react to his nasty insults and then claim that they are a threat to his liberal – no scratch it and call it what it has truly become – the illiberal, Dutch society.

Gerard Spong, a lawyer instrumental in getting the case heard, expressed his disappointment with the verdict, seeing the judge's ruling based on "public context" as vague. Theo de Roos, professor of law at the Tilburg University, saw the case as a precedent for ethnic incitement in Dutch law – only actual threats could be any longer seen as being prohibited. Els Lucas, a lawyer for the collection of Dutch rights groups, said that they planned to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights or the UN's Human Rights Committee.

What a sad day for Europe, the self-styled birthplace of liberty, when it acquits one of its worst sons who terrorizes millions of law-abiding immigrants! What a mockery of justice in the name of freedom of speech when a flamboyant fashion designer John Galliano is fired by the fashion giant Christian Dior and is put on trial for making anti-Semitic comments against three Jews while drunk in a Paris cafĂ©, while a right-wing politician with so much power to harm a minority community is acquitted of more damning remarks and insults hurled against an entire faith! Through the sham trial process once again Europe has shown its true ugly color, its unfathomable bigotry, racism and hatred of the ‘other’ people. Muslims can’t expect fairness from the children of Gehazi!

Will the Dutch society ever shed its innate racism, xenophobia and naked hypocrisy, and evolve into true human beings away from its savage history that has known nothing but violence against, and plunder, colonization and exploitation of the ‘other’ people that look different? The sad commentary is: with the ever growing support base for the racists and bigots within the Dutch society, we may never see that difference in our lifetime!

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