Wilders isn’t the only one off the hook, Re: Wilders off the hook, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, October 16, 2010

Prosecutors in Holland have recommended that Geert Wilders be acquitted of all five charges against him, including group defamation and inciting hatred and discrimination of Muslims and non-Western ethnic minorities. Wilders has been outspoken in his criticism of Islam and the Islamization of the Netherlands. The prosecutors concluded that his pronouncements were directed towards Islam and Islamization, not against Muslims as such, and were therefore not illegal because they didn’t target a specific group or intrinsically create divisions between groups. Judges in the trial may still disagree with the prosecutors and convict him but this is thought to be exceedingly unlikely and his acquittal is seen as a virtual certainty.

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The prosecutor’s recommendations are a victory for freedom loving people everywhere, not only in Holland. They reaffirm the principle that criticizing particular entities, Islam and Islamization in this case, is not the same as inciting hatred or discrimination against their adherents. Criticism may lead to hurt feelings but it doesn’t by definition lead to anything else in and of itself. People in the Netherlands are now legally free to to make their own pronouncements on Islam and the Islamization of their country, whether they are critical or not. That freedom would have been lost in Holland if Wilders was convicted and would have had enormous consequences for the rest of us as well. It would have been a legal precedent affirming the idiotic, self-serving notion that hatred or discrimination flows from criticism and would have been pointed to by Islamists constantly in their attacks on freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

Islamists throughout the Western world are trying to shut down debate or discussion about Islam or Islamization by equating those with criticism and in turn equating criticism with hatred and incitement against Muslims. Even the most innocuous statements or reservations have been met with accusations of racism or Islamophobia (or threats, intimidation and worse as well) and this has cast a pall over open and frank discussion of just how far Western countries should be willing to go to accommodate Islam, whether or not they should accommodate it in the first place and how to proceed or not proceed in specific instances. The Dutch decision should have resonance in the rest of Europe and the West and will make it much more likely that people with concerns about Islam or Islamization will express themselves. Nothing wrong with that in free, democratic, secular societies.

As for freedom of expression in Islamic societies…that, as they say, is another story.

Congratulations Geert. You did us all a tremendous service.

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