At a certain level, the trial of Geert Wilders for the crime of “group insult” of Islam is déjà vu all over again. For as the spokesperson for the Openbaar Ministerie put it, “It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct. What’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.”
Ah, yes, in the Netherlands, as in Canada, the truth is no defence. My Dutch is a little rusty but I believe the “Openbaar Ministerie” translates in English to the Ministry for Openly Barring People. Whoops, my mistake. It’s the prosecution service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice. But it shares with Canada’s “human rights” commissions an institutional contempt for the truth.
As for “Wilders’s witnesses,” he submitted a list of 18, and the Amsterdam court rejected no fewer than 15 of them. As with Commissar MacNaughton and her troika of pseudo-judges presiding over the Maclean’s trial in British Columbia, it’s easier to make the rules up as you go along.
And in Amsterdam the eventual verdict doesn’t really matter any more than it did here. As Khurrum Awan, head sock puppet for Mohamed Elmasry, crowed to the Canadian Arab News, even though the Canadian Islamic Congress struck out in three different jurisdictions in their attempt to criminalize my writing, the suits cost this magazine (he says) two million bucks, and thereby “attained our strategic objective—to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material.” Likewise, whether Mijnheer Wilders is convicted or acquitted, a lot of politicians, publishers, writers and filmmakers will get the message: steer clear of the subject of Islam unless you want your life consumed.
But at that point comparisons end. Had the CIC triumphed at our trial in Vancouver, the statutory penalty under the B.C. “Human Rights” Code would have prevented Maclean’s ever publishing anything on Islam, Europe, demography, terrorism and related issues by me or anybody of a similar disposition ever again. I personally would have been rendered legally unpublishable in Canada in perpetuity. But so what? I’m an obscure writer, and my fate is peripheral to that of the Dominion itself.
Geert Wilders, by contrast, is one of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands, and his fate is central to the future of his kingdom and his continent. He is an elected member of parliament—and, although he’s invariably labelled “far right” in news reports, how far he is depends on where you’re standing: his party came second in last year’s elections for the European Parliament, and a poll of the Dutch electorate in December found it tied for first place. Furthermore, if you read the indictment against him, you’ll see that among other things Wilders is being prosecuted for is proposing an end to “non-Western immigration” to the Netherlands: the offending remarks were made in response to a direct question as to what his party would do in its first days in office. So the Dutch state is explicitly prosecuting the political platform of the most popular opposition party in the country, and attempting to schedule the trial for its own electoral advantage. That’s the sort of thing free societies used to leave to Mobutu, Ferdinand Marcos and this week’s Generalissimo-for-Life.
To put it in Canadian terms, it’s like the Crown hauling Michael Ignatieff into court. Well, except for the bit about being the most popular politician in the country and ahead in the polls and whatnot. But imagine if Iggy was less tin-eared and inept and his numbers were terrific—and then the Ministry of Justice announced it had decided to prosecute him for his policy platform. That’s what’s happening in the Netherlands.
It gets better. The judge in his wisdom has decided to deny the defendant the level of courtroom security they afforded to Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Theo van Gogh. Wilders lives under armed guard because of explicit death threats against him by Mr. Bouyeri and other Muslims. But he’s the one put on trial for incitement. His movie about Islam, Fitna, is deemed to be “inflammatory,” whereas a new film by Willem Stegeman, De moord op Geert Wilders (The Assassination of Geert Wilders), is so non-inflammatory and entirely acceptable that it’s been produced and promoted by a government-funded radio station. You’d almost get the impression that, as the website Gates of Vienna suggested, the Dutch state is channelling Henry II: “Who will rid me of this turbulent blond?”
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