'Wilders must be supported'
04 Oct 2010

It does not matter if you agree with Geert Wilders’s film, Fitna, or his politics. He must not be prosecuted for expressing his views, writes Oliver Kamm

This article was first published on 22 January 2009

Twenty years ago next month the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a religious decree calling for the murder of a foreign citizen, Salman Rushdie. Rushdie’s crime had been to write a novel. With a few honourable exceptions (President Mitterrand most prominent), western politicians and opinion-formers found it difficult to see what the ensuing fuss was about. Certainly, ran a characteristic equivocation, a threat of violence was unconscionable; but had not Rushdie brought on his fate by needless and provocative offence to the faithful? Had not — in the words of Dr Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi in Great Britain — ‘both Mr Rushdie and the Ayatollah … abused freedom of speech’?

No, they had not; of course. Rushdie writes books. The forces of obscurantism, reaction and bigotry sought to silence him, permanently. Yet the cruel and stupid notion that those who mock people’s deeply held spiritual beliefs deserve censure is with us still. It has even found its way into the legal system of western democracies. This week, a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to indict Geert Wilders, leader of the right-wing Freedom Party, on charges of ‘inciting hatred and discrimination, based on comments by him in various media on Muslims and their beliefs’. The court thereby reversed a decision of the public prosecutor’s office last year not to pursue charges against Wilders.

Wilders’s populist and nativist politics are exactly opposed to my own views, and entirely beside the point. In a constitutional state, with liberal political rights and the rule of law, a man is being prosecuted for causing offence by expressing his views. Wilders’s protest that the judgement is ‘an attack of freedom of expression’ is scarcely adequate to the infringement on liberty. These proceedings are a monstrous abuse of power. Wilders must be supported.

To see how mired in confusion — to put it no higher — is the political culture of even this most tolerant of European states, you need only consider that the court ‘considers appropriate criminal prosecution for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism made by Wilders’. So criminal law is being invoked against insults to a system of belief. I have no reason to doubt the offence caused to Muslims by Wilders’s campaigns. Mockery and denunciation of what others hold literally sacred will inevitably cause anguish and outrage. And faced with mental suffering on the part of some of its citizens, a free society must do nothing at all. No one is entitled to restitution for hurt feelings: not now; not ever.

The most — and not the least — that religious believers might be entitled to is human sympathy. They won’t get it from me; they might get it from you; but they must not get it as a matter of public policy, because a state has no business concerning itself with how its citizens feel.

Insisting on the right to offend religious believers may seem an unfeeling and uncaring doctrine. (The non sequitur that many Muslims in western societies are poor is often brought into the discussion at this point.) But the case for liberty has never been that it protects sensibilities. It is rather that by allowing people’s beliefs to be scrutinised, criticised and — yes — insulted, bad ideas are more likely to be superseded by better ones. Allowing ideas to die in place of their adherents is a mark of a civilised society. It is not hyperbole to say that in the defence of the unlikely figure of Geert Wilders lies also the defence of western civilisation.

Oliver Kamm is a leader writer for The Times

15 responses to “‘Wilders must be supported’”

  1. EW says:

    In all of the various comments, NO-ONE seems to have considered prosecuting anyone for the Islamic “Jews are the descendents of Apes & Pigs” statement. Anyone out there wonder if such a remark insults Judaism / the Jewish people ????

  2. butch says:

    The destruction of western civilization has already begun.We need not wait until they reach 51% of the population as per mohammed atta above.Self defensive measures must be taken now.

  3. Wilders is againts the double standars of Mohammedanism.

    I am from Indonesian support

    Genocide committed in the name of Allah

    Genocide committed in the name of Allah: 3,000,000 Bangladeshi Hindus Killed during the Pakistan-Bangladesh war in 1971. From 1894 to 1896 Abdul Hamid, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, killed 150,000 Armenian Christians. In India, Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur along with his disciples was burned to death by the Moghul ruler Aurangzeb in 1675. Another Sikh, Bhai Mati Das was sawn into right and left halves while he was still alive. In July 1974, 4,000 Christians living in Cyprus were killed by Fahri Koroturk, president of Turkey and his Islamic army. From 1843 to 1846 10,000 Assyrian Christians including women and children were massacred by the Muslims. From 1915 to 1918 750,000 Assyrians were killed in the name of Islamic Jihad. In 1933 thousands of Assyrian villagers were murdered by the Iraqi soldiers in Northern Iraq. Since 1990 more than 10,000 Kashmiri Hindus have been brutally murdered by Islamic fundamentalists. Over 280,000 Ugandans killed during the reign of Idi Amin from 1971 to 1979. Over 30,000 Mauritanians have been killed by the Islamic dictators since 1960. In 1980, 20,000 Syrians were murdered under the rule of Hafez Al-Assad, President of Syria. Since 1992 120,000 Algerians have been murdered by the Islamic fundamentalist army.

  4. Wilfred Gaunt says:

    Until the results of any prosecution are known, we won’t know if what Geert Williams has done is against the current law.

    The real campaign for hearts and minds should be aimed at changing the law, if it is found to be necessary.

  5. Roy W Brown says:

    The limits to freedom of expression are well defined in international law in articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)to which the Netherlands is a signatory. Wilders has not breached those limits – read them for yourselves. He should not therefore be prosecuted. Whether you agree or disagree with his political opinions is simply not the issue.

  6. Paul Beckett says:

    Mohammed Atta’s comments are so blatantly inflammatory (plus idiotic, barbaric and any number of other adjectives) I sincerely hope that the comment is a prank or a trolling attempt. My intuition say otherwise though and for this reason Geert Wilder’s must not be prosecuted.

  7. Boris says:

    Careful Jeremy, you sound a bit Islamophobic, you could get arrested.

  8. The common law has it right. If someone is not engaged in incitement — to encourage criminal acts against actual persons or their property — then the law should take no criminal cognizance of it.

  9. Richard Franklin Carter says:

    The Dutch prosecutors are forgetting their nation’s history. In 1670, Benedictus de Spinoza wrote:

    [G]overnment which attempts to control minds is accounted tyrannical, and it is considered an abuse of sovereignty and a usurpation of the rights of subjects to seek to prescribe what shall be accepted as true, or rejected as false, or what opinions should actuate men in their worship of God. All these questions fall within a man’s natural right, which he cannot abdicate even with his own consent.

    These words were true in the seventeenth century, and they are still true today.

  10. Jeremy says:

    Mr Mohammad Atta’s comment illustrates very well the need for freedom of expression. The intemperate nature of his vile and violent extremism needs to be publicly expressed so that all sane people – who are the great majority – can read and condemn it.

  11. Mr. Infidel says:

    Comment to iblees: In trtuh, had Geert made a film crtical of the torah and the Jews he would be hailed as a hero of free speech by the Dutch gov’t. That he is a truthful and harsh critic of a growing and menacing political ideology pretending to be a religion is why he is accused now of a crime.

    European muslim overlords will have the europeans on their knees with necks exposed to the sword long before the muslim demographics reach 51% of the population. You can thank your current politicians for selling you out to the lowest bidders.

  12. This bigot needs to have his skin flayed and his stomach grilled on a spit!

    Freedom of speech does not extend to insulting Allah. You’ll figure that out once we’re 51% of the population. Freedom of speech also does not extend to freedom from confiscatory taxes to support welfare.

  13. Nick Good says:

    Another example of Sharia creep

  14. no political correctness ever says:

    There is no fine line between grudge, hatred, propaganda and freedom of speech. This is a lie propogated by the adovocates of “political correctness” for decades- first by communists- to challenge their beliefs meant a free trip to Siberia. In Islamic countries it very much means a death sentence. This does not make it right, or defenseable in any way. Politically correct speech, hate speech, and all the other euphemisms for trying to trample free speech is a lie trying to be propogated in seemingly civilized countries. The Netherlands has bowed to political pressure, and trampled on inalienable human rights. It has also proven itself to be backward, and without a spine. It is also interesting to note that a poll being run in the netherlands shows 94% of the people oppose the prosecution of Geert Wilders. But it should stand as a warning to people everyone- that the inalienable rights that they have fought so hard for over centuries are still threatened- and we must rise to the occasion and demand those who would take those rights away not be empowered to do so.

  15. iblees says:

    In words of Wilders,

    “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” he wrote in national newspaper De Volkskrant. “I’ve had enough of the Qur’an in the Netherlands: forbid that fascist book.”

    There is a fine line between “grudge”, “hatred”, “propaganda”, “racism” and Freedom of Speech. Wilders is a classic example of spreading hatred based on “the voices talk to me” hatred toward Islam. On a related note, if had made a film about Torah and Jews, even the dutch government could have forced to make a public apology but since it’s Islam, he got away with it.