By Arab News
Where is Europe headed? With every passing day, the continent appears to walk back into the Middle Ages, surrendering its much-acclaimed freedom of faith and multiculturalism. The acquittal of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims has come as a shock to Muslims around the world.
The man who has spent the last decade abusing Islam and its followers comparing the religion to Nazism and Holy Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf walked out free with a smirk on his face on Thursday. The presiding judge said he did not think Wilders was guilty of the charges, arguing the politician’s rants against Islam and Muslims were “at the edge of what is legally permissible” but did not cross the line.
Judge Marcel van Oosten observed that while some of Wilders’ comments are “crude and denigrating,” they did not amount to inciting hatred against a particular community and ought to be seen in the context of a “national debate over immigration policy and multiculturalism.” It’s not a question of “some” of Wilders’ comments against Muslims being “crude and denigrating.” The Dutch MP and leader of Freedom Party has a long history of constant and obnoxious hatemongering against the minority community. He is the proud producer of Fitna, the 2008 documentary film that outraged the world’s Muslims by urging them to tear the “hate-preaching verses” from their Holy Book.
And this vicious war on a religious minority in the heart of Europe is not just limited to hate speeches and films. Wilders has repeatedly played on the basest paranoia and insecurities of the Dutch imploring them to arm themselves and “fight the enemy” that is “breeding” in their midst. This is why we fail to see how the Dutch court arrived at the conclusion that Wilders had crossed no boundaries in his vicious attacks on an already marginalized and frightened minority community. How much more the Muslims have to suffer at the hands of lunatics like Wilders before Dutch courts decide that enough is enough? What else do you require to pose a clear and present danger to the well being of a civilized society? It’s perhaps futile to blame the courts when the Dutch laws themselves are inadequate to deal with louts like Wilders. The Dutch laws, as in Denmark and many other European countries, are vigilant and strong enough to deal with attacks targeting the hallowed icons and beliefs held by the country’s majority but totally indifferent when it comes to protecting minorities and their sensitivities. Everyone’s free to abuse the underdog.
This verdict is sure to be used by Wilders and politicians of his ilk to justify and expand their fascist crusade against the Muslims. Especially when they know that this will only help them multiply their ranks and seats in Parliament. Look where it has already taken Wilders, from a little known politician to emerging the leader of the country’s third largest party. Why is it so hard for Western societies to see that one individual’s freedom of action ends where another individual’s nose begins? No freedom anywhere on the planet is absolute; it’s always qualified, even in the West. Let Wilders try this against the Jews. He wouldn’t know what hit him. Europe has to realize that the shenanigans of characters like Wilders are only fueling the conflict between the West and followers of Islam, not to mention the grist it offers to the windmills of some extremist Muslim groups.