Sunday, June 26, 2011

Geert Wilders acquitted, and thoughts on pandering to Islamic Supremacists

Geert Wilders is a Dutch politician and leader of the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, and a major player in the current government coalition.  But he is most famous there (and here to the extent that he is known), as a leader of the anti-immigration movement, warning of the large demographic and cultural impact on Dutch society. 

Most recently he has come under fire as the creator of the film Fitna (‘strife’ in Arabic).  The film has been condemned by the European Left, particularly in the Netherlands, as well as the usual suspects such as the UN Secretary General and the World Council of Churches (which to me amounts to the old ‘banned in Boston’ seal of approval).  It has been labeled as highly offensive to Muslims, as it ‘exhorts violent, dangerous, anti-Muslim’ sentiments.  The film itself, though, almost exclusively uses footage and quotes from extreme, radical Islamic Supremacist sources, and quotes from the Qur’an.  Is Fitna a high-quality production?  No.  Is it somewhat simplistic, and does it tend to over-generalise the attitude of the Muslim world and Muslims in general?  Yes it does.  Yet it ably opens the questions of why should the West be submissive to people who believe – and act on – ideas about religious genocide, and why should we be tolerant of such massive intolerance?
The film has been difficult to access, posted then pulled from sites such as Google, as a result of the intimidation from the Left and threats from the Muslim world, part and parcel of those threats to kill Salman Rushdie; to threaten Danish citizens because a newspaper printed political cartoons that included depictions of Muhammad; because of baseless accusations of torture and disrespect at Guantánamo (exactly how do you flush an entire book such as the Qur’an down a toilet?) or Abu Ghraib (an entire administration condemned due to the late-night actions of seven poorly-supervised soldiers, properly court-martialed).  As for torture, such techniques as water-boarding (branded as torture ex post facto) have been used on our own military personnel for training. 
But for Fitnait can be found here (seen in four parts, the first two being the film itself of some seventeen minutes, the last two parts being a follow-on documentary).  I must warn you that it is graphic in parts, but that is the intent of Wilders, who agrees that we have been shielded too long from the magnitude of the enemy who wants to destroy our society, an attitude that would be akin to disallowing the showing of footage of the attack on Pearl Harbor, lest we become overly motivated to strike back at the Japanese. 
The enemy, of course, is not Islam, nor is it the entire culture.  I have lived among Muslims, and my experience has been pleasant and fruitful, but these are not the ones who fight us.  Yes, I condemn the Irish Republican Army, and more recently the Ulster Defence League, who claim false religious labels for their patently political struggle in Northern Ireland, but neither of them claim that they are compelled to wage terrorist acts in the name of the Bible, or that they are engaged in a holy war. 

Historically, Holland has been a country rightfully proud of its tradition of toleration, particularly in the area of religion, and of free speech.  Paradoxically, Wilders had been charged with five counts of hate speech and discrimination for the film and other statements, but was acquitted of the charges on Thursday.  His comments to the judges before they reached their decision bear repeating in part:
Every day the armoured cars drive me past the statue of Johan de Witt at the Hofvijver in The Hague. De Witt wrote the “Manifesto of True Freedom” and he paid for freedom with his life. Every day I go to my office through the Binnenhof where Johan van Oldenbarneveldt was beheaded after a political trial. Leaning on his stick the elderly Oldenbarneveldt addressed his last words to his people. He said: “I have acted honourably and piously as a good patriot.” Those words are also mine. . . . 
Freedom and truth. I pay the price every day. Day and night I have to be protected against people who want to kill me. I am not complaining about it; it has been my own decision to speak. However, those who threaten me and other critics of Islam are not being tried here today. I am being tried. And about that I do complain.
I consider this trial to be a political trial. . . . Those on the Left like to tamper with the separation of powers. When they cannot win politically because the Dutch people have discerned their sinister agenda, they try to win through the courts. . . .

This trial is also surrealistic. I am being compared with the Hutu murderers in Rwanda and with Mladic. . . . I have been called a new Hitler. I wonder whether those who call me such names will also be sued, and if not, whether the Court will also order prosecution. Probably not. And that is just as well. Because freedom of speech applies also to my opponents. . . .

Franz Kafka said: “one sees the sun slowly set, yet one is surprised when it suddenly becomes dark.”

Mister President, members of the Court, do not let the lights go out in the Netherlands.

Acquit me: Put an end to this Kafkaesque situation. . . .

Acquit me. I do not incite to hatred. I do not incite to discrimination. But I defend the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of the Netherlands. That is the truth. That is why I am here. That is why I speak. That is why, like Luther before the Imperial Diet at Worms, I say: “Here I stand, I can do no other.” 
Wilders lives with 24-hour-a-day protection due to very real death threats.  This is, after all, the land that saw politician Pim Fortuyn assassinated for his comments about the encroachment of Islam into Europe, and film director Theo van Gogh slaughtered in broad daylight by an unrepentant Dutch-Moroccan for a film called Submission, also critical of radical Islam and its cultural imprisonment of women (done in collaboration with Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a strong advocate against those bonds that she escaped, and now living under the same death threats in self-imposed exile).
Wilders also exposes the deadly imbalance between the fact that he is being prosecuted for being critical, while others who are issuing death threats (and making good on them), or at least who are making comments more critical than his, are being pandered to.  The West needs to hear something from the Muslim community that forswears this abominable rampage, yet the community is largely silent, with few exceptions, such as this notable one after the attempt to blow up the last public Christmas Winter celebration in Portland, Oregon.

Instead, after such killings or attempts, we hear pronouncements from our own officials that warn against a backlash against the Muslims who live with us.  They are picking at straws, hoping to build a straw man.  Time and time again, where is this backlash?  The story above cites an arson attempt at a mosque, a story that received more local coverage than the bomb attempt itself, but the case remains without any substantive clues.  But where is the wide-spread retribution in this ‘racist and xenophobic’ society of ours that we hear so much about?

Do you have to agree with all that Geert Wilders has to say?  Do you even have to like him?  There seems to be a whiff of extra-political over-enthusiasm about him, but that could be the veneer of how he is portrayed in the press – I don’t know.  But what he says has meaning for us, however brutal and direct.

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