I generally don’t follow politics, it just depresses me, and I definitely don’t follow the politics of non-English speaking countries. As such I was completely unaware of this legal case in Holland involving Dutch MP Geert Wilders who appears to be on trial to the truly heinous crimes of offending people and telling the truth. But then I can be forgiven for not noticing what some people are already calling “the most important trial of the century” as it seems that, for the most part, the UK media has completely ignored this case. So what exactly is this all about and why should we care about something happening in Holland?
For those of you who don’t know, and I didn’t, Geert Wilders is the leader of the Party for Freedom, Holland’s fastest-growing political party that in just a few years has gone from having a single MP to the largest number of seats of any party in Holland. The party seeks to bring an end to the era of mass immigration, an end to cultural relativism, and an end to what they perceive as the suborning of European values to Islamic ones. Whatever you think of his politics, and I am not sure I agree with everything he stands for, it is clear that he has struck a cord with the people of Holland. But now he is on trial, apparently as a result of a number of complaints made against him. And his crime:
The Dutch courts charge that Wilders ‘on multiple occasions, at least once, (each time) in public, orally, in writing or through images, intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion’.
Read that again. Yup he really is being charged with the crime of offending people. I for one didn’t realise that the right to not be offended actually existed as, had I known before, there are plenty of people I would have liked to level charges against. And for this terrible crime faces up to two years in prison. Seriously? But the craziness doesn’t end there. Part of the charge against him seems to revolve around his documentary film Fitna, a film that has already seen him barred entry to the UK by the Home Secretary. So what exactly makes this film so offensive that it would land a man in court?
Well the film, which if the link still works can be viewed on Youtube, features footage of Muslim clerics calling for the murder of infidels as well as Muslims holding banners that say ‘God bless Hitler’. These things are indeed offensive and yet amazingly the Dutch courts seem to be viewing them as offensive to Muslims! The same goes for Wilders’ comments to the press about a recent spate of attacks on homosexual couples by Muslim youths from Morocco. There is offense to be taken here, but it should be targeted at the Moroccan boys carrying out the attacks and not at the guy bringing these attacks to the publics attention.
Which brings me to what I see as the most serious aspect of this whole affair. In court Wilders sort to defend his “offensive” comments by bringing in experts to show that every word he said was in fact true. The court has rejected 15 of the 18 witnesses he wished to call, making it near impossible for him to prove his case. As one of the prosecutors said:
“It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct, what’s relevant is that his observations are illegal’.
Yup, apparently in this case the truth won’t set you free but it will get you up to two years in prison. If convicted this case could set a very worrying president. If the truth of the things you say is no longer considered a valid reason for saying them then that does not bode well for anyone. Everyone knows about the UK Libel laws that effectively allow people to silence the truth, but currently speaking the truth is not actually a crime. Cases such as this one could well change that.
Ps. Sorry for the rather rushed post, I haven’t proof read it as I was in a hurry. I hope it makes sense.