Though largely ignored by the British media, a popular Dutch politician stands trial on the curious charge of “hate speech”. Geert Wilders, a controversial figure, owes this to his opposition to Islamism. Moreover, due to his stance he lives in near-constant danger – the target of foiled assassinations and hundreds of death threats. Apparently, he is even alongside Salman Rushdie on the “death list” of an Islamic terrorist network.

Accused of inciting hatred (ironic given the above), Wilders gave his final remarks to the court on 1 June after what is best described as a show trial. On 6 October 2010 the presiding judge, Jan Moors, demonstrated clear bias against Wilders by joking at his expense. A subsequent motion to have Moors replaced was promptly rejected; many concluded Wilders’s fate was pre-ordained.

…either we all enjoy this inalienable right to express ourselves – or no one does…

The trial’s farcical nature was confirmed on 25 May when DutchNews.nl reported that the public prosecution department never wanted to take Wilders to court in the first place. Instead, they had been strong-armed by political pressure groups; their reluctance was clear in calls to find him not guilty of inciting hatred. Though they argued Wilders’s criticisms of Islam to be purely that, not of Muslims themselves, it is uncertain what effect this will have.

…this little-mentioned trial could determine the future of freedom of speech in Europe…

Whether one agrees or not with Wilders is, however, immaterial: this little-mentioned trial could determine the future of freedom of speech in Europe. It could confirm whether we still enjoy immutable rights to free speech, or whether they can be arbitrarily rescinded. One can find many views reprehensible – Kuwaiti political activist Salwa al-Mutairi recently called for the re-institution of sex-slavery, arguing that non-Muslim women could be captured “in war-stricken nations like Chechnya to be sold… to devout merchants.” But regardless of one’s own thoughts, either we all enjoy this inalienable right to express ourselves – or no one does.

 

About The Author

As a student of War Studies and History at King's College London, politics and key events – both past and current – have always fascinated me. Inspired to engage with political ideas by my interest in foreign languages and cultures, I seek to approach and analyse current affairs with a distinct and challenging perspective.

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