Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, July 2011
Anti-Islamic Hate Speech is Now Legal in the Netherlands
By Yamin Zakaria
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 4, 2011
Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch Politician has been acquitted of all charges in his hate speech trial in Amsterdam. According to the Judge, comparing Islam to Nazism might be offensive, but it falls within the scope of free speech. Naturally, Geert stated, “It's not only an acquittal for me, but a victory for freedom of expression in the Netherlands”. The judge also pointed out that Geert Wilder’s comments are often “crude and denigrating”, however they are not illegal; they included racist remarks like “head rag tax”. Why the term “head rag”? It sounds like the pejorative racist term “rag-head”, frequently used by the Americans.
The clear implication of this verdict is that Islam can be criticised without limits; consequentially, the followers of Islam will be demonised, like the Nazis used to demonise minorities, preparing the grounds for committing genocide. Hence, after World War II, many European nations introduced hate-speech laws to prevent the scapegoating of minorities. After this verdict, it’s difficult to envisage how anyone can be prosecuted in the Netherlands for hate-speech against Islam, and by implication its followers.
Will the same standards of - criticising without limits - apply to other groups? Therefore, can the Muslims in the Netherlands question the holocaust, homosexuality, absolute gender equality and the liberal sexual practices which include incest? Maybe someone from the far-right like Geert will invoke the theory of evolution, and argue that the black species are closer to the apes in Africa, not as evolved as the white Europeans, hence their backwardness compared to the advanced Western civilisation. This may sound offensive, but according to the judge’s verdict it will not be illegal, and fall within the spectrum of free speech.
The bitter truth of free speech in Europe is that, it is defined by - how much you can insult Islam and Muslims. For sure, if Geert were an Imam speaking about the Jews or Zionist-Jews in a far more moderate tone than comparing them to Nazis, he would have been ostracised by the usual hysteria of anti-Semitism, and would likely be facing charges of incitement to hate. Why do the Jews and in particular Zionist-Jews deserve special protection while the Muslims are fair game?
Where do the boundaries of free speech lie? According the judge, it is the direct call for violence. However, when one permits crass comments being made about an entire community, the gates of violence are being opened because provocation is the cause of violence. Hence the verdict and the subsequent elaboration by the judge sounds like Double-Dutch!
Is Geert Wilders a racist? Like most far-right groups, Geert denies his views towards Muslims are racist, because they are not a racial group. This is a fig-leaf that barely covers their private parts! Geert is looking at the issue from a racial point of view; protecting the Dutch culture (‘race’) from the foreign threat, thereby excludes other racial groups. The foreigners that he primarily targets are Muslims, who are composed of various racial groups. Hitler could have used the same argument of denying racism, if the Jews, the Slavs and the Gypsies had a similar common factor.
Therefore, Geert denies that he hates Muslims, because he does not want to appear like a racist bigot, and makes the ludicrous statement “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam”; if you hate Islam then you hate the carriers of Islam. In the absence of those carriers, those values would cease to be relevant in the first place. The complaint of Geert exists, precisely because there are many followers of Islam applying the values of Islam.
Let us examine the one-liner arguments of Geert Wilders.
Islam and Nazism
He alleges that Islam is like Nazism. It’s strange for any far-right politician to make accusations of Nazism, when such a position in the political spectrum is where a Nazi party would operate from. Nazism and Fascism originated in Europe, where far-right groups still operate, looking for opportunities to make political gains. One of their central traits is blaming minorities for the problems of the majority population, so they resort to bashing minorities; Hitler did this to the Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs - Geert is doing this to the Muslims.
The comparison of Islam to Nazism is absolutely absurd. Nazism resurrects racial barriers as it is based on racial superiority; it divides society and creates animosity. Accordingly, Nazis seeks to exclude those who are not part of the racial group; namely foreigners. Geert Wilders is the one who fits the description of a Nazi, as he is doing his utmost to exclude other groups, and refers to his fears of the foreigners threatening to overrun Dutch culture that is primarily a racial identity. Racial barriers are permanent, if one is born into a racial group, he could not become part of another racial group by migrating and adopting their way of life.
In contrast, Islam fundamentally opposed racial superiority, and works to break down racial barriers as it calls on mankind to unify. The demarcation between Muslim and non-Muslim is primarily in terms of the viewpoint towards the purpose of life in this world and the hereafter, like any other religion. However, Islam attempts to erase those demarcations by calling the rest of humanity towards it. You can convert to Islam or Christianity but you can’t become Dutch or German if you are born into another racial group.
Quran and Mein Kampf
Geert claims the Quran is similar to Mein Kampf; one wonders if he has read either of the two books. Where are the similarities? Which Chapter of the Quran resembles a chapter in Mein Kampf? Does Mein Kampf talk of the purpose of life, the creation, the Prophets sent by God and the hereafter? If they are similar, why has the Quran generated a billion followers unlike Mein Kampf? Is there a single academic institution in the West that would validate this claim with any form of elaboration?
If we look at the race-based ideology of Geert Wilders, with his talk of the threat of immigration from those who are not racially part of Dutch Society, he is far closer to Mein Kampf than the ideas expressed in the Quran. Islam always welcome others, the Quran preaches to humanity and reaches out to them.
Then they bring out the usual secular arguments against Islamic laws, which can’t be found anywhere in Mein Kampf! The problem with these Islamophobes is amnesia or denial of their own heritage. Whatever argument is brought forward against the Quran is more than likely to be applicable to the Biblical text, the basis of Judeo-Christian civilisation. Just pick any subject, for example, there is constant noise about how Islam is unfair to women, although the Muslim women are not the ones making the complaints. If gender equality is the criteria, then Christianity and Judaism have the same problem. Almost all the Prophets of God in the Biblical text are men, Christianity is based on the sacrifice of the only ‘son’ of God, which implies daughters were not good enough as a sacrifice and one can proceed to make an endless list of sexual discrimination.
Geert also stated that it is good news to be critical of Islam, and the Muslims would have no issue if that were the case, because there is clear distinction between making objective criticisms based on research and evidence, as opposed to making crude remarks which have no scholarship behind them in any academic institution in Europe. If Geert wants to debate instead of rant and exhibit his foul mouth, then he can easily challenge the Islamic world to an open debate. The problem is, the Muslims want to raise the level of discussion and engage in a civilised debate, whereas odious characters like Geert wants to lower this debate to a series of verbal exchanges that emanate from drunken racist hooligans.
The Netherlands is a very tiny nation in Northern Europe, which is likely to be even smaller in the future; instead of entertaining racist bigots like Geert, the Dutch nation should try to find its place amongst the vast majority of the World’s population, 1/5th of whom at least are followers of Islam.
Yamin Zakaria (email@example.com)
Published on the 26th June 2011
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