Thursday, February 12, 2009

I finally found something agreeable to post on Wilders...

Geert Wilders? He's not worth it

The anti-Muslim Dutch MP does not deserve the publicity his banning from Britain and prosecution in the Netherlands provide.


Lord Ahmed, the Labour peer, had vigorously protested about the Dutch politician and his film, and said they should not darken the doors of the Palace of Westminster. On Tuesday night, according to the Daily Telegraph, the banning order was issued by the government. Wilders has made hay, declaring this an attack on his freedom of speech and getting the Dutch foreign minister to complain to David Miliband. Enjoying his martyr role, Wilders plans to challenge the ban and says he now needs 24-hour police protection.
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Wilders is now pitching to be seen as a martyr of political correctness and censorship. In Holland, and now in Britain, he claims to have been gagged and prevented the right of free speech. The fact that he claims the right of free speech to curtail the rights of free speech, and freedom of prayer and preaching, to Europe's Muslims seems to him neither here nor there. The libertarian conservative MEP and columnist Daniel Hannan has argued in his blog in the Telegraph that Jacqui Smith's ban on the MP gives him more publicity than he deserves, and that he should have been let in, allowed to strut his stuff and then consigned to oblivion.
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Even writing about him seems to give him more profile than he deserves, but the problem is that these cases are beginning to crop up increasingly often. Most of the public is pretty level-headed about these things. It's the authorities that seem to give them more than they are due.

Towards the end of last year, a court in Amsterdam appeared to play into Wilders' hands – just as what little controversy there had been was dying down. It decided to prosecute the MP for incitement to hatred and causing insult. One wonders why the court wanted to offer Wilders such a golden opportunity to claim the status of judicial martyr.

He does seem to care about his time in court in Amsterdam, however, and this appears imminent. Last week, he announced he was hiring one of the Netherlands' most celebrated lawyers, Bram Moskowicz, to get the case thrown out in the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. This ploy is unlikely to succeed.

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Before the film Fitna (meaning "disagreement and division among peoples") could be seen on the web, it had to be edited because, among other reasons, Wilders failed to get copyright clearance for reproducing the Danish newspaper cartoons. This seems in keeping with the almost shambolic way in which it has been put together. More crass the film itself is the interview Wilders is currently running on YouTube. Here he persists referring to the Qur'an as "this fascist book", and to Islam as "this wrong ideology", without ever defining his terms.

Ian Buruma surely has a point when he concludes there must be limits to the right to insult for the sake of it, while upholding the right to criticise. But the authorities, judicial, political and spiritual, must show more common sense. To pursue the authors of Fitna and their like with prosecutions and official guidelines about social cohesion, cultural relativities and mutual respect is to follow them into the descending spiral of their own absurdity.

The malaise of extreme language was depicted with stunning accuracy by Thucydides in his account of the civil war in Corcyra:

"Any idea of moderation was just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action ... Anyone who held violent opinions could be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."

That was in 427 BC. What a long way we haven't come.

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