The news just in that Dutch prosecutors have changed their mind about prosecuting Geert Wilders for the Orwellian crime of “discriminating against Muslims” and “inciting hatred” is prima facie a victory for free speech and all that. In fact it is not nearly as good as it may seem.
The establishment is scared of continuing to hound the leader of the third-largest political party in the land. The fact that their legal minions are forced to eat humble pie is gratifying, but the trouble is that they are dropping this particular case while keeping all the pernicious laws used against him. They have come up with the ridiculous argument that the politician’s comments about banning the Kuran can be discriminatory, but because Wilders wants to pursue a ban “on democratic lines,” there is no incitement to discrimination “as laid down in law.” As for his comparison of the Kuran with Mein Kampf, the prosecutors now say that the metaphor was “crude, but that did not make it punishable.” While some of his comments could incite hatred against Muslims if taken out of context, they concluded, on the whole Wilders seems to be opposed to the growing influence of Islam and not hostile to Muslims as such.
A clear victory would have been for the Dutch state to declare that it was mistaken in pursuing a case of any kind against Wilders; but that would have meant the end of the Dutch state as we have known it for the past forty years.
In the event the oppressive laws are there to stay. Ordinary Dutch citizens, less visible than Wilders, can be maliciously prosecuted – and convicted – for saying the same things he has said, but with far less fuss. In the same manner some well known East European dissidents were relatively protected from the Comrades’ fury in the 1970s, but arbitrary and oppressive laws were then applied with an even greater ferocity against the anonymous multitudes.
For as long as Holland’s and other European countries’ ridiculous “hate” laws remain on the statute books, the threat of prosecution hangs above everyone’s head – and no conviction is required to make people think twice about expressing themselves frankly and meaningfully about “prophet” Muhammad’s ideology of war and hatred.
I suspect that Wilders himself would have preferred a highly publicized trial and conviction, followed by an appeal that would test the constitutionality of the laws used against him. That is the kind of battle that requires courage, money, and media attention. He is the ideal man to give it one more try.
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