Dutch Politician Geert Wilders Goes On Trial For Hate Speech

Today, Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders went on trial for alleged hate speech for his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrants comments. While I strongly disagree with those comments, I believe the trial is a threat to free speech and part of a growing crackdown in the West on critics of religion.

For a prior column on this issue, click here. You will also find a long line of such cases by searching “blasphemy” on this blog.

There is no question that Wilders has made disturbing comments about immigrants and Muslims, including comparing Islam to Nazism and fascism. He has also referred to head scarves as “head rags.” However, in my opinion, he has a right to state such views — which are apparently shared by many voters in the country. Free speech allows for such comments to be combatted through debate and countervailing speech. It is a threat to all free speech for such comments to be punished by a year in jail, which is the maximum under Dutch law. Moreover, even the more common criminal fine in such cases is an unacceptable intrusion on free speech.

Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, has been quoted as saying that his group does not want jail time to merely to “correct” Wilders. Such corrections can occur through the exercise of free speech — not through government censoring unpopular views or comments on religion. This is precisely the danger of “hate speech” laws raised by civil libertarians. It can easily mutate into a regulation of speech where unpopular speech is defined as a crime.

Source: Google

Jonathan Turley

14 thoughts on “Dutch Politician Geert Wilders Goes On Trial For Hate Speech”

  1. Spamheed hits the nail on the head.

    It really does get worse in the UK. We had another law passed yesterday that makes it an offence to say anything that may be construed as offensive, even if those likely to be offended are not even present and are not the even the subject of such comments.

    It’s really true!

    Welcome to the Isle of Great bedlam – let’s all be mad together…..

    Just like Al Capone during prohibition, this jumped up little twerp Gilders is becoming a public hero in the name of “freedom”.

  2. This is becoming a major problem in the UK, the right to be heard/freedom of speech versus the right of the authorities to be terrified of offending a minority which might lead to litigation

    The whole Euro position on what is accepted as political correctness has become farcical, any minority now very much has the louder voice and the politicos are happy to enforce this as the norm. such a prosecution will only serve to increase this mans profile.

    Wilders was refused entry when he tried to enter the UK last year (after he head been banned from entering), thereby giving him a more prominent stage on which to voice his rather unique view on the world. He was virtually unheard of until his expulsion http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7885918.stm

    The british model is almost complete and will soon be rolled out across Europe


  3. I had BBCAmerica on early this morning; and, the commentary on the trial and why they are trying him was very interesting. However, I still agree with every one here.

  4. This is chilling to me. We should be free to say whatever we like about anyone or group without the fear of prosecution.
    Speech may be hurtful, but it isn’t harmful in a physical sense.
    Who gets to say what hate speech is? If an african american calls a white person a “cracker” is that hate speech?
    Folks, political correctness has taken us part of the way there.
    We really need to wake up to the fact that speech codes are dangerous to our, or any democracy.
    Good luck to you Mr. Wilders. As for the Muslims that just want to “correct” him…he’s already correct.

  5. eniobob,

    Sorry for not being clear in the prior post. My comment was not aimed at you. My observation was for the article.

  6. Jay:

    If you read what comments there were,you see we are not alone on that thought.

    “PS – I found the link provided by eniobob interesting in that MSNBC and CNN were the only news networks singled out for comment.”

  7. Buckeye makes a good point. Free speech may be a cornerstone of our country, but I also believe that it is hard for us to judge others given their history and the results of such hate speech. It may be a slippery slope, but rational people can (should) make the distinction between free speech and hate speech.

    PS – I found the link provided by eniobob interesting in that MSNBC and CNN were the only news networks singled out for comment. They must not count Fox as a news network, since out of all the networks i have watched, they are the only ones that purposefully misrepresent the news for their own ends.

  8. Heres a twist for you:

    “And then there’s the media. News networks, once reliably neutral and unemotional, now inflame public sentiment with sensationalized coverage of the conflict du jour, be it General McChrystal’s attacks on Obama’s team or the latest Tea Party shoutfest. Broadcasters, embattled by competition from the Internet, now cater to niche audiences, making the nightly news feel like a personal attack. How else to explain the transformation of MSNBC from an outlet for unbiased news coverage to one whose sole purpose seems to be feeding the flames? Or the fact that instead of Campbell Brown’s levelheaded reporting at 8 p.m., CNN will be serving up one of politics’ most divisive hotheads, Eliot Spitzer? Clearly, if you want people to tune in to the news these days, you need to give them something to shout about.”


  9. We have neither the history of war(s) brought on by hate speech, nor the Muslim population to absorb that most European countries have. Which gives me pause about condemning their laws.

    We have seen, even in this country, the damage hate speech can do. We may be about to see even more after this mid-term election.

  10. There’s a lot of areas where the United States could learn from other countries, but free speech is one where we’re just right.

    I understand the role that the demonization of the Jewish people and the specter of the Holocaust plays as an impetus for such laws in Europe, but throwing free speech out the window can’t be the way to handle it.

  11. Not at all cool…Just because you say something I don’t like means I can stop you? Wow, would partners, mate, SO, spouses ever talk?

  12. This is already happening at our universities thru speech codes that ban offensive speeh that makes the hearer feel uncomfortable and are not equally enforced, and by creating “free speech” zones located far from the event being protested. It is only a matter of time before this nonsense spread throughtout our entire society.

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