“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

This extraordinarily important Western value has finally been realized by Geert Wilders’ trial. The controversial Dutch politician has been acquitted after an enduringly long trial for saying what he thinks. He is anti-Islam and an overall radical conservative, and it was comments such as a comparison between the Koran and Mein Kampf that led to his trial. I don’t agree with all of his views, but he is one of the few politicians in the Netherlands who is speaking out about the threat facing the Netherlands and the rest of the Western world, whether or not he properly understands what that threat is. 

The fact that he was put on trial is a stain on the Western democratic world. No-one should ever be prosecuted for airing opinions just because some people find them extreme and offensive. As Ed West writes on his Telegraph blog, half a century ago the idea that anybody would be put on trial in Holland for speaking their mind would have been inconceivable. Yet that has happened. Wilders has said that his acquittal is “a victory for freedom of speech”, but that he was even put on trial makes it crystal clear that, as he says, free speech, liberty, equality, Dutch and Western culture are under enormous threat.

So where are the newspapers, the so-called “liberals” who go on about wanting to protect civil liberties, the “conservatives” who want to preserve our culture? Where are they in applauding the verdict while condemning the fact that a man can be put on trial for his views, in supposedly the most freedom-loving country in the world? Don’t ask me.

I don’t agree with his way of dealing with this threat, or that the threat is Islam itself and not radical Islamism. I don’t agree with banning the burka in all public places (though I do think it should be banned in public and some private buildings), temporarily freezing non-Western immigration, taxing headscarves or introducing Israeli-style administrative detention.

On the other hand, I have to contend that things are a lot worse in the Netherlands than we’re having to deal with. It’s hardly well-known, but it’s fair to say that many gays in Amsterdam are afraid to go out in public, for fear of being beaten up by Muslims. White people living in Muslim-majority suburbs encounter random abuse (skip to about 8 minutes in the video below). Immigrant women are not safe.

That fact that he could have been put on trial in what used to be the most liberal, freedom-loving country in the world, is absolutely incredible, but he’s now been cleared of all charges, so he won’t be sent to a physical prison. He’ll remain in a prison of constant death threats and 24-hour police protection. He is risking his life for his beliefs.

This makes me even more glad we at least now have a government that understands the threat of radical Islam to our freedom, understands that it stems from multiculturalism (by which I mean the idea that immigrants should not adapt and integrate into the culture of their new country of residence), and is actually doing something about it. Touch wood, we hopefully won’t end up in as bad a situation as the Netherlands. Let’s not get too complacent though.