It’s the kind of scene one might expect to see in a hard-line Sharia court in Saudi Arabia: a man facing trial for the putative “crime” of insulting Islam. But the defendant in this case is Dutch MP Geert Wilders and the ominous setting for his trial is none other than his native Netherlands. This week, Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) and an outspoken critic of Islam and Islamic extremism, went on trial on politically loaded charges of inciting hatred and discrimination toward Islam.
The outcome of the trial, which could yet result in jail time or a financial penalty for Wilders, will reveal just how far Europe’s multicultural enforcers are willing to go to silence free speech in order to appease the continent’s increasingly restive and radicalized Muslim populations. In his remarks from the trial, reprinted below, Wilders offers a powerful statement about the stakes involved: nothing less than freedom itself. – The Editors
Wilders: Mister Speaker, judges of the court,
I would like to make use of my right to speak for a few minutes.
Freedom is the most precious of all our attainments and the most vulnerable. People have devoted their lives to it and given their lives for it. Our freedom in this country is the outcome of centuries. It is the consequence of a history that knows no equal and has brought us to where we are now.
I believe with all my heart and soul that the freedom in the Netherlands is threatened. That what our heritage is, what generations could only dream about, that this freedom is no longer a given, no longer self-evident.
I devote my life to the defence of our freedom. I know what the risks are and I pay a price for it every day. I do not complain about it; it is my own decision. I see that as my duty and it is why I am standing here.
I know that the words I use are sometimes harsh, but they are never rash. It is not my intention to spare the ideology of conquest and destruction, but I am not any more out to offend people. I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with Islam and the Islamization of our country because Islam is at odds with freedom.
Future generations will wonder to themselves how we in 2010, in this place, in this room, earned our most precious attainment. Whether there is freedom in this debate for both parties and thus also for the critics of Islam, or that only one side of the discussion may be heard in the Netherlands? Whether freedom of speech in the Netherlands applies to everyone or only to a few? The answer to this is at once the answer to the question whether freedom still has a home in this country.
Freedom was never the property of a small group, but was always the heritage of us all. We are all blessed by it.
Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she has splendid hearing. I hope that she hears the following sentences, loud and clear:
It is not only a right, but also the duty of free people to speak against every ideology that threatens freedom. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States was right: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
I hope that the freedom of speech shall triumph in this trial.
In conclusion, Mister Speaker, judges of the court.
This trial is obviously about the freedom of speech. But this trial is also about the process of establishing the truth. Are the statements that I have made and the comparisons that I have taken, as cited in the summons, true? If something is true then can it still be punishable? This is why I urge you to not only submit to my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of freedom of speech. But I ask you explicitly to honour my request to hear witnesses and experts on the subject of Islam. I refer not only to Mister Jansen and Mister Admiraal, but also to the witness/experts from Israel, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Without these witnesses, I cannot defend myself properly and, in my opinion, this would not be an fair trial.