A Dutch politician who made a controversial film that warns Islam threatens Western civilization faces trial in the Netherlands for “inciting hatred and discrimination.”
The BBC reported a Dutch court ordered prosecutors to put Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders on trial.
Wilders’ 17-minute documentary, “Fitna,” meaning “strife,” likened the Quran to Adolf Hitler’s manifesto, “Mein Kampf.”
The appeals court in Amsterdam stated: “In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to … draw a clear line.”
The court explained it ordered the prosecution based on Wilders’ comments in various media on Muslims and their beliefs, BBC News reported. The ruling reversed a decision last year by the public prosecutor’s office that concluded no criminal offense had been committed, because Wilders was speaking outside of parliament as part of the debate on Islam in Dutch society.
Wilders called the appeals court decision an “attack on the freedom of expression.”
“Participation in the public debate has become a dangerous activity,” he said. “If you give your opinion, you risk being prosecuted.”
Wilders contended all citizens who opposed the “Islamization” of the Netherlands will be on trial.
“Who will stand up for our culture if I am silenced?” he asked.
The three-judge panel said it weighed Wilders’ right to free speech against his “one-sided generalizations,” the BBC reported.
“The court also considers appropriate criminal prosecution for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism made by Wilders,” the court said.
A lawyer who pressed for Wilders’ prosecution, Gerard Spong, told reporters the decision is a “happy day for all followers of Islam who do not want to be tossed on the garbage dump of Nazism.”
Wilders’ Freedom Party issued a statement today, noted Jihad Watch, saying it is “shocked” by the court’s decision, which “jeopardizes the very existence” of the party, because it cannot afford the “enormous” legal expenses. The party noted it is the only party in the Dutch Parliament that does not accept government funding.
‘We reject that interpretation’
Wilders released his film one year ago as Dutch leaders feared a reaction akin to the violence that followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.
“The film equates Islam with violence. We reject that interpretation,” said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende at the time.
“We believe it serves no purpose other than to offend,” he said.
Early critics had expressed fears the Wilders film would show a copy of the Quran being destroyed, but the ending offered a slight surprise.
As someone leafs through the Quran, a sound of tearing is heard.
“The sound you heard was from a page [being torn out] of the phone book. It is not up to me, but up to the Muslims themselves to tear the spiteful verses from the Quran,” text on the screen reads. “Stop Islamization. Defend our freedom,” the film concluded.
Wilders, who has received numerous death threats, has been under 24-hour protection since the 2004 murder of Theo Van Gogh, the director of a film that exposed violence against women in Islamic societies.
Since the Van Gogh murder, the government of a nation proud of its liberal social attitudes has cut back on generous welfare programs to immigrants and made Dutch-language classes mandatory for newcomers.
Van Gogh’s film, “Submission,” was written by Wilders’ former political ally, Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In 2006, Ali, whose life also has been threatened by Van Gogh’s murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, returned to the Netherlands after working at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, because the U.S. would no longer finance her personal security.