New organization comes to defense of Wilders
the first press release of the International Free Press Society, which was sent out today by Diana West, the organization’s vice president. Below the press release is my e-mail
to Diana West and other officials of the organization urging that they make the elimination of the hate speech laws of Western countries their top priority
THE INTERNATIONAL FREE PRESS SOCIETY
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
DEFEND GEERT WILDERS AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH
For more information, contact:
President of the IFPS
January 22, 2009—Washington, DC and Copenhagen, Denmark: A Dutch court yesterday ordered the criminal prosecution of Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), for his statements—written, spoken and filmed -regarding Islam. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals has deemed such statements “insulting,” declaring that they “substantially harm the religious esteem” of Muslims.
Clearly, the effect of this Dutch court order is to set new limits to public debate in Dutch society, in this case about the highly controversial but nonetheless crucially important subject of Islam. This makes the prosecution of Geert Wilders an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.
Having ordered a criminal prosecution for the opinions of a duly elected leader of a legitimate political party, Dutch authorities have dealt a devastating blow to political expression. While Dutch prosecutors prepare their indictment and Geert Wilders’ future hangs in limbo, who in The Netherlands will dare discuss political and cultural matters related to Islam—Islamic law, Islamic integration, Islamic crime, Islamic policy—openly, freely and fearlessly? The chilling effect is instantaneous. If, indeed, Wilders is ultimately convicted, free speech will cease to exist in the heart of Europe.
The International Free Press Society believes this court-ordered prosecution against Geert Wilders, a central figure in the fight against the Islamization of the West, amounts to a dangerous concession to the strictures of Islamic law, which prohibits all criticism of Islam, over Western traditions of, and rights to robust and unfettered debate. As such, it is tantamount to a surrender to totalitarian influences that undermine all Western freedoms. And as such, it must be resisted.
It is important to recall recent history. Two Dutchmen, Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, have been murdered for their outspoken opposition to Islamization in The Netherlands. Another Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been infamously forced into exile. Wilders alone now carries this debate over Islam in Dutch society forward—forcefully but logically, outspokenly but reasonably, and always peacefully. In order to do so, this member of Dutch parliament lives in a virtual prison, consigned to 24-hour guard by Islamic death threats against his life. Now, Dutch authorities have ordered him to be prosecuted for the Orwellian crime of committing “insulting” words.
As Wilders puts it, “If I have to stand trial, I will not stand trial alone, but also with the hundreds of thousands of Dutch people who reject the Islamization of The Netherlands.” He will also stand trial with those in The Netherlands and beyond who reject government prosecutions of free speech. In recognition of this dire situation, the IFPS immediately calls on every supporter of free speech to come to the aid of Geert Wilders. To assist in this effort, the IFPS has launched an international campaign in defense of Geert Wilders and his freedom of speech.
To support these efforts, we urge you to contribute to the Geert Wilders Defense Fund. Donation information can be found at the IFPS website.
We also urge defenders of free speech to sign this letter of protest against the Dutch Government
President of the IFPS
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The International Free Press Society was established on January 1, 2009.
Read our Policy Statement here.
The IFPS Board of Advisors
Andrew C. McCarthy
The IFPS Board of Directors
Lars Hedegaard, President
Diana West, Vice President
Christine Brim. Secretary
Bjorn Larsen, Treasurer
Edward May, Outreach Coordinator
Paul Belien, Sergeant at Arms
E-mail from Lawrence Auster to Diana West and other IFPS officers:
Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 23, 2009 02:17 PM | Send
Congratulations on this new organization and on your stand in defense of Geert Wilders.
I have two points that I think should be added to your organization’s message.
First, it’s not just that a basic freedom is being attacked by this law. It’s not just that normal political speech is being criminalized. It’s that the Netherlands as a society is being prohibited from discussing the most important issues before it. It’s that politics itself is being abolished. It’s that Netherlands has ceased to be a self-governing society and has become a type of totalitarian society, where opinions the government doesn’t like are outlawed.
So, the problem is bigger than an attack on an individual or on individual rights. The problem is an attack on the society as a self-governing society. The problem is the abolition of politics.
Second, the problem is not this particular court decision authorizing a prosecution of Geert Wilders. The problem is the underlying hate-speech law, which makes it a crime to “incite hatred or discrimination” against a group. It makes no sense to criticize this particular prosecution, when the prosecution is simply enforcing the existing law that your organization is not challenging.
When I met Lars Hedegaard a few months ago in New York, he told me he had been accused of hate speech. I asked him, “What was the worst thing you said”? He said it was something like, “Islam is a danger to our society.” I then said to him that there is nothing shocking or out of the ordinary about his being charged with hate speech. It is completely logically consistent with existing law and custom. First, liberalism says that discrimination against a group is the worst thing there is. Second, all the European countries put the anti-discrimination principle into effect in the form of laws that make it an offense to “incite hatred or discrimination” against a group. To say that a particular group is a danger to society obviously can be reasonably construed as inciting discrimination against that group.
Therefore as long as these hate-speech laws exist, it will not be possible to speak the simple truth about the Islam threat. The hate-speech laws themselves must be repealed. And therefore what our side needs to do, first and foremost, is to denounce the hate-speech laws, to say that these laws are totally unacceptable in a free, self-governing society.
[T]he prosecution of Geert Wilders [is] an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.
No, it’s not the prosecution of Geert Wilders that is an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech. It’s the hate-speech law that is an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech. The prosecution of Wilders is merely an instance of the application of that law. But your organization says nothing about the law.
Implicitly to accept the hate-speech law, as your organization’s statement does, and only to complain about the inevitable enforcement of that law, as it is being enforced against Wilders, is absurd and self-defeating.