- Freedom of speech or blasphemous bigotry?
Dutch parliamentary leader of opposition and head of Holland’s third largest party, Geert Wilders, is in the news again, not surprisingly due to his malignant Islam-phobia, an inexplicably malady in an otherwise open-minded and liberal ‘old European’ society. The charged issue of unrestricted immigration, especially of Muslims, has turned into an electoral-game changer in major European capitals, and the rise of far right populism has added fuel to spreading racist wildfire. But agnostic Wilders has moved beyond mere vote-catching xenophobia by his constant incitement of hatred against Muslims based solely on religion, and his latest provocation, a competition of blasphemous caricatures, will no doubt cause much anguish to the entire Muslim world, driving some into welcoming extremist-militant fold.
It is a moot point whether media attention should be lavished on such a perverted and despicable personality, though the matter of the limits of so-called free speech does need to be honestly revisited because of the pain caused to millions by his multiple deplorable deeds and words. This is a man who wants Jordan to be renamed Palestine, the Holy Book and construction of mosques banned, proudly proclaims ‘hating Islam’, made the short film ‘Fitna’, but despite many profane actions, has never been punished in court. Holland’s present anti-hate speech and racism laws clearly need tightening.
Pakistan’s federal cabinet, its Hague representative, the Dutch Charge d’ Affairs in Islamabad are doing their bit, and the UN, EU and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation should also be drawn in. At the same time, obsolete and ineffectual measures such as outright banning Twitter will not serve the purpose, rather a direct recourse to social media top executives regarding such offensive and hurtful content. And perhaps the real reason Wilders always goes scot free lies in his sympathy for Zionism, having lived two years in a West Bank settlement in his youth, he has visited Israel 40 times in last 25 years, and remarked, ‘we (in the West) are all Israel’. But the over 1.2 million Dutch Muslims in a total population of 17.09 million deserve better.