Saturday, 16 October 2010

"Criticism not a crime", from "Islam in Europe", SCMP

A report today in the South China Morning Post (not in the New York Times; I wonder why?), that the prosecution in the hate crimes trial of Dutch MP, Geert Wilders, who is on trial for having criticised Islam, will seek acquittal on five of the charges.  Note: his criticism is of Islam, not of Muslims, he's been careful to make that clear, telling stories about his "gap-year" travels in the Muslim world, during which, he recounts, he was treated kindly and warmly by Muslims from Turkey to Pakistan -- and weren't we all treated kindly, those of us who travelled to those parts?  I was.

No, Wilders' criticism is of the ideology of Islam, and the large part of the case against him is that, in a film he made called Fitna, connections were made between verses in the Koran and violence done in its name.  Again, note, not that it was not Wilders himself who made the connection; no, he does not even do a voice-over.  The film shows the verses, then it shows various imams and sheikhs quoting the verses, and urging their co-religionists to carry out the obligations put on them by Allah and Muhammad via the Koran.  In other words, he was on trial for showing what Islam was doing, for what its respected imams and sheiks were telling their acolytes to do in the name of Islam.  
So the trial is a classic case of shooting the messenger.
By the way, it seems that he was not allowed in the trial, to use the defence that what he said was true...
Now we learn that the prosecutors themselves have called for the dropping of part of the charges against him.  Nevertheless, in announcing this, the prosecutor Birgit Van Roessel could not resist getting off a parting shot: "He expects an adaptation from Muslims. We can see this as unnecessary, unreasonable and even shamefulbut it does not amount to incitement to hatred, Van Roessel said."
My letter below, and below that the article....

Letter to SCMP:
 "He [Dutch MP, Geert Wilders] expects an adaptation from Muslims. We can see this as unnecessary, unreasonable and even shameful…”, according to Dutch prosecutor Birgit Van Roessel. (Islam in Europe, 16 October).

When I first went to live in China in the seventies, I donned Chinese-style clothes, learnt Chinese and ate Chinese food. I didn’t think that adaptation unnecessary or unreasonable, let alone “shameful”.  Quite the contrary, I thought it practical, necessary and courteous to the Chinese culture I was in. 

For Van Roessel to make this statement is to play into the world-view of the more extremist Muslims in Europe, who push a separatist agenda, against the wishes of the majority, not only of the host societies, but also of moderate Muslims who came to Europe hoping to liberate themselves from the backwardness of cultures they escaped. 

To label this “shameful”, is extraordinary and misguided self-righteousness. 

We should not forget that motto of the United States, perhaps the most successful immigrant country in the world, is
E pluribus unum [“Out of many, one”). This contrasts with Van Roessel’s “out of many, keep them separate and backward”. 

The Swedish Minister of Integration, Nyamko Sabuni, a Muslim, insists "it is crucial that immigrants get in contact with the labour market as soon as possible after receiving their residence permit. This has to be combined with language courses."  Is Sabuni “shameful” for expecting such “adaptation from Muslims”?

Yours, etc
South China Morning Post article, 16 October:

Criticism 'not a crime'

Dutch prosecutors sought anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders' acquittal on five hate speech charges yesterday, saying his criticism of the Muslim religion, though hurtful to some, was not criminal.

"Criticism [of religion] is allowed," prosecutor Birgit van Roessel told the Amsterdam district court.
"It would be hurtful to many Muslims when Wilders calls for a ban on the Koran," she said. "But the feelings of this group can play no role in determining the facts of the case."
Wilders went on trial last Monday for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf.
On Tuesday, the prosecution had sought Wilders' acquittal of the first of the five charges against him - giving offence to Muslims, and asked judges not to award damages to his accusers.
Yesterday, they also asked for him to be cleared of the remaining four charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans.
Though his stated plan to close the Dutch borders to Muslims should he become prime minister may seem "disgraceful, inhumane", it did not amount to hate speech, argued Van Roessel. Criticism of religion could never be punishable, she added. "The wounding of feelings, religious feelings, plays no role" in the trial.
In June 2008, the Dutch prosecution service dismissed dozens of complaints against him, citing his right to freedom of speech.
But appeals judges ordered in January 2009 that he stand trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" - forcing the prosecution to mount a case against him.
Wilders is a shadow partner of the new, rightist coalition government inaugurated on Thursday.
Among his other statements, Wilders, 47, said Muslims should conform to the "dominant culture" or be put out of the country. "He expects an adaptation from Muslims. We can see this as unnecessary, unreasonable and even shameful ... but it does not amount to incitement to hatred," Van Roessel said.
The controversial politician, known for his signature shock of dyed-blonde hair, risks up to a year in jail or a €7,600 (HK$83,000) fine for his comments. Judgment is expected on November 5.