NEWS - Archive June 2011

THE WILDERS TRIAL IN THE NETHERLANDS

IS THIS THE DEATH OF DUTCH MULTICULTURALISM?

By Lauren Comiteau

29/6/2011- When an Amsterdam court acquitted far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders of all charges of discrimination and inciting hatred against Muslims on June 23, it seemed a fitting climax to a week that saw the end of the decade-long Dutch experiment with integration. Judges ruled that although the comments the politician made in the Dutch press and on the internet between October 2006 and March 2008 comparing Islam to Nazism may be offensive, they are nonetheless legal and part of a legitimate government debate — one that's taken on tones that were unthinkable — or at least unspeakable — only a few years ago. "The good news is it's legal to be critical about Islam," Wilders told reporters after his acquittal. "And this is something that we need because the Islamization of our societies is a major problem and a threat to our freedom. And I'm allowed to say so."  "I'm very disappointed," said Dutch Moroccan Zenap al-Garboni, as she smeared cream cheese on her children's bagels in a restaurant near the courthouse shortly after the verdict. "He's creating hate against Islam." Added her 11-year-old daughter Amra: "When I see him speaking on TV it really scares Me ... for all the children, it's really scary to see and I think it shouldn't be like that."

Wilders has never shied away from attacking Islam, despite having to live under constant protection since 2004, when controversial Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim extremist. Wilders has called for a ban on the Koran — which he compared to Hitler's Mein Kampf — and a "head-rag tax." He's also on record as saying the Netherlands should close its doors to Muslim immigrants and even take away the nationality of some who are already there. And his short film Fitna juxtaposes images of the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts with verses from the Koran. In court last week, Presiding Judge Marcel van Oosten called some of those comments "crude and denigrating," but ruled that they fall within the scope of protected speech — especially because his remarks were made during the country's heated debates on multiculturalism. Others disagree. "He got away with Islamaphobic expressions that, in light of the U.N. Convention against Racism, should have fallen within the scope of our criminal law," says Egbert Dommering, a lawyer and professor at the University of Amsterdam. While Wilders has declared his acquittal a victory for free speech, Dommering says "it's a victory for free speech for himself, but it will lead to a deterioration in the quality of debate and a legitimization of using strong language against the Muslim religion which is in fact aimed against people." Wilders has always maintained he's against Islam and not its practitioners, a distinction that's legal under Dutch law.

Wilders' acquittal seems to be a sign that his once radical views have become mainstream in a country that for decades was viewed as one of the most liberal and tolerant in the world. "The judgment doesn't turn the tide," says Dommering, "but it's symbolic of what's going on in the Netherlands." Wilders is already an enormously popular politician — many analysts say the ruling will only make him more so — and his PVV party is the third largest in parliament. Although not a formal partner in the ruling conservative coalition, PVV's backing is crucial in giving it a voting majority. In turn, the government supports many of Wilders' anti-immigrant positions — from limiting immigration to banning face-covering attire. (Read: "The New Dutch Government: An End to Tolerance?") The verdict came just days after Dutch ministers backed away from current integration policy and announced plans to cut funding for programs designed to help immigrants. Saying Dutch values must come first, Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner told parliament that the government "will distance itself from the relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society." A June 19 poll found that three-quarters of the Dutch support the cabinet's slashing of funds that go toward aiding immigrants.

"In the 1990s, saying a multicultural society should end was ruled discriminatory," says Channa Samkalden, a lawyer at the firm Böhler Advocaten who specializes in free speech and freedom of religion. She's referring to the case of another anti-immigration politician, Hans Janmaat, who was prone to saying "full is full" and "our people first." Says Samkalden: "We've simply changed our minds on what's allowable." For Ronnie Eisenmann, head of the board of the Amsterdam Jewish Community, the latest twists in the Dutch culture wars reek of political strategy. "The fact that politicians say multiculturalism has failed doesn't mean you can ignore that a multicultural society exits," he says. "They're saying it because they want to cut funding." Muslim and Jewish organizations have recently come together to oppose a ban to ritual slaughter that parliament members approved on Tuesday — a ban that Wilders supports. But while Amsterdam's politicians may be declaring the death of multiculturalism, the picture on the streets tell a different story. At Sunday's Roots Festival in the Oosterpark — a musical celebration of all things cultural not rooted in Western Europe — stands selling Turkish kebabs co-exist happily with Dutch herring sellers and African artists. "I think the politicians don't know what they're talking about," said Amsterdam student Shola Verschuren. Originally from Nigeria, she is currently taking government-funded Dutch lessons, classes that would get the axe under the cabinet's current plans. "I will be angry if they're cut," she says. "Integration rocks."
Time Magazine

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GEERT WILDERS, A VOLTAIRE FOR OUR TIMES? (Netherlands, opinion)

Geert Wilders's acquittal on hate speech charges may open up a new trend in Europe. Now that governments have stopped defending multiculturalism, critics of Islam can come back out into the open, writes a Dutch intellectual pleased with the decision.
By Thierry Baudet

27/6/2011- In acquitting Geert Wilders the Dutch judge bucked a European trend. Despite years of intolerance towards any criticism of Islam, the Netherlands are honouring their tradition of ensuring a sanctuary for open debate. In western European countries over the past few years, things have been quite different: sworn opponents of Islam have been condemned for expressing their views. Early in May in Denmark, for example, Lars Hedegaard, the ideologue of the Danish People's Party, was sentenced on appeal for saying that “girls in Muslim families get raped by their uncles, their cousins, or fathers,” and that “if a Muslim rapes a woman, he has the right. It’s part of his culture.” On 15 February in Vienna, Elisabeth Wolff-Sabaditsch was fined for calling Muhammad, the founder of Islam, a “paedophile”. According to the Austrian court, Mohammad’s marriage to Aisha, who was nine years old at the time, could not be equated with paedophilia, because that would be “disparaging” to the “religious doctrines” of Islam, especially since the marriage continued after Aisha turned 18.

Comparable verdicts for comments critical of Islam were also handed down in France, Belgium and England. Jean-Marie Le Pen was indicted for saying: “The day when we have not five million but 25 million Muslims in France is the day they will be in charge. And the French will hug the walls and scuttle down the street with their eyes on the ground.” Mark Anthony Norwood had to remove from her window a poster that read “Islam out of Britain”. And Belgium's Daniel Feret, declared ineligible to stand for public election for ten years, was ordered to perform community service in the field of integration. He had called for the “repatriation” of immigrants who he said were “criminals” and demanded that social benefits be given only to Belgians and “Europeans”. When passing down these judgments the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg held that a “legitimate purpose” was being furthered and that the restriction of freedom of expression was, in this case, “necessary in a democratic society.”

Curious, because in none of these cases were there any calls for violence. According to the national courts, the statements overstepped the mark because they incited “hatred” or “discrimination” – concepts that can easily stretch and be used to silence unwelcome political views. If for a long time it was hard to utter any criticism of Islam, it was because such criticisms were not compatible with multiculturalism. Yet now that leaders such as Cameron, Aznar, Sarkozy and Rutte have all subscribed to the surprising conclusion reached in 2010 by Angela Merkel, who said that “the multicultural society has completely failed,” criticism of Islam is once again allowed. With the acquittal of Geert Wilders on Thursday, June 23, the Netherlands has become the first country in western Europe where legal authority has drawn explicit conclusions from the abandonment of multiculturalism. The Netherlands have lived up to their reputation of being a haven of tolerance for free speech.

Indeed, for a long time, the writings of countless critics of religion, from Spinoza to Voltaire, could only be published in Holland, while elsewhere in Europe they were banned. The repressive elite of that era who wanted to suppress criticism by resorting to the courts could only keep the ban in place up to the late 18th century. In the end, what had begun as a critical debate gained momentum and led to the French Revolution. A similar development could threaten the European elites of today. Whether multiculturalism is a good idea or not, whether Islam is a political ideology or a peaceful religion and whether Muhammad was a paedophile or not, none of these ideas should be imposed or prohibited. This can only lead to a radicalisation of opinions. Only open debate can be permitted to decide these issues, and the parties that have been offended or injured can then try to persuade the critics of Islam of their alleged wrongs by force of argument.

If Wilders had been found guilty on Thursday, June 23 – even if only on a single statement – the authority of the judiciary as a whole would have been weakened yet again. Such a decision would have ushered in years of more legal jousting, which would have led to increased politicisation of the courtrooms. It would seem therefore that the judge proved conciliatory just in time. The question is: after this reasonable verdict, which European country will follow suit.

This article originally appeared in Trouw, a Dutch newspaper
Press Europe

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LEGALISING RACISM? (Netherlands, opinion)

By Fatima Kanji 

28/6/2011- Last week, Dutch politician and leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) was found not guilty for hate-speech charges at a court in Amsterdam. Wilders was charged in connection with statements made in newspapers and the film Fitna, which directlycondemns Islam, calling it a form of fascism. He had also called for an end to Muslim immigration in Europe. Wilders has left us in no doubt about his views on Islam (and muslims) calling for an end to Muslim immigration in Europe, a ban on the Quran he promptly compared to Mein Kampf and a suggestion he made in Parliament on a tax on women wearing the Burqaof €1000. But the issue being debated in this case, wasn’t his view on Islam, as this was permissible, but his targeted views on Muslims. I detest the views of Wilders, and I’m saddened that he holds such hatred and misguided views for over a billion people, with sweeping generalisations. However, we need to analyse whether Wilders views were and are permissible contrary to the courts ruling.

There are many issues at play here. Where does freedom of expression end and hate speech start? Can one explicitly denounce a religion, providing in-depth analysis of these views, with direct attacks on followersbut still not be found guilty as it’s within the ‘context of the debate’? The unwillingness of the Public Prosecutor goes back to 2008 when it refused to take up the case despite numerous complaints. The case was brought in front of an Amsterdam Appeals Court in January 2009, but its reluctance to have this trial, has plagued the case right until the end, when it unusually asked for acquittal. Could the case have been doomed right from the outset? Many Dutch politicians were also disinclined to show their support for the case. In fact, Dutch Prime Minister welcomed his acquittal stating it was “excellent news for Geert Wilderswith whom we’re co-operating well”, so could politics have, albeit indirectly, been at play here. The disinclination of majority party politicians, the unwillingness of the public prosecutor to bring about a trial, leaves it open to some uncertainty and questions surrounding the trial and whether its fate was already pre-empted.

What this trial has shown is that you can be outwardly racist, as long the majority of your attacks also have ‘borderline’ views in them. It seems that the racist views that Wilders holds, have been overshadowed by his attacks on Islam as a religion. Statements against a religion (regardless of personal views) are permissible in this case, but against an individuals or a people, are not. However, upon reading many of Wilders speeches and interviews, one can see that they are carefully littered with racist comments amongst his anti-Islam stance. Some of these quotes include; “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate”, “I am in favour of closing the borders for family reunion of non-Western, Islamic immigrants. Ninety nine percent of those people don’t add anything. They only bring us misery” and “We have a gigantic problem with Muslims, it goes beyond all bounds on all sides.” And these are just a selection. Judge Van Oosten argued this call for a ban on all Muslim Immigration was within the context of the Dutch immigration debate. So outward racism is permissible as long as it’s within a context of a wider debate? But surely that’s true of any debate? Wilders has been very clever in walking along a fine line between overt racism and genuine disconcertion with Islamification of the West and it seems like the courts have bought this.

Is this perhaps an indictment on the inertia of the Dutch government playing politics with tolerance, adopting a laissez faire approach so as not to maintain freedom of speech or was there a wider agenda here? The Wilders trial comes at a time when the Centre-Right Dutch government is moving from a multicultural approach forwards a tougher stance of assimilation with limited room for compromise. In Geert Wilders case, time will tell if his acquittal was the right thing to do or a nod of approval to other right wing individuals with extreme views. It has definitely set precedence andincreased benchmark for what is permissible in public. Is forced assimilation the future for Europe? Time they say is the ultimate test.
The Independent

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TWO STANDARDS FOR HATE SPEECH (editorial, the Toronto Star)

By Aisha Sherazi

27/6/2011- If the news reports of fashion designer John Galliano’s court case about anti-Semitic slurs and Geert Wilders acquittal of Muslim-hate speech had not come consecutively, I might not have connected them. The difference between the two European men? On the surface, not much. Both wore suits in court, although admittedly, one wasn’t wearing a shirt with his suit. Both are accused of a vile kind of language. Wilders is accused of saying hateful things, not just about political Islamists, but Islam itself. He openly does not distinguish between them, and does not apologize for his views. For many peaceful, law-abiding Muslims who give to charity, take part in society and are fully-fledged citizens in the West, his speech is a blow. To be clear, no religion should be free from careful scrutiny or even informed debate. We are all accountable for our words and deeds and, as a public figure and someone who trades on his public persona, Wilders is even more accountable. Rather than using the status that has been accorded to him to promote understanding and acceptance, Wilders has chosen to scapegoat Muslims as the root cause for multicultural failure. This is nothing new. History does have a habit of repeating itself.

Hate laws focus, in general, on the understanding that you cannot incite hatred or violence towards a particular group. As commentators have observed, Wilders treads to the edge but never oversteps this boundary. Does it harm us? Nope. Does it hurt us? Sure. Is it dangerous? Possibly. Many people may take his words at face value, not bothering to check facts or consider the implications. That certainly doesn’t help people understand each other, and may lead to attacks on Muslims by those seeking to justify their own mindless thuggery. And although Wilders doesn’t call upon people to be violent toward Muslims, you can bet that violent extremists are using such speech to prove that Muslims are hated in the West under some kind of conspiracy theory. The victimization of Muslims is used to justify their heinous acts against innocent civilians. That is dangerous indeed.

Galliano’s hateful speech has cost him dearly. He has lost his position at Christian Dior. He probably won’t serve jail time, but will more than likely have to pay thousands of dollars to compensate those he hurt directly. The differences between the two cases are vast in many ways. Galliano said vile things that are not even repeatable. Wilders (apparently) enters into the realms of intellectual debate. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel that there is a double standard at play here, when a politician on the public payroll can malign the faith of taxpayers and billions worldwide, but a clearly troubled man, high on drugs and alcohol, is fired and possibly fined, not to mention publicly humiliated. Galliano’s treatment was justified, and he clearly needs a wake-up call of some kind if he is to seek help. But it doesn’t sit right with me that Galliano is being depicted as the devil incarnate, while Wilders poses as a hero. Have the floodgates of Islamophobia just been opened a tad wider?

Aisha Sherazi is a writer, blogger and poet and a pastoral care worker at Merivale High School in Ottawa.
The Toronto Star

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GEERT WILDERS AND DUTCH DEMOCRACY (Netherlands)

A court in the Netherlands has found the influential politician Geert Wilders innocent of charges of fomenting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. The decision is a challenge both to the rule of law and to Dutch politicians.  
By Cas Mudde for openDemocracy  

27/6/2011- The acquittal of Dutch politician Geert Wilders on 22 June 2011 on charges [10] of “inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims” is a political victory for Wilders, a legal travesty, and a missed opportunity for Dutch democracy. Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) are known around the world for their Islamophobic propaganda. A random selection of his Islamophobia includes statements [11] such as “Islam is a fascist ideology”; “Mohammed was a paedophile”; and “Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are not compatible”. He has also warned of a “tsunami” of Muslim immigrants and compared the Qur’an to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. A glance at the declarations of Wilders [12] and his party leaves no reasonable doubt that Islamophobia is at the core of his programme. Wilders may have changed his opinion on various issues, most notably non-Muslim immigrants and the welfare state, but on one point he has never wavered: his struggle against the alleged “Islamisication” of the Netherlands, Europe, and even the world. For example, at a speech [13] on 12 May 2011 at the Cornerstone Church in Tennessee, he said: “My friends, I am sorry. I am here today with an unpleasant message. I am here with a warning. I am here with a battle-cry: ‘Wake up, Christians of Tennessee. Islam is at your gate.’ Do not make the mistake which Europe made. Do not allow Islam to gain a foothold here.”

While I am not a lawyer, I cannot see how the Amsterdam court can come to the conclusion [14] that Wilders did not - according to Dutch law and precedence - “incite hatred and discrimination” against Muslims. The emphasis is important: for the Netherlands has - since the case of the Centrumpartij (Centre Party / CP) of Hans Janmaat [15](1934-2002) in the early 1980s - long experience of charging political parties and politicians under anti-discrimination legislation. Since that time, several parties and politicians whose public statements have been far less consistent and far-reaching than those of Wilders have been convicted of incitement to racial hatred. For example, Janmaat was given a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment and a fine of 7,500 guilders (c 3,400 euro) in 1997 for declaring at a demonstration that “as soon as we have the opportunity and power, we will abolish the multicultural society” - a statement that Wilders regularly makes. In fact, a Dutch court even found that the slogan “Full is Full” - used in the 1990s [16] by the CP, and its successor the Centrumdemocraten (Centre Democrats / CD) - constituted incitement to racial hatred. Today, that statement would be almost uncontroversial.

The contrast between Janmaat’s conviction and Wilders’s acquittal [17] reflects an important development in Dutch politics and society. While Wilders’s Islamophobic comments are objectively harsher than Janmaat’s xenophobic equivalents of the 1990s, they are also much more accepted in contemporary Dutch society. This is not necessarily to say that the Dutch population has become more xenophobic over the past generation. What has happened [18], rather, is that the taboo on expressing xenophobia in public has been broken, particularly regarding Islam and Muslims (see “The intolerance of the tolerant [19]”, 20 October 2010). It was, incidentally, the earlier flamboyant populist Pim Fortuyn [20] (1948-2002) rather than Janmaat or Wilders who was the agent of that change. In consequence, politicians such as Wilders can gain much more electoral support than Janmaat ever could, which gives them real political power. And there is no doubt that Wilders’s political power has played a major role in the court’s decision. After all, it is much easier to convict the leader of a marginal and ostracised party like the CD than a figure like Wilders, the leader of the third-largest party in the parliament and a “support-party” of the current [21] government (see "The Geert Wilders enigma [22]", 23 June 2010).

A political failure
But a political victory is not automatically a democratic victory. In fact, I would argue that the acquittal of Geert Wilders is both a defeat of and a lost opportunity for Dutch democracy. Don’t misunderstand: I am a long-term opponent of the Netherlands’ anti-discrimination laws, I support absolute freedom of speech; and I believe that a democratic state should not limit or regulate [23] speech, particularly in politics. That said, a liberal democracy cannot function without the rule of law; and an essential aspect of this is equality before the law. Clearly, however, this is not the case in the Netherlands, where for decades people have been treated differently with regard to anti-discrimination laws (for example, in the 1990s the powerful [24] conservative politician Frits Bolkestein [25] was not even indicted, far less convicted, for statements very similar to those of Janmaat). To be fair, in acquitting Wilders the Amsterdam court has undoubtedly taken the changed public discourse on immigrants into account. But this does not get to the heart of the problem, which is not judicial [26] but political. The Amsterdam court found itself trapped by history; it was asked to enforce a law inherited from the past for which there no longer exists majority political and public support. Its acquittal has taken the lint out of the powder-keg of anti-discrimination legislation. It is now up to the politicians - not judges - to bring social values and laws back into harmony.

If Wilders had been convicted, a political crisis was inevitable: how then, after all, could the Dutch government rely on the support of a party of a convicted “anti-democratic” politician? A combination of the ensuing public outcry and sheer political necessity would have forced parliament [27] to amend the legislation by bringing it more into accord with the public view. Now, Wilders might continue at times to raise the issue, even if mainly to portray himself as a near-martyr in order to generate political support; but the political elite will resume ignoring the topic while trying to regulate who is indicted or not (and, in the few cases that this fails, to try and influence who is convicted or not). This outcome continues a policy of legal insecurity that undermines the rule of law in the Netherlands. It is therefore high time that Dutch politicians [28] update the anti-discrimination laws in accordance with their own and contemporary Dutch society’s preferences.

Cas Mudde is Nancy Schaenen scholar [9] at The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics and visiting associate professor at the department of political science [9] of DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Among his books is Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe [9] (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Links:
[1] http://www.opendemocracy.net/topics/international-politics
[2] http://www.opendemocracy.net/topics/democracy-and-government
[3] http://www.opendemocracy.net/countries/netherlands
[4] http://www.opendemocracy.net/view_content_by_region/europe.jsp
[5] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy_and_power/index.jsp
[6] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-newright/debate.jsp
[7] http://www.opendemocracy.net/faith-europe_islam/debate.jsp
[8] http://www.opendemocracy.net/authors/cas-mudde
[9] http://www.opendemocracy.net/http
[10] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/wilders-extremely-happy-acquittal
[11] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/wilders%E2%80%99-mohammed-rapist-killer-or-compassionate-activist%20
[12] http://www.geertwilders.nl/
[13] http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/05/geert-wilders-a-warning-to-america.html
[14] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2011/06/wilders_found_not_guilty_of_in.php
[15] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/hans-janmaat/
[16] http://www.inghist.nl/overview/history/en/1967tot2000,1994.html
[17] http://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie/Rechtbanken/Amsterdam/Nieuws/Pages/Uitspraak-van-de-rechtbank-AmsterdamindezaakWilders,23juni2011.aspx
[18] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/election2010/article2560403.ece/The_peculiar_nature_of_modern_Dutch_populism
[19] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/intolerance-of-tolerant
[20] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/pim-fortuyn/
[21] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/election2010/article2561211.ece/The_Netherlands_shifts_to_the_right
[22] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/geert-wilders-enigma
[23] http://vorige.nrc.nl/international/Features/article1886350.ece/Freedom_of_expression_or_freedom_to_insult
[24] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/the-debate/frits-bolkestein/
[25] http://www.fritsbolkestein.com/
[26] http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/dutch-legal-system-dock-wilders-trial
[27] http://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/
[28] http://www.houseofrepresentatives.nl/how_parliament_works/democracy/index.jsp
[29] http://www.cambridge.org/uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521616324&ss=fro
[30] http://www.atlantic-books.co.uk/our_books/browse_catalogue.asp?css=1&edition=1434
[31] http://www.rnw.nl/english/bulletin/geert-wilders-acquitted-hatemongering-charges
[32] http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8421.html
[33] http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/ecri/default_en.asp
[34] http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2010-08-31-mudde-en.html
[35] http://www.thehollandbureau.com/
[36] http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/
[37] http://www.ua.ac.be/main.aspx?c=cas.mudde
[38] http://www.depauw.edu/acad/political/
[39] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/article/neo-conservatism-irving-kristol-s-living-legacy
[40] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/geert-wilders-enigma
[41] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/cas-mudde/intolerance-of-tolerant
[42] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/new-new-radical-right-spectre-and-reality
[43] http://www.opendemocracy.net/cas-mudde/european-integration-after-fall
[44] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_constitution/holland_2567.jsp
[45] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/austria-s-democratic-wound
[46] http://www.opendemocracy.net/people-europe_islam/article_2239.jsp
[47] http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/europe_blackhole_3796.jsp
[48] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-protest/austria_election_3973.jsp
[49] http://www.opendemocracy.net/mats-engstr%C3%B6m/swedens-changing
[50] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-europe_constitution/new_europe_3376.jsp
[51] http://www.opendemocracy.net/democracy-newright/article_382.jsp
[52] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/jorg-haider-the-polariser
[53] http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/denmark_s_election_a_shifting_landscape
[54] http://www.opendemocracy.net/anton-pelinka/hungarys-election-and-viktor-orbans-choice
[55] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/
[56] http://www.opendemocracy.net/about/syndication
Open Democracy

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26/6/2011- A Dutch court acquitted controversial politician Geert Wilders of defaming Muslims last week. Ending a three-year prosecution, the Freedom Party leader has now been cleared of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination. Some of Wilders’ statements on Muslims were “rude and belittling” the Amsterdam district court finds, but according to the bench they were made by a politician in the context of an on-going social debate on multicultural society. But the presiding judge Marcel van Oosten also said that some of Wilders’ statements on Islam were sometimes on the edge of legal acceptability quoting him saying “You feel that you’re not living in your own country anymore. There’s a battle going on, we have to defend ourselves.” While comparing the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf in a Dutch newspaper editorial in 2007, the 47-year old politician was also charged with insulting Muslims. “You have spoken in a hurtful and also shocking way,” the presiding judge said. Another point of controversy involved Wilders’ Fitna, a movie produced in 2008 in which he spurred Muslims to rip out alleged hate-preaching verses from the Koran. The court found the footage “shocking and worrying” and said that some visuals might invoke feelings of hatred. However, the film was totally acquitted of incitement as the court felt it had rights under freedom of speech. Forced by a court order to prosecute Wilders after anti-racism campaigners’ protests against an earlier refusal to sue him, the public prosecution department joined Wilders’ legal team in its not-guilty plea, saying that certain statements by the Freedom Party leader were insulting, but not criminal. The legal base for the acquittal is a ruling by the Dutch High Court in 2009 stating that comments on religions are not penal. Accordingly, the presiding judge said that Wilders’ comments were largely about Islam as a religion and not aimed at Muslims. It’s very unlikely that there will be an appeal against the verdict.

“Victory for Dutch people”
Wilders hails the verdict as a triumph for freedom of speech against what he calls “Islamisation” of Dutch society. “I am delighted with this ruling,” he put on his personal website. “It is a victory not only for me but for all Dutch people. Today is a victory for freedom of speech. […] I have spoken, I speak and I shall continue to speak.” Geert Wilders has been living under police protection since an Islamic radical killed Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004. His own feature movie Fitna also put foreign Muslims’ backs up. The film led to massive protests and demonstrations in Islamic-majority countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan and even incited Malaysians to call for a boycott for products stemming from the Netherlands, one the Eurozone’s largest exporters. But his Freedom Party doubled its representation in last year’s elections and is now the third largest group in the Dutch house of representatives. As the ruling coalition failed to secure a majority in the senate on 23 May by just one seat, it’s now also dependent on the Calvinist party SGP, an unlikely bed fellow at first sight. But it shares with Wilders’ Freedom Party the primate of Judeo-Christian heritage as opposed to ‘alien’ traditions such as Islam.

“The ruling is clear and in line with the prosecutors’ demands,” Dutch Prime Minister Marc Rutte tweeted not surprisingly within two hours after the court’s verdict. “Great news for Geert Wilders with whom we are cooperating well on the basis of the tolerance agreement.” Rutte’s minority government relies on Wilders’ Freedom Party as it needs his support more than ever to deal with its unpopular economic policies, including proposed budget cuts of €18 billion that are vehemently contested by the opposition. In a bid to secure Wilders’ support the Dutch minister for home affairs Piet Hein Donner told parliament two weeks ago that Dutch society and its values must have the right of way over a multicultural society. Integration policies should go. The government “will distance itself from relativism contained in the model of a multicultural society,” the Christian-Democrat said during the presentation of a new integration bill. General policy on schooling, job and housing gives plenty opportunity for integration according to the home minister.

“What’s next to be thrown in our face?“
Donner favours a tougher approach to people who ignore ‘Dutch values’ or disobey the law. The minister is planning to introduce a law making forced marriage illegal and he wants tougher measures for immigrants who lower their chance of employment by the way they dress. On 1 January 2013 a burqa ban will be introduced. But what do statistics say about all this fuss? According to the latest poll by the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) 837.000 Muslims lived in the Netherlands in 2006. Most are of Turkish or Moroccan descent. The overall population is 16,7 million. The CBS calculated that in 2050 – if demographics stay the same - Muslims will account for about eight per cent of the Dutch overall population. While allegedly fighting Islamisation of Dutch society, Wilders forecasts far bigger Islamic influence. Obviously not everyone shares these views and did not welcome the court’s verdict accordingly. Anti-racism campaigners and Muslim groups saw their chance to put a spoke in Wilders’ wheel blown away by the court ruling. “To my surprise and slight consternation Wilders said after the verdict that he meant to be rude and insulting. That’s actually a kind of confession,” Gerard Spong, a lawyer representing the civil plaintiffs, told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. “I find the acquittal disappointing because the judges have paved the way for Wilders to make Muslims second grade citizens in our society.” Aydin Akkaya, president of an umbrella organization for Turks living in the Holland agrees. “[The verdict] means that everything is permitted in the Netherlands as long as you find the right context. […] What’s next to be thrown in our face?”
New Europe

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WILDERS FOUND NOT GUILTY OF INCITING HATRED, BUT IS 'ON THE EDGE' (Netherlands)

23/6/2011- Anti-Islam campaigner and MP Geert Wilders has been found not guilty of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and non-westerm immigrants by judges in Amsterdam. The court ruled that some of Wilders' statements were insulting, shocking and on the edge of legal acceptibility, but that they were made in the broad context of a political and social debate on the multi-cultural society. Talk of a tsunami of Muslims is 'blunt and humiliating' but is 'not subversive and does not incite to hatred or discrimination', the court said. And Wilders' 17- minute video compilation Fitna could lead to feelings of hatred, but Wilders himself had not generated this feeling, the court said.

Victory
In a reaction, Wilders said the verdict was a victory for freedom of speech. 'You can criticise Islam. I have not been silenced,' he said. 'Sometimes I meant to be coarse and denigrating,' he said. 'In a political debate you must be able to say what you like.' However, lawyer Gerard Spong, who was instrumental in getting the case heard, said he was disappointed because he feels Wilders did go too far with some of his statements.

Context
'The abusive language about Islam and the artificial distinction between Islam and Muslims have one effect: contributing to hatred of Muslims,' he said. The judge's ruling that such statements fall within the context of a broad debate are vague, Spong said, and raised the question 'what is the context?' Alexander Pechtold, leader of the D66 Liberal party, said the ruling could not be seen as a licence to incite hatred, even for politicians. And Christian Democrat parliamentary party leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma said the CDA is committed to debate on the basis of respect and decency and would continue to criticise Wilders if he is unnecessarily insulting. Tilburg law professor Theo de Roos told news agency ANP the trial was a test case for prosecution on the basis of inciting hatred. 'This trial shows you have to go very far before you can be found guilty. Only actual threats are no longer legally admissable,' he said.

Blunders
The case began on October 4 last year, but collapsed after three weeks when a special legal panel ruled the judges may have shown partiality following a string of legal blunders. New judges were then sworn in and the case was heard again this year. The anti-racism groups which pressed the prosecution department to take the case to trial are now planning to take their complaint to the EU court of human rights and the UN, according to media reports.

For an English summary of the verdict, click here (link at bottom of page)
For more reactions to the verdict, click here
The Dutch News

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VERDICT SET FOR DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM LAWMAKER

23/6/2011- Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders faces judgement Thursday in an Amsterdam court for his statements attacking Islam, which he claimed were made to "defend freedom in The Netherlands." Wilders, 47, will be in the dock as Judge Marcel van Oosten starts reading his verdict at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) in a trial watched closely by both Wilders' supporters and his detractors and broadcast live. Wilders faces five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic). In the past he has likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and "Fitna" shows shocking images of 9/11 and other terror attacks on Western targets interspersed with verses from the Koran. The 2008 movie caused widespread outrage in Muslim countries and opposition from the Dutch government, which feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. But Wilders -- one of Europe's most heavily guarded politicians -- has demanded his acquittal before the court, saying he was "obliged to speak" because The Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam. The blond parliamentarian, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of The Netherlands." His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, who last month again asked for his acquittal, saying that although his comments may have frequently caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal as they criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people. The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders dates as far back as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him. On trial since October last year, Wilders risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro ($10,900) fine if found guilty.
Expatica News

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DUTCH ANTI-ISLAM LAWMAKER WILDERS FACES JUDGEMENT

21/6/2011- Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders faces judgement Thursday in an Amsterdam court for his statements attacking Islam, which he claimed were made to "defend freedom in the Netherlands." Wilders, 47, will be in the dock as Judge Marcel van Oosten starts his verdict at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) in a trial watched closely by both Wilders' supporters and his detractors and broadcast live. Wilders faces five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic). In the past he has likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and "Fitna" shows shocking images of 9/11 and other terror attacks on western targets interspersed with verses from the Koran. The 2008 movie caused widespread outrage in Muslim countries and opposition from the Dutch government, who feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

But Wilders -- one of Europe's most heavily-guarded politicians -- has demanded his acquittal before the court, saying he was "obliged to speak, because the Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam. "Acquit me. I do not encourage hatred, I do not encourage discrimination," he told the Amsterdam court during its closing hearing on June 1. The blonde-haired parliamentarian, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of the Netherlands." His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, who last month again asked for his acquittal, saying his comments formed part of the public debate. The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders stems back as far as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him.

Prosecutor Paul Velleman told the court that although Wilders' remarks may have caused anxiety and insult on several occasions, they were not criminal as they criticised a religion and therefore could not be punished. On trial since October last year, Wilders risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine if found guilty. Wilders' trial comes against a backdrop of plans by the central-right Dutch government to move away from a multicultural approach towards a tougher stance against those who ignore Dutch values and break the law.
AFP

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Headlines 24 June, 2011

AMNESTY SLATES ROMANIA OVER ROMA HOUSING

Rights organisation says authorities are depriving Roma people in Romania of one of their basic rights.

23/6/2011- Romania’s Roma, who rank among the Balkan country's the poorest and most disadvantaged citizens, cannot access adequate housing because of the country’s legal system, according to a report issued on Thursday by the rights group Amnesty International. “When the authorities evict Roma communities against their will, without adequate consultation, notice or alternative housing, they are violating international treaties that the government of Romania has signed up to. This also applies to the resettlement of Roma communities to inadequate and segregated housing”, says Barbora Cernusakova, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Romania. In support of its allegations, Amnesty International cites the case of 56 Roma families which were forcibly evicted in December from the main Transylvanian city of Cluj, where some of them had been living for about 25 years. The community was not given sufficient notice, no consultation was carried out and no feasible alternatives to eviction were explored, Amnesty says. “Unfortunatelly, the situation hasn’t changed yet. Forty families are still living inhumane housing conditions near the city’s rubbish dump and a former chemical waste dump,” Adrian Dohotari, a civic activist from Cluj, said. Housing is still a major problem in Romania. Around 40 per cent of Romanians live in dwellings with no indoor toilets, baths or showers, according to the EU’s statistics office, Eurostat. Over half of Romanians live in overcrowded dwellings and 22 per cent live in dwellings with leaking roofs or which are damp, the Eurostat report adds. Romania is officially home to some 550,000 Roma, although it is widely believed that there are actually at least twice that number in the country. Many people of Roma origin do not declare their ethnicity due to the widespread prejudice they face.
Balkan Insight

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