Geert Wilders — and Free Speech — on Trial in the Netherlands

by David Pryce-Jones

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom party in the Dutch parliament, is a political phenomenon quite as explosive as Donald Trump or Nigel Farage. Immigrants from Muslim countries account for a high proportion of the Dutch population, and Wilders and his party think it too high. Wilders loses no opportunity to argue that Islam enforces on its believers a faith and a culture incompatible with democracy. He advocates a Dutch Brexit, so that the country can free itself from a European Union whose laissez-faire stance towards this immigration he sees as political and cultural suicide.

At a quite small meeting in a café in 2014 he asked the audience if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country. “Fewer! Fewer!” were the shouts, to which Wilders responded, “We’ll take care of it.” Mr. Trump speaks openly of deporting criminal elements but Wilders did not suggest any measures that might be taken or that could turn violent. Belatedly, the government has put Wilders on trial for racism and hate speech. The public prosecutor has asked for Wilders to be fined 5,000 euros. The judges could find that a two-year prison sentence is appropriate.

Should the court condemn Wilders and penalise him, not just Holland but the whole of Europe will plunge into the unknown. The end of freedom of speech is also the end of democracy. The prospect of such an outrage is most likely to sweep Wilders and his party into power in the next general election. The dislodging of a pebble is supposed to be able to cause a flood. Europe is in the hands of people whose political correctness brings about the very outcomes they don’t want.

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