In 2009, a Dutch court decided to prosecute right-wing politician Geert Wilders for hate speech. Wilders had made several highly critical comments about Islam and had produced a film, Fitna, that explored Islamist violence in a way that some people allege incites hatred against Muslims. In June 2011, the court acquitted Wilders of all charges. Robert Kahn (St. Thomas – Minnesota) has posted a piece, The Acquittal of Geert Wilders and Dutch Political Culture, that discusses Wilder’s case and its implications for multiculturalism. The abstract follows. — MLM
The June 23, 2011 acquittal of Geert Wilders has been viewed as a victory for freedom of speech over multiculturalism. While containing an element of truth, this framing has limitations. First, even as Wilders’ “triumphed” over multiculturalism he still cast himself as a champion of Dutch tolerance. Second, Wilders’ victory was a narrow one. The court, while acquitting, noted that Wilders went right to the line of permissible speech. Wilders acquittal does not necessarily portend an end of Dutch exceptionalism or its hate speech laws. Instead, the trial was noteworthy for (i) its obsession with the Nazi past, (ii) its debate over the rights and duties of a politician, and (iii) the conflict that arose between one of Wilders’ witnesses and an appeals court judge who in 2009 ordered the prosecutor to bring charges against Wilders.