On January 20, the pre-trial hearing of Geert Wilders’ free speech trial took place in the Netherlands. Wilders is a member of the Dutch Parliament, and his Freedom Party is at the top of the polls.
Wilders is charged with “slandering a group,” “discrimination,” and “sowing hatred.” According to the Dutch public prosecutors, Wilders broke the law by comparing Islam to Nazism, by calling for a stop to all immigration of Muslims into the Netherlands, and by presenting his movie Fitna. (Fitna pictures Islam as a brutal totalitarian ideology that aggressively seeks world domination in democratic and non-democratic ways.) Wilders has no positive words for Islam: “There is no moderate Islam. It doesn’t exist, because there is no distinction between good Islam and bad Islam. There is Islam and that’s it.” “Islam is the Koran, and nothing but the Koran. … I’m fed up by the Koran in Holland: Ban that fascist book!” “Close the borders, no more Muslims into Holland.”
Wilders could be sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison or fined up to $14,000.
At the center of this trial lies the clash between two Dutch constitutional rights: freedom of speech and non-discrimination. Both rights have equal weight in the Dutch constitution. Both rights resonate with people’s memories of living under the Nazi regime during WWII. The left establishment typically leans towards non-discrimination at the cost of free speech, and the political right typically sees jihadist organizations in the Netherlands as exploiting that.