Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who is making a 10-minute movie about Islam entitled Fitna (Arabic for “ordeal”), has felt compelled to cancel the March 28 press conference where he intended to show his film. The Nieuwspoort press center in The Hague, which is run by a board of journalists, publishers and government press officers, demanded that Wilders pay 400,000 euros for extra safety measures. “Apparently, you have to be a millionaire to organize such an event,” Mr Wilders said. “Even if I had the money I am not going to spend it on a press conference.”
No Dutch broadcaster, public or private, has been willing to show the film. There are indications that Fitna will also be banned on Youtube, which removed a clip featuring Mr Wilders two week ago, on so-called “ethical grounds”.
Dutch international companies, fearing a boycott of their products by Muslims, have announced that they intend to hold Mr Wilders responsible for a loss of profits and markets in the event of a boycott. They have asked Gerard Spong, one of the top lawyers in the Netherlands, to see whether a court case claiming damages from Wilders will be possible. Mr Spong and several other lawyers have already lodged some fifty formal complaints against the politician for “incitement to racial hatred and discrimination of Muslims” because Mr Wilders expressed the opinion that the Koran is “a fascist book which should be banned in the Netherlands.”
Last November, when Wilders announced he was going to make a movie expressing his view on Islam and the Koran, Doekle Terpstra, a member of the board of directors of the Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever, told the Dutch media that “Geert Wilders is evil, and evil has to be stopped.” The Unilever director, anticipating a worldwide Muslim boycott of Unilever products (brands such as Axe, Ben and Jerry’s, Best Foods, Brooke Bond, Colman’s, Cif, Dove, Glidat Strauss, Heartbrand, Hellmann’s, Imperial Margarine, Knorr, Lipton, Pepsodent, Sunsilk, Unox, Vaseline, etc.), called upon the Dutch to “rise in order to stop Wilders from preaching his evil message.”
Mr Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, has been living under police protection for almost four years. Muslim fanatics have threatened to assassinate him for his outspoken criticism of Islam. The politician has no fixed residence and has to live in army barracks or other heavily secured premises.
Radical Muslims have threatened to indiscriminately kill Dutch citizens or retaliate against the Netherlands with a terror attack if Mr Wilders’ movie is released. This week, Dutch people with the surname “Wilders” received death threats. Though not related to the politician, three Wilderses received anonymous letters ordering them to prevent their namesake from releasing his movie. If they fail, the letter states, “the first deadly victim will be you, one of your children or grandchildren.”
Last week Henk Hofland, the nestor of Dutch journalism, proposed on Dutch television that the Dutch authorities lift Geert Wilders’ police protection. “Let him feel what it is like for those whose lives he endangers,” Hofland, the former editor of NRC Handelsblad, the leading newspaper in the Netherlands, opined. Mr Hofland, who was given the title “Dutch journalist of the century” by his colleagues in 1999, asserted that, if Dutch citizens get murdered in retaliation for Wilders’ opinions on Islam, not the assassins are to be blamed, but the politician. Apparently, to Hofland and his ilk being critical of Islam is worse than slaughtering innocent people in the name of Islam.
Hofland’s declaration did not lead to widespread indignation, which indicates that Mr Hofland is not the only Dutchman willing to deliver Mr Wilders and other critics of Islam to those who want to murder them. All this could have been predicted. In fact, it was. Last month I questioned the wisdom of Geert Wilders here, asking whether he was on a suicide mission:
If the Wilders movie results in (fatal) attacks on Dutch citizens and Dutch interests abroad, it might lead to an anti-Wilders backlash. The Dutch are not Danes. […] Like the Spanish after the Madrid bombings they might paint their hands white and surrender. Rather than banning the Koran, they might ban every criticism of Islam. In 1940, the Dutch surrendered to the Nazis after barely five days when Hitler bombed Rotterdam. The British never surrendered, despite the blitz. Perhaps Geert Wilders thinks that his compatriots are braver today than they were 68 years ago.
Given the predictable Dutch reaction of turning against those who endanger their cosy, hedonistic existence, perhaps Mr Wilders does not think his compatriots braver today than before. Perhaps he is on a suicide mission, and fully realizes it. In an interview last week, Wilders, who is married but has no children, said that he is prepared to die for his opinions. He is not endangering the lives of others, as Mr Hofland implies; it are his Islamist enemies who are threatening others with death.
Maybe it is Mr Wilders’ preparedness to fight and die that bothers and enrages the Dutch business and media establishment. If so, many of them will be relieved when Mr Wilders gets killed by his enemies. They might be quite happy that having got rid of Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, they are now rid of Geert Wilders, too, so that Unilever can continue doing business in the Arab worlds while Henk Hofland and his admiring fellow journalists can continue advocating free speech for everyone except those who are critical of bullies who threaten kill anyone who does not agree with them.
All this, as said, should have been common knowledge. The Dutch showed what stuff they were made of two years ago, when they made life impossible for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an elected member of their parliament, just like Mr Wilders. Her neighbours sued to get her removed from the apartment where she was living under police protection. The court of appeal ordered Ms Hirsi Ali to leave her house within four months, invoking… the European treaty for Human Rights. As the judges said:
The court considers in its ruling that the neighbours have been put into a situation that has contributed to them feeling less safe in their own house. That feeling is extended to the communal living spaces of the apartment complex, but also to their own apartments. The court argues that this is a severe violation of one’s private life (as per Article 8 of the European Treaty for Human Rights).
Ms Hirsi Ali was booted out of her own house by virtue of the European Treaty for Human Rights because Muslim fanatics threatened her, thereby causing her neighbours to “feel less safe in their own house.” Soon, Mr Wilders, whatever one thinks about his opinions, his motives or the wisdom of his decisions, will be booted out – also in the name of grand principles such as human rights – because he makes others feel less safe. That is his crime: While the majority of the Dutch are willing to submit, he is not.
The Wilders Controversy: Do Europeans Still Belong in Europe? 4 March 2008
Wilders Postpones Movie, Fortuyn’s Lawyer Attacks Wilders, 26 January 2008
Is Geert Wilders on a Suicide Mission? 25 January 2008
Dutch Unilever Director Wants Wilders Stopped, 8 December 2007