But under this small victory is something much more sinister: a new trick that makes censorship seem OK.
Geert Wilder's case was dismissed on a highly-technical "escape clause" in the law. The judge ruled that Wilders' remarks were directed at Islam (the religion), not at Muslims (the people). That meant his remarks didn't constitute hate speech. Apparently in The Netherlands you can hate a thing but not a person. It's disturbing that the case was thrown out on such a thin technical issue.
This is a small victory for free speech in a modern country where free speech shouldn't even be a question. I'm frankly shocked by this case. Is it really possible that free speech is disappearing in a modern democracy?
Apparently so. Consider this story from Denmark:
Lars Hedegaard, Islamic expert and president of the International Free Press Society, was found guilty of racism today by Denmark’s Eastern High Court. He was fined about $1,000. He will appeal.Got that? Telling the truth can be illegal.
The charges stemmed from what Hedegaard says were factual statements made about the higher-than-average incidence of family rape in the Muslim world.
But under Denmark's racism law, Article 266b, it doesn't matter if what you said was true. It only matters that a group was insulted.
European Muslims have discovered a very clever Orwellian trick. Instead of being for censorship, they've redefined the debate by claiming they're against hate speech. Censorship is one of the most reviled words in the Western world, and "free speech" one of our most cherished concepts. So you can't come right out and say you're in favor of censorship. But if you're against hate speech, you're one of the good guys!
The problem is that when you start to restrict free speech, where do you stop? Who is the judge of what's hateful versus just good public dialog? When are our feelings more important than the truth?
Censorship is censorship, and all freedom-loving citizens of the world should oppose it at every turn.
Organized religion has been at the forefront of censorship for thousands of years. It should come as no surprise to us that Muslims in Europe are carrying on the tradition. But what's really frightening is how they've managed to make censorship look good and put free-speech advocates on the defensive.