Freedom of Expression,  International,  Islamism

International blasphemy

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders, director of Fitna, is in a bit of bother. While it has been decided that he will not be prosecuted because of hs film Fitna, this has led to complaints from the The Organisation of the Islamic Conference:

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Observatory on Islamophobia has expressed frustration over the decision of the public prosecutor of the Netherlands to drop charges against a Dutch legislator and producer of the blasphemous film titled “Fitna” for inciting hatred.

Its spokesman said that despite admitting that the film was “hurtful and insulting (to Muslims), the public prosecutor failed to see that the work constituted an incitement to hostility or hatred against the Muslim community in the Netherlands or hundreds of millions of other Muslims.

“In so doing, the Dutch public prosecutor seems to ignore the fine line of `responsibility’ separating the freedom of expression from incitement to hatred, hostility and discrimination,” the spokesman said in a statement.

I am no fan of Geert Wilders. I find his analysis simplistic, his views on Islam as a monolithic threat unrealistic, and his lack of faith in social democracy’s resilience in the face of physical and political threats bleak. His views on Israel are also unpalatable; he thinks Israel has a right to Gaza and the West Bank, and the Palestinians should move out (There’s an interesting double interview of Wilders and the Flemish politician Jean-Marie Dedecker – who accuses Wilders of being a “Zionist” and promptly spouts off Comment is Free like views on Israel).

So, Wilders is safe, as long as he stays out of Jordan, since Jordan have decided to prosecute Wilders. He now has to report every foreign trip to the Dutch government, who will now have to ask for a statement by the visited country they will not extradite Wilders to Jordan on the basis of the arrest warrants issued there. So what? It’s only Wilders you say. But it isn’t just Wilders:

In a brazen attempt to stifle free speech in the West, a Jordanian court recently summoned twelve European citizens to answer criminal charges of blasphemy and inciting hatred.
[…]
The Jordanian court’s move is only the most ambitious attempt to silence debate about Islam. Until now, the preferred strategy has been to file civil lawsuits in western courts to intimidate critics. The latest version of what may be called the legal jihad is even more disturbing.

In one subpoena, issued in early June, the Jordanian court ordered ten Danish newspaper editors to travel to Jordan for the “crime” of having republished the “Mohammad cartoons” last February. The cartoons, first published in 2005, were also greeted with disturbances in Muslim lands. Seventeen Danish newspapers republished the controversial cartoons as a response to the discovery of an Islamist plot to murder Kurt Westergaard. Westergaard, a caricaturist, drew the most famous of those cartoons in the form of Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, for which he is also included in the summons.

This new campaign of intimidation against the West is being mounted by a Jordanian organization calling itself “Messenger of Allah Unite Us”, which is made up of “… media outlets, professional associations, parliamentarians and thousands of volunteers.” This organization, according to one account, arose as a “civilized response” to the Mohammad cartoons’ republication in 17 Danish papers last winter, after which it took the matter to a Jordanian court and successfully had charges pressed against the Danes, and later against Wilders.

The subpoenas will be sent to the twelve Europeans through their embassies in Jordan. If they do not appear within 15 days, the Messenger of Allah group says it will seek international arrest warrants through Interpol.

Another branch of the “Messenger of Allah Unite Us” group has organised a boycott of Danish and Dutch products. If Danish or Dutch suppliers wish to avoid the boycott, they are told to place advertisements in Danish newspapers distancing themselves from insults towards Islam. Of course, no one would be so stupid to comply with such unreasonable requests.

Dutch companies Friesland Foods (dairy produce) and Zwanenberg (sausages) have taken out adverts in the Jordanian press distancing themselves from Geert Wilder’s anti-Islam film Fitna, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.

Oh dear.

I hadn’t realised that the default position of dairy produce manufacturers and sausage manufacturers on Islam were hostile. Although, I suppose one should always be suspicious of sausages, but why would Jordan think a chocolate milkshake manufacturer have sympathies with Wilders?

The Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has not complained to Jordan, and views the case as existing in the legal problem, rather than the political.

Wilders had asked Verhagen to summon the Jordanian ambassador in The Hague to protest against the possible court case against the Party for Freedom (PVV) leader for insulting Islam. The minister however refuses. The Netherlands cannot interfere with the judicial process of another country. “This is for courts, not politics,” said the minister during a House debate on the Middle East.

Wilders, who earlier praised Verhagen for the “serious attention” he gave to the Jordan situation, will again ask Verhagen to summon the ambassador. “The minister must simply say: ‘cut the crap, we are not taking this”, he told reporters.

On this one point, Wilders is correct. Verhagen should tell Jordan where to go.

A few years ago the Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad gave a speech at the OIC bemoaning the backwardness of the OIC countries and their failure to thrive. His views that the Jews had invented human rights “so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so they may enjoy equal rights with others.” were condemned in the West, but he also advised that the OIC countries should start to flex their muscle politically:

We are now 1.3 billion strong. We have the biggest oil reserve in the world. We have great wealth. We are not as ignorant as the Jahilliah who embraced Islam. We are familiar with the workings of the world’s economy and finances. We control 57 out of the 180 countries in the world. Our votes can make or break international organisations. Yet we seem more helpless than the small number of Jahilliah converts who accepted the Prophet as their leader. Why? Is it because of Allah’s will or is it because we have interpreted our religion wrongly, or failed to abide by the correct teachings of our religion, or done the wrong things?

Since then the OIC has made some in-roads at the UN, and the attempted prosecutions of Wilders and others should be seen for what it is. An attempt to export the real problem holding back the OIC countries.

That problem is a lack of freedom.

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