Although James Taranto in the reliably dhimmi Wall Street Journal is not sure whether or not Geert Wilders is simply an “anti-Islamic provocateur.”
(You can see my interview with Geert Wilders, in six parts, at the Jihad Watch YouTube channel.)
“‘Our Culture Is Better’: Champion of freedom or anti-Islamic provocateur? Both,” by James Taranto in the Wall Street Journal, November 28 (thanks to all who sent this in):
By his own description, Geert Wilders is not a typical Dutch politician. “We are a country of consensus,” he tells me on a recent Saturday morning at his midtown Manhattan hotel. “I hate consensus. I like confrontation. I am not a consensus politician. . . . This is something that is really very un-Dutch.”
Yet the 45-year-old Mr. Wilders says he is the most famous politician in the Netherlands: “Everybody knows me. . . . There is no other politician — not even the prime minister — who is as well-known. . . . People hate me, or they love me. There’s nothing in between. There is no gray area.”
To his admirers, Mr. Wilders is a champion of Western values on a continent that has lost confidence in them. To his detractors, he is an anti-Islamic provocateur. Both sides have a point.
It is a pity that Taranto would characterize speaking accurately about how Muslims use Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence and Islamic supremacism as being an “anti-Islamic provocateur.” In this he plays into the hands of the stealth jihadists in the U.S. and the OIC initiatives at the UN — both of which defame all Islamorealism as “Islamophobia.”
In March, Mr. Wilders released a short film called “Fitna,” a harsh treatment of Islam that begins by interspersing inflammatory Quran passages with newspaper and TV clips depicting threats and acts of violent jihad. The second half of the film, titled “The Netherlands Under the Spell of Islam,” warns that Holland’s growing Muslim population — which more than doubled between 1990 and 2004, to 944,000, some 5.8% of the populace — poses a threat to the country’s traditional liberal values. Under the heading, “The Netherlands in the future?!” it shows brutal images from Muslim countries: men being hanged for homosexuality, a beheaded woman, another woman apparently undergoing genital mutilation. […]
Harsh, yes, but whence the harshness? Was Fitna accurate or not in depicting how jihadists make use of the Qur’an to justify violence? See the answer here.
Having his own party liberates Mr. Wilders to speak his mind. As he sees it, the West suffers from an excess of toleration for those who do not share its tradition of tolerance. “We believe that — ‘we’ means the political elite — that all cultures are equal,” he says. “I believe this is the biggest disease today facing Europe. . . . We should wake up and tell ourselves: You’re not a xenophobe, you’re not a racist, you’re not a crazy guy if you say, ‘My culture is better than yours.’ A culture based on Christianity, Judaism, humanism is better. Look at how we treat women, look at how we treat apostates, look at how we go with the separation of church and state. I can give you 500 examples why our culture is better.”
Those who would cry “Racist!” to this should consider whether stonings, amputations, death for apostasy, and other provisions of Islamic law are really something they consider to be ingredients of a just and harmonious society.
He acknowledges that “the majority of Muslims in Europe and America are not terrorists or violent people.” But he says “it really doesn’t matter that much, because if you don’t define your own culture as the best, dominant one, and you allow through immigration people from those countries to come in, at the end of the day you will lose your own identity and your own culture, and your society will change. And our freedom will change — all the freedoms we have will change.”
The murder of van Gogh lends credence to this warning, as does the Muhammad cartoon controversy of 2005 in Denmark. As for “Fitna,” it has not occasioned a violent response, but its foes have made efforts to suppress it. A Dutch Muslim organization went to court seeking to enjoin its release on the ground that, in Mr. Wilders’s words, “it’s not in the interest of Dutch security.” The plaintiffs also charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and inciting hatred. Mr. Wilders thought the argument frivolous, but decided to pre-empt it: “The day before the verdict, I broadcasted [‘Fitna’] . . . not because I was not confident in the outcome, but I thought: I’m not taking any chance, I’m doing it. And it was legal, because there was not a verdict yet.” The judge held that the national-security claim was moot and ruled in Mr. Wilders’s favor on the issues of blasphemy and incitement. […]
An organization called The Netherlands Shows Its Colors filed a criminal complaint against Mr. Wilders for “inciting hatred.” In June, Dutch prosecutors declined to pursue the charge, saying in a statement: “That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable.” The group is appealing the prosecutors’ decision.
That is a key case. If it becomes punishable to offend Muslims, as the OIC is trying to establish, then it will no longer be possible to speak about the ideology of those who would subjugate us. And so that subjugation will proceed while we remain mute.
In July, a Jordanian prosecutor, acting on a complaint from a pressure group there, charged Mr. Wilders with blasphemy and other crimes. The Netherlands has no extradition treaty with Jordan, but Mr. Wilders worries — and the head of the group that filed the complaint has boasted — that the indictment could restrict his ability to travel. Mr. Wilders says he does not visit a foreign country without receiving an assurance that he will not be arrested and extradited.
“The principle is not me — it’s not about Geert Wilders,” he says. “If you look at the press and the rest of the political elite in the Netherlands, nobody cares. Nobody gives a damn. This is the worst thing, maybe. . . . A nondemocratic country cannot use the international or domestic legal system to silence you. . . . If this starts, we can get rid of all parliaments, and we should close down every newspaper, and we should shut up and all pray to Mecca five times a day.”
It is difficult to fault Mr. Wilders’s impassioned defense of free speech. And although the efforts to silence him via legal harassment have proved far from successful, he rightly points out that they could have a chilling effect, deterring others from speaking out.
Mr. Wilders’s views on Islam, though, are problematic. Since 9/11, American political leaders have struggled with the question of how to describe the ideology of the enemy without making enemies of the world’s billion or so Muslims. The various terms they have tried — “Islamic extremism,” “Islamism,” “Islamofascism” — have fallen short of both clarity and melioration. Melioration is not Mr. Wilders’s highest priority, and to him the truth couldn’t be clearer: The problem is Islam itself. “I see Islam more as an ideology than as a religion,” he explains.
CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper said much the same thing. Could Honest Ibe himself be an “Islamophobe”? Who’d have imagined it? Will James Taranto characterize Hooper’s view of Islam as “problematic”?
His own view of Islam is a fundamentalist one: “According to the Quran, there are no moderate Muslims. It’s not Geert Wilders who’s saying that, it’s the Quran . . . saying that. It’s many imams in the world who decide that. It’s the people themselves who speak about it and talk about the terrible things — the genital mutilation, the honor killings. This is all not Geert Wilders, but those imams themselves who say this is the best way of Islam.”
Note that Wilders characterizes his views as being the views of Islamic imams and the statements of the Qur’an, and Taranto nonetheless willy-nilly reports this as “his own view of Islam,” which is “fundamentalist.” That there are indeed so many “fundamentalist” imams in Europe and elsewhere, and that mainstream, authoritative Islam does indeed teach these things, doesn’t seem to interest him. Certainly there are voices within Islam that Taranto would consider “non-fundamentalist,” but how much influence do they have? Is their following larger among non-Muslims than it is among Muslims? Taranto should have considered these questions.
Yet he insists that his antagonism toward Islam reflects no antipathy toward Muslims: “I make a distinction between the ideology . . . and the people. . . . There are people who call themselves Muslims and don’t subscribe to the full part of the Quran. And those people, of course, we should invest [in], we should talk to.” He says he would end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands but work to assimilate those already there.
Wilders “insists” that he has no “antipathy toward Muslims.” When a writer uses “insists,” generally he thinks that the facts are other than whatever position his subject is insisting upon. In other words, Taranto here seems to reveal his own assumption that someone who reports and warns about Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism is doing so simply out of some irrational “antipathy toward Muslims.”
His idea of how to do so, however, seems unlikely to win many converts: “You have to give up this stupid, fascist book” — the Quran. “This is what you have to do. You have to give up that book.”
Mr. Wilders is right to call for a vigilant defense of liberal principles. A society has a right, indeed a duty, to require that religious minorities comply with secular rules of civilized behavior. But to demand that they renounce their religious identity and holy books is itself an affront to liberal principles.
Does Taranto realize that his last two sentences contradict one another? Does he have any idea that to comply with “secular rules of civilized behavior,” Muslims would have to discard large portions of the Qur’an and Sunnah and the Sharia rules that are derived from them? Probably he doesn’t. Nonetheless, when the religion’s foremost and central authorities teach that the religious law must dominate, and also teach supremacism, violence, the oppression of women and more, and justify these teachings by reference to the religion’s core texts, there is a conflict when those who hold to the religion move into countries full of unbelievers. That conflict will eventually come to a head one way or another, unless the host country capitulates without any kind of resistance.
Maybe Wilders’s call for them to discard the Qur’an is quixotic and unrealistic, and in any case I myself oppose any call to ban any book. Ideas should be fought with better ideas, not with censorship. Maybe Wilders would gain more traction calling for serious, honest reform based on a genuine rejection of literalism in interpreting the Qur’an and Sunnah, and upon a searching reevaluation of the legal superstructure of Sharia. In any case, neither one is likely to happen. But as long as James Taranto and those of his ilk are unable or unwilling to come to grips with the reality of the problem of Islamic supremacism, and slyly vilify people like Wilders who are standing up to it, one thing is certain: Islamic supremacists will continue to erode the freedoms and rights that have up to now been enjoyed by the free citizens of the West.