In “Silencing Islam’s Critics: A Dutch court imports Saudi blasphemy norms to Europe” in the Wall Street Journal Europe, January 21 (thanks to all who sent this in), the anonymous writer makes a point that we have made many times here: that free speech laws were originally enacted precisely in order to protect controversial speech. Inoffensive speech needs no protection. If speech can be outlawed because it is offensive, there will be no outlet for political dissent.
The editorial also explains how the Dutch court has willingly adopted Sharia norms for speech.
[…] There are of course limits to free speech, such as calls for violence. But one doesn’t need to agree with Mr. Wilders to acknowledge that he hasn’t crossed that line. Some Muslims say they are outraged by his statements. But if freedom of speech means anything, it means the freedom of controversial speech. Consensus views need no protection.
This is exactly what Dutch prosecutors said in June when they rejected the complaints against Mr. Wilders. “That comments are hurtful and offensive for a large number of Muslims does not mean that they are punishable,” the prosecutors said in a statement. “Freedom of expression fulfills an essential role in public debate in a democratic society. That means that offensive comments can be made in a political debate.”
The court yesterday overruled this decision, arguing that the lawmaker should be prosecuted for “inciting hatred and discrimination” and also “for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism.”
The concept of punishing people for “insulting” religious feelings sounds dangerously close to what Islamic countries have long been pushing for: that Western nations adopt blasphemy laws and stop the “defamation” of Islam.
The Amsterdam court yesterday obliged. This is no small victory for Islamic regimes that seek to export their censorship laws to wherever Muslims happen to reside. But the successful integration of Muslims in the Netherlands and the rest of Europe will require that immigrants adapt to Western norms, not vice versa. Limiting the Dutch debate of Islam to standards acceptable in, say, Saudi Arabia, will only shore up support for Mr. Wilders’s argument that Muslim immigration is eroding traditional Dutch liberties.
Islamists have long tried to silence Mr. Wilders, who has been living for years under 24-hour police protection. Dutch judges may finally succeed where jihadist death threats so far have failed.