Geert Wilders’ anti-Moroccan hate speech lands him a date in court

Freedom of speech is often considered to be the pinnacle of democracy, yet through the years we have seen many instances where this concept has been misused and even abused. When the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is stretched beyond recognition in order to polarise a particular group within any given society, we are no long dealing with freedom of any kind, or someone merely stating their personal opinion. In cases like these, we are dealing with hate speech, intended to incite hostility and demean the group of people in question. This is exactly what Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch ‘Party for Freedom’ (PVV), was guilty of when he attacked the entire Moroccan-Dutch population for the umpteenth time in March 2014.

Geert Wilders
Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders (via The Daily Mail)

On 19 March 2014, on the eve of the municipal elections, Mr. Wilders led an anti-Moroccan chant whilst addressing a large group of supporters at a cafe in The Hague. He asked the question: “Would you like to have more or fewer Moroccans in our country?” to which the crowd responded: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders then replied: “Then we’ll fix it for you.” In addition to this, in a later televised interview he referred to the Moroccan population as “Moroccan scum.” [1]

This incident led to more than 6,400 people registering a complaint with the Dutch public prosecutor. Due to the large number of complaints, the public prosecutor launched an investigation into the possibility of charging Mr. Wilders with inciting racial hatred against Moroccans. The politician was questioned on 8 December, after which it was officially announced that the public prosecutor had found sufficient grounds to make a case against Mr. Wilders. After this decision, the following statement was released:

Politicians are allowed to make bold statements, which is part of their right to freedom of speech. This freedom is limited, however, by the fact that discrimination is prohibited by law. [2]

Mr. Wilders responded to the allegations by calling the prosecution an “incomprehensible decision” and “a travesty”, and insists that he stands by what he said and has no regrets.

Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders is a classy human being (via The Guardian)

This is not the first time Mr. Wilders has had to stand trial for inciting hatred. In 2011, he stood trial because he called Islam a fascist ideology, called for a ban on the Qur’an, and for calling their holy book the Muslim equivalent of Mein Kampf. In this instance, Mr. Wilders was acquitted after a judge ruled that he targeted a religion and not a group. This time, however, the public prosecutors believe they have a stronger case against Mr. Wilders since he targeted a specific ethnic group.

Prominent Dutch criminal lawyer Gerard Spong called the prosecution of Mr. Wilders a “good decision.” In addition to this, he added that “it is still early days, so I cannot say what kind of punishment would be suitable. They will not throw him in prison; however, a nice stretch of community service in a mosque would do him the world of good”. [3]

When the trial will take place is as yet unknown.

Footnotes:
[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-30532882
[2] http://nos.nl/artikel/2009573-om-vervolgt-geert-wilders-wegens-discriminatie (author’s translation)
[3] http://nos.nl/artikel/2009608-spong-taakstrafje-wilders-in-moskee-zou-mooi-zijn.html (author’s translation)


Philippa Raphet Meeng

Philippa Raphet Meeng holds an MSc in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh.

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