Alex Massie

Geert Wilders is Not a Hero

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Several readers take me to task for not substantiating the suggestion that Geert Wilders is, as I put it, a "boor and a bigot". This, apparently, is a "shoddy tactic" and absent any substantiating evidence I should "withdraw the comment" and, asks Francis, is Wilders "really worse than your average Socialist"? Wilhelm, meanwhile, wonders if I'm taking my cues from what I saw on "the lefty BBC

and Channel 4 news?" This last notion would, I think, surprise long-time readers.

The answer is that Wilders is not a poster-boy for free speech, largely because he would seek to deny that right - not privilege, right - to those whom he disapproves of himself. People who advocate banning books are poorly positioned to declare themselves champions of freedom of expression and should not be considered such.

That said, I think the government has handled this case appallingly. Wilders is much happier playing the role of martyr (his supporters would doubtless call him Cassandra) than than anything else.Why give him that opportunity?

Is he a bigot? Well, what would you call someone who compared the Bible to Mein Kamp and demanded it be banned? Would you find the suggestion that anyone who reads the Bible is a fascist anything other than a statement of bigotry? Well Wilders wants the Koran banned (link to an article in Dutch) "just like Mein Kampf is banned". He further argues that "moderate Islam does not exist" which will doubtless be news to all those muslims around the world who have not taken up arms and have no intention of doing so. If all muslims are extremists one does have to wonder why there have been so few, not so many, terrorist attacks.

His puerile film (which, yes, I have seen) concludes with the apocalyptic warning that "In 1945 Nazism was defeated in Europe. In 1989 Communism was defeated in Europe. Now the Islamic ideology has to be defeated." Well, sure, there's a threat from the most extreme Islamist terrorists, but to pretend that they pose a comparable danger to that we faced from Nazism or, for that matter, communism is absurd.

Furthermore, Wilders boast that "I have had enough of Islam in the Netherlands: no more muslim immigrants here" is indeed exactly the kind of prejudice one might expect from a spittle-flecked, raving fascist. Substitute Judiasim and Jewish for Islam and muslim and you see that wilders is just as much an extremist and a bigot as those Islamic radicals who his supporters fear and condemn. (Condemn rightly, I should add. But one can condemn both sides of the coin.)

I defy any reasonable person to conclude that Wilders is anything other than a boor and a bigot. But even boors and bigots have a right to expression.

Further reading from Ian Buruma here. Bruno Waterfield's review of Wilders' film is here.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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