April 30, 2009

Cheers for Geert Wilders' Bravery at Standing Against the Islamist Tide, Jeers for his Fascist Tendencies

I've been following Geert Wilders' present U.S. tour with some earnestness. As you know, my once solid support of Mr. Wilders was thrown a loop over several people pointed out that he wished to ban the Quran as a book on par with Mein Keimpf.

The truth of the matter is that I agree with Wilders that the Quran is just as hateful -- yes, I've read it. I have two translations of it in my office including the watered down translation sent to me by CAIR -- as anything Hitler ever wrote, if not more so. The Quran calls for Muslims to convert or kill all non-monotheists and subjugate Christians and Jews. Hitler's genocidal tendencies weren't quite as ambitious.

While I agree with Wilders' basic premise, I cannot support the banning of any book based on the notion that it is hateful.

Many of you, though, argued that Wilders does not really want the Quran banned and that he was only pointing out the hypocrisy of the European left for banning politically fascist books, but not the Quran. As I've said in the past, if that is Wilders real argument then it's not a stretch of the imagination to assume that European newspapers might have an agenda in quoting Wilders out of context.

As I read the press release put out by Geert Wilders yesterday I was heartened to think that maybe you were right: Wilders does not have the fascist tendencies some have claimed. Here are a few quotes that give me optimism from the press release, as reproduced by Robert Spencer:

Freedom of expression is under attack. That is the theme I am addressing here in America this week as part of the Free Speech Summit being held in Florida under the sponsorship of the Florida Security Council. And it is clear that a serious discussion of the threats to our freedoms in the West cannot come too soon....

This attack on a friend and fellow legislator is of grave concern to me. CAIR’s assault on Rep. Hasner strikes at the very heart of our most basic freedoms. In fact, it is but the latest episode in that organization’s long-running and determined effort to silence its critics. Indeed, CAIR seeks to suppress all those who dare to challenge the theo-political-legal program that authoritative Islam calls “Shariah.” In so doing, they are seeking to impose what amount to Shariah blasphemy codes...

Thus the Islamists are infringing not only on this country’s constitutionally protected freedom of expression but also freedom of association.

I would urge you to read the rest. I can't say that I disagree with any of it -- with the caveat that I might have overlooked something.

From the above text, Wilders seems to be a liberal interested only in freedoms under attack by Islamists wishing to quash any speech critical of Islam. Kudos to him for that.

But what concerns me about Geert Wilders is that although he vehemently claims to be for free speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of association I am not so sure he understands these terms the way Americans understand them.

Here is the text of the acceptance speech Wilders gave when he received the Freedom Award and also published by my friend Robert Spencer. At first glance it gave me hope that those accusing Wilders of fascist tendencies were wrong.

Let me caveat this by saying that I disagree with Wilders' (and others) claim that Muslim emigration to Europe is part of an intentional campaign to conquer the Continent through al-Hijra. I do not believe that Muslims are flocking to Europe as a way to revisit the Battle of Tours. But this seems rather irrelevant to me because the results are the same: economic refugees who bring with them demands for the implementation of Islamic laws --- such as demanding laws to criminalize criticism of their prophet --- really are stealthily conquering the West. So stealthily in fact, that most of them do not even realize that they are part of a movement to bring back fascism!

Nevertheless, Wilders' call for a First Amendment is at first glance heartening:

If we do not stop the Islamization, we will lose everything: our identity, our culture, our democratic constitutional state, our freedom and our civilization. In Europe we are already losing the right to free speech, the right to criticize Islam. I think, criticisms of religions or ideologies always ought to be possible in a free world. Human rights exist for the protection of individuals, not religions and ideologies. I propose that all laws concerning hate speech be repealed in Europe. Europe ought to defend freedom of speech with at least as much passion as the United States. In fact, Europe should adopt the US as its model in this respect. The difference between the United States and Europe in the area of free speech is shown by my movie Fitna; a few months ago I was invited by Senator Jon Kyl to screen Fitna in the US Senate. In contrast, screening of my movie has been banned twice by the European Parliament. Let us see to it that freedom of speech is exercised not only in Washington DC but also in Brussels and Strasbourg. For this purpose I propose an European First Amendment.
Amen to that! A point in which I would wholeheartedly agree.

But as I read further into the speech, then it becomes very clear that Wilders' is not reading the same First Amendment that I am reading. A few of his specific policy proposals are completely antithetical to freedom and to the First Amendment. And we are not talking about marginal disagreements over definitions here.

Wilders does, in fact, propose to do just what his critics say he wishes to do and just what he criticizes Muslims for wishing to do: ban free speech and free religion!

From the very same speech he made when receiving the rather ironically named Freedom Award:

2. Stop pretending that Islam is a religion. Islam is a totalitarian ideology. In other words, the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.
So, Wilders wishes to do what exactly to Islam? I think there is something about "free exercise" in the First Amendment. But maybe Wilders has a different Bill of Rights than I do?

Even if Islam isn't strictly a "religion" in the way we normally define religion in the West. Even if it is a totalitarian ideology, so what? How is banning a political ideology any better than banning a religious ideology?

But Wilders is oddly contradictory here. See point number five which directly contradicts point number two above in which he calls for Islam to be banned:

6. We need an European First Amendment to strengthen free speech.
Is Wilders really proposing freedom of speech for every one except Muslims? If so, I do not see how this is much different from Islamists who claim they are for freedom of speech except for those wishing to criticize Islam!

The inconsistencies get even worse. Recall that Wilders also called for freedom of assembly in yesterday's press release. But look at number 9 on his list of things Europe must do to stop Islamization:

9. Stop the building of new mosques. As long as no churches or synagogues are allowed to be build in countries like Saudi-Arabia we will not allow one more new mosque in our western countries. Close all mosques where incitement to violence is taking place. Close all Islamic schools, for they are fascist institutions and young children should not be educated an ideology of hate and violence.
So, Muslims will not be given freedom of assembly either? I'm not sure what else a mosque represents other than a place for Muslims to freely assemble.

I'm not sure how acting like the Saudis by banning religious houses of worship we don't like is somehow a good thing. The Saudis are fascists, plain and simple. But a Europe which banned the building of mosques would be not such a far cry from Saudi Arabia.

Why should the government be involved in any decision to build or not build any church, synagogue, or mosque? Is it a uniquely American notion to think that the government should have no say whatsoever in how religions should be practiced and where and when buildings to house worshipers in should be built?

The hypocrisy of the Saudis is well known but there are common sense measures that we could take which would effectively halt the spread of their virulent Wahab and Salafi philosophies. We could, for instance, not allow any clerics into the West on religious visas from countries which prohibited Western missionaries from openly preaching the religion of their choice. This would give the Saudis and other Islamic countries an incentive to accept basic notions of freedom.

You want to send your clerics here to convert we infidels to your religion? Fine, we only ask that you reciprocate and allow your citizens to choose which ever religion suits their fancy without fear of being stoned to death or declared an enemy of the state.

The point being that I oppose Saudi Arabia because it is not free and it is spreading its fascist ideology abroad. It is unclear to me how making America and Europe less free is somehow a way to fight Islamist fascism.

Geert Wilders appears to be stuck with the same European mentality which wishes to ban any movement that it sees as dangerous or antisocial. In fact, many European countries today ban pro-Nazi or pro-Fascist parties and books. Europeans are not free as long as they are not allowed to join movements such as National Socialism which the state (correctly) views as antithetical to democracy. But the principle holds true with Islam as well.

What we need in the fight against political Islam are not laws making us less free. This is an ideological fight. Ideas need to be fought with ideas. We didn't ban the CPUSA, yet we won the Cold War anyway.

What we need is the ability to openly criticize those aspects of Islam which are antithetical to freedom. On this front Geert Wilders should be lauded. He has been groundbreaking in his refusal to back down from criticizing the fundamental problematics of Quranic versus and of the Sunnah of Muhammad.

But when Geert Wilders calls for not extending the same freedoms to Muslims that he expects Muslims to extent to him he has crossed a line and taken on the worst attributes of those who he claims are worth fighting. And for that he should be condemned.

UPDATE: Looks like the ADL noticed Wilders' hypocrisy on the issue of free speech, too.

UPDATE: I linked CJ above, and thought it would be good to give Robert a chance to respond. He sort of preemptively did already in February with this post.

Let me point out that if you read to the end, Spencer does not support Wilders' call for the Quran to be banned. However, I disagree with the conclusion that Geert is not being inconsistent. I think he is. Glaringly so.

UPDATE: As always, thanks to CJ for the link. Let me clarify my position on the blog war going on between Charles and Robert: I'm not part of it.

I disagree with Robert sometimes, and I disagree with Charles sometimes. This fight gets us nowhere. I would urge both parties to take a breather from commenting on one another for a period of time and cool down.

Let me also remind readers that Geert Wilders position on the legal remedies to Islamization are dead wrong. But they are not outside the mainstream in Europe. In fact, as I mentioned in my original post above, the vast majority of political parties on both the Left and Right in Europe do not support free speech as we know it. Hence, my frequent criticisms of Europe based in my own libertarian underpinnings.

Having said that, I think CJ is being unfair to those that support Geert Wilders. I actually support much of what Wilders is doing. That support is obviously not unequivocal. I would urge those that support Wilders to make it clear that your support is not unequivocal either. I think CJ and I are on the same page there.

But since most Europeans are wrong on the issue of free speech, I'm not sure why those that support Wilders should be singled out for special treatment? The last time I checked Helmut Kohl -- one of the great architects of the collapse of communism -- maintained a similar position on free speech as does Wilders; that is, he claimed to be for free speech but then carved out exceptions for unsavory political ideas.

I know context matters here and that Kohl was simply following a long line of thought going back to the laws we imposed as part of Allied victory, but that is the point: context matters. The war is over. The occupation has ended. It's time to let people in Europe be free.

In the European context Wilders fascist tendencies are no different than the fascist tendencies of most mainstream European political parties in the post-occupation era.

Not that CJ has ever directly called Robert Spencer a fascist, but I'm not comfortable with the guilt-by-association accusations either. Robert Spencer may be a lot of things, but his views on liberty don't seem too much different than my own. I've honestly avoided the subject because I have such deep admiration for both CJ and Robert.

I think CJ has correctly pointed out that some extremists in the European antifascist movement have tried to piggyback on to the antijihad movement for their own political gain. I think the same thing can also be said about any political movement, though, can't it? Being in academia I knew a lot of anti-war types, many of whom were shocked when I would point out that this or that protest was organized by this or that communist or socialist party.

My own comments section is often plagued by racists (looking at you Greyrooster) who I would gladly ban (and have, only to find that they change IPs within minutes) if I had awesome technology such as LGF and a few more hours a day to monitor them. Long time readers know that there were a few months there where we did away with commenting altogether just because we were sick and tired of all the asshats.

I should hope that we would not be judged by those who would use our posts pointing out the real problems of political Islam for their own racist agendas.

I do not believe it is fair to say that just because someone shared a stage with an unsavory character who may have ulterior motives -- especially when said unsavory character is from a foreign country with a complicated political party system that you may not completely understand yourself -- that you yourself are guilty of anything other than bad judgment.

I once shared a stage at an academic conference with a guy who argued that we should drop the word terrorism because it lacked precise definition since every country uses it to describe some group or another, including some countries which use it to describe the U.S. military. I responded by saying that even though we can disagree who the assholes of the world are that we shouldn't drop the word since we all know that there really are some people who fit the rather vague description of an asshole.

If there is a line for people who have exercised bad judgment in their lives, let me take cutsies and get in the front.

So, again, I have been avoiding this for some time. I really would like to see CJ and Robert allied once again. Frankly, I'm not sure I understand the roots of the conflict. But from my vantage point the differences here are not irreconcilable. I would simply ask CJ to quit passing judgment on Robert for associating with people that he himself would not associate with.

Please stop Charles. Seriously, I'm asking you as someone who you know admires much of what you are doing over at LGF. Hell, you helped inspire me to become a blogger. But I hope you can see that what Robert is doing is also important work which often compliments your own.

And to Robert I'd say to be very careful about the words you use and the politicians you associate with. Unlike Charles and myself I understand that you are far more involved in political movements and therefore attend a lot more events than we do. But be aware that there really are people who would use your criticisms of Islamic texts and traditions to deny Muslims of basic human rights.

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 04:29 PM | Comments |