Dutch member of Parliament Geert Wilders is on trial in the Netherlands for "incitement to hatred and discrimination." His crime was daring to criticize Islam.
Mr. Wilders is the head of the Party for Freedom, the third-largest political party in the Netherlands and part of a new Dutch coalition government. The party platform is blatantly nationalistic, seeking immigration controls and other restrictions on the Netherlands' non-native population, particularly the country's 850,000 Muslims who hail largely from Turkey and Morocco. "We have to stop the tsunami of Islamization," says Mr. Wilders. "It is affecting our heart, our identity, our culture."
The brutal excesses of the 20th century made nationalism a bad word. The Netherlands suffered acutely under the Nazi yoke during World War II, and as a result, postwar Dutch society was cosmopolitan and tolerant to a fault. The laws under which Mr. Wilders is being prosecuted are a reflection of this mindset.
Much has changed since the end of that horrible war 65 years ago. Today, Holland is facing an issue all countries must come to grips with in the age of globalization, namely determining what about their culture is unique and worthy of preservation. Open borders, demographic shifts and contemporary global communications all contribute to the dilution of national character worldwide, for good or ill. Countries that don't seek actively to preserve their national character will become simply names on a map. The homogenization of global culture is particularly acute for smaller countries like the Netherlands, which risk being absorbed into a bland international omniculture or being taken over by foreigners who refuse to assimilate.
Islam is unique among the world's largest religious orientations in that it seeks to impose a comprehensive worldview not only on its adherents but on humanity in general. To its true believers, Islam is above politics, and the rules that govern civil society should be subordinate to the strictures of the Koran. Dutch Minister of Justice Piet Hein Donner came under widespread criticism in 2006 when he said Shariah might come to the Netherlands through democratic means. He didn't understand that would amount to the end of freedom in his country.
The supremacy of Shariah is an alien notion in the West. In the centuries after the wars of religion and in the aftermath of the secularizing French Revolution, faith became separate from - and in many cases subordinate to - government. Last week, President Obama said the United States "is still predominantly Christian" but has other faiths whose "path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own." That's a Western liberal viewpoint; it's not the position of Islam. To Muslims, other faiths are never revered. Mr. Wilders is right to say Islam is totalitarian in spirit. Muslim clerics teach that every aspect of human existence is subject to Koranic guidance, and these rules should apply to everyone whether they are Muslims or not.
Mr. Wilders is being prosecuted for believing there is something uniquely Dutch under attack that's worthy of being preserved. The same could be said about that which is Italian, British, German, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, French or American. That Mr. Wilders faces trial for this belief shows some aren't willing to have this discussion, but all countries will face it eventually. Western tolerance shouldn't be a suicide pact.
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