Saturday, March 7, 2009

Geert Wilders landed at London’s Heathrow Airport last Feb. 12. He was removed from a British Midlands jet from Amsterdam that afternoon, his arms gripped by two border agents. Mr. Wilders was whisked to a holding area, confined for three hours, and denied access to a British legislator waiting to welcome him. That evening, officials placed Mr. Wilders on a jet bound for the Netherlands, and booted him from Britain.

So, is Mr. Wilders a Guantanamo alumnus? A fugitive financier? A carrier of the Ebola virus? Hardly. A democratically elected Dutch parliamentarian and chairman of the Netherlands’ Freedom Party, Mr. Wilders became the first legislator from a European Union nation to be barred from another EU state. Mr. Wilders’ outrageous mistreatment chillingly demonstrates how appeasing militant Islam erodes free speech and western democratic norms.

Britain’s Lord Malcolm Pearson invited Mr. Wilders to Westminster Palace to show “Fitna,” his film on Islamic terrorism, and discuss it with members of the House of Lords. Lest Mr. Wilders’ stern denunciation of Islamic extremism rattle thin-skinned British Muslims, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Labor government banned the Dutchman from the United Kingdom. As Home Secretary Jacqui Smith wrote Mr. Wilders: “Your statements about Muslims and their beliefs … would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.”

Mr. Wilders enjoyed a warmer reception in New York City last week, courtesy of the Hudson Institute. The conservative think tank hosted Mr. Wilders at the city’s legendary Four Seasons restaurant.

“To the immigration authorities - thank you for letting me into this country,” said the 45-year-old Mr. Wilders. “It is always a pleasure to cross a border without being sent back on the first plane.”

The Hudson Institute screened Mr. Wilder’s film for lunch guests. “Fitna“‘s jarring images did not quite compliment the exquisite Dover sole and snap peas. “Fitna” intercuts Koranic verses with scenes of Islamist mass murder.

“Prepare for them whatever force and cavalry ye are able of gathering . .. to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies, of Allah and your enemies,” Surah 8, verse 60 demands. Mr. Wilders juxtaposes this with scenes of al Qaeda’s victims leaping from the burning Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Madrid’s Atocha train station soon explodes into carnage, also thanks to al Qaeda.

Elsewhere, Muslim clerics speak as if they were at a Nuremberg rally. “The Jews are Jews,” one yells. “They are the ones who must be butchered and killed.”

“If Allah permits us,” a sword-wielding imam hollers, “even the stone will say, ‘Oh Muslim, a Jew is hiding behind me. Come and cut off his head.’ And we shall cut off his head! By Allah, we shall cut it off!”

“Imam legalizes violence against gays,” reads one Dutch newspaper headline. “Moroccans throw gay in water,” states another. “Throw gays from tall buildings,” says a third.

For alerting the world to this bloodlust, Mr. Wilders cannot enter Britain. Dutch officials appease angry Muslims rather than debate this religion and its penchant for zealotry. Thus, they are using hate-speech laws to prosecute Mr. Wilders for calling the Koran “fascist.”

“The dearest of our many freedoms is under attack all throughout Europe,” Mr. Wilders says. “Free speech is no longer a given.”

Mr. Wilders would repeal Europe’s hate-speech codes. He wants a European First Amendment. He quotes George Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

Mr. Wilders opposes Muslim schools and advocates banning the Koran from the Netherlands. This sure sounds like censorship. Yet Mr. Wilders argues that “in the Dutch context,” Islam, which he calls a violent political ideology, should be prohibited, just as Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is in that tolerant, relaxed nation.

Mr. Wilders does not embrace anti-Muslim violence. Provided his message stays peaceful, it should be applauded, debated or rebuffed - but remain available to anyone willing to hear it.

The fact that British officials disagree makes Mr. Wilders’ question ever more urgent: “Will we leave Europe’s children the values of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem, or the values of Mecca, Tehran and Gaza?”

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

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