Western Civilization on Trial: Why We Should Be Watching Geert Wilders

As the Geert Wilders case goes into pre-trial, National Review Online asked our experts: Is there any legitimate reason he’s in court? What are the implications of such a trial being held, never mind its outcome?

Wilders is in court because the Netherlands has no First Amendment and so, endlessly, tries to figure out what speech to permit or prohibit. Wilders is hardly the only victim of this predicament; the arrest and jailing in 2008 of a cartoonist who goes by “Gregorius Nekschot” notoriously symbolized the state’s incoherence.

U.S. media should cover the Wilders proceedings because Wilders’ career has implications beyond one man, one party, or one country. It potentially affects all of Europe as the continent works out its response to the Islamic challenge. The U.S. media does an adequate job of informing its audience about this topic, so the near-silence about Wilders comes as a bit of a surprise.

The Islamic challenge forces Europeans to take stock of themselves in an unprecedented way. Colorful examples include the British ICONS project that features 120 “national treasures” that help define English culture; the Dutch government’s film for potential immigrants that features a topless woman on the beach and two men kissing; and the French prime minister’s decision to expel a man from France for compelling his wife to wear a burqa.

Europe’s future is in play. Wilders’ time in court affects the outcome.

Daniel Pipes

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Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, including Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (Transaction Publishers), from which this column derives.

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