Freedom is the most precious of all our attainments and the most vulnerable. People have devoted their lives to it and given their lives for it. Our freedom in this country is the outcome of centuries. It is the consequence of a history that knows no equal and has brought us to where we are now.
These patriotic words didn't come from one of Ronald Reagan's speeches, or even from the quill of Thomas Jefferson. They were spoken less than a year ago by a Dutch Member of Parliament (MP) named Geert Wilders. He's on trial in the Netherlands for "inciting hatred and discrimination." The above and following quotes are from his pretrial speech last January. In recess since June, the trial resumes this week, and we should all pay close attention.
Wilders is far from a household name, but many know him as the man who equates the Holy Qu'ran to Hitler's Mein Kampf and says that it too should be banned in his country; who emphasized this point by producing a seventeen-minute film called Fitna, which paired images of violent jihad with direct quotes from the Qu'ran; and, most recently, who gave a speech in New York City on September 11 against the planned Cordoba House Islamic center at Ground Zero.
Even those most familiar with the name struggle with it. The easiest way to say it in English is "Kyeert Wildars" (short i, roll both rs if you can), or if that's too hard, "Kurt Wilders" (short i, like "ill," not "ice"). He's been misrepresented by the left as an anti-Muslim fascist -- and also by some conservative mouthpieces like Glenn Beck, who agree -- but mostly, Wilders and his trial have gone ignored in this country. If Wilders were a fellow American, his words would never have landed him in federal court. And if they did, we should all be justifiably outraged. Yet the same pressures pitting freedom of speech against Islamic law in Europe are underway here. In a coincidence of perhaps eerie prescience, Wilder's fate is expected to be decided November 4, two days after one of the most pivotal elections in United States history.
I believe with all my heart and soul that the freedom in the Netherlands is threatened. That what our heritage is, what generations could only dream about, that this freedom is no longer a given, no longer self-evident.
An alarmist, or is he merely sounding the alarm? Article 7 of the Dutch "Grondwet," or Constitution of the Netherlands, grants its citizens the right to make public ideas and feelings without prior censorship. However, it does not exonerate them of liabilities under the law. This is akin to the famous "can't yell fire in a crowded movie theatre" caveat to protected speech here in America that was used as an example by Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. In the Muslim world, "liabilities" is very narrowly defined under shar'ia law to include any offense against Islam, by anyone anywhere, and Wilders finds himself in court in a city where a quarter of the inhabitants are now Muslim.
Our own "Kurt Wilderses" have been echoing Wilder's concerns about the rising political influence of Islamists here at home. New York Times bestselling author Robert Spencer first described this threat in his 2008 book Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs. Andrew McCarthy, decorated former federal prosecutor and author of books about his experience prosecuting jihadists, has also written in great detail about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists' goal of subverting Western society from within. Whether because their statements have been less provocative, their profiles lower, or our free speech protections greater, they haven't attracted the controversy the Dutch MP has.
I know that the words I use are sometimes harsh, but they are never rash ... I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with Islam and the Islamization of our country because Islam is at odds with freedom.
Wilders' case illustrates perfectly the two-pronged strategy of stealth jihad at work. The "moderate" voices of Islam, lawyers and Muslim activists working within his own society, demand that the government defend their "constitutional" rights, effectively instituting acceptance of Islamic Law, or shar'ia. At the same time, "radical" voices in the heart of Islam literally call for his head.
Wilders lives under the threat of "fatwa," an Islamic concept with which we are all familiar. More specifically, a well-known Australian cleric recently called for his beheading. We in the West have also learned enough about Islam not to take these threats lightly.
I devote my life to the defence of our freedom. I know what the risks are and I pay a price for it every day. I do not complain about it; it is my own decision. I see that as my duty and it is why I am standing here.
Under stealth jihad, Wilders' head would simply be the trophy. The real prize will be the blow to the Western notion of free speech if he's found guilty. Islam has already succeeded in making anyone think twice about publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. Riots and intimidation have successfully created a shar'ia-compliant press. "Moderate" Islamists like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who advise our government, insist we should censor ourselves out of tolerance and cultural sensitivity, but in truth, they share the same goal as the extremists. Only the tactics differ. The result is creeping shar'ia, or the gradual absorption of shar'ia concepts into Western institutions.
Despite the efforts of Spencer and McCarthy, it took the ninth anniversary of 9/11 and associated Ground Zero Mosque controversy to finally take the phrases "stealth jihad" and "creeping sharia" beyond the Web pages of Jihad Watch and Atlas Shrugs to the mainstream American press. Ironically, thanks to media interest in a fringe player, the little-known pastor of a tiny congregation down in Florida who threatened to burn some Korans, the liberal left used the opportunity to disclose to the nation that they now view the entire world as the crowded movie theatre. As Justice Steven Breyer explained to George Stephanopoulos at ABC News, in the internet age, shouting "fire" can result in people being trampled to death on the other side of the globe, and this possibility should now be considered within our judicial framework.
In his new book The Grand Jihad: How the Left and Islamists Sabotage America, McCarthy presents a compelling case that Islamists and the political left make good partners when it comes to their shared goals of fundamentally transforming government to create a more "just" society. In Islamic ideology, justice is accomplished through jihad, which, according to McCarthy, literally means "the divine mission to install shar'ia law." The Grand Jihad dedicates only four pages out of 377 (not including sixty pages of cited sources) to Wilders, but McCarthy's account of what is occurring here and throughout Europe gives plenty of reason to pay attention to Wilders.
It's becoming clear that the Islamic world is testing our attachment to our values and our Constitution. And we are failing. Like our European cousins, our response thus far has been simply to resolve that much harder to prove our tolerance. Western tolerance has already led to the established legitimacy of 85 shar'ia tribunals actively serving Muslim communities within the British judiciary. We understand we need more cultural sensitivity training, we understand we need to be more shar'ia-compliant, and we are more than happy to comply to stem the threat from terrorism. The bigger threat, warn Wilders, Spencer, and McCarthy, is to our individual heritage and cultural identity. "The stealth jihad advances without violent attacks at a time when almost all of our 'anti-terror' resources and energy are devoted to heading off another violent attack on American soil," wrote Spencer in an August 3 article in Human Events. It is the "larger attempt to insinuate elements of Islamic law (sharia) into American society, and to assert the principle that where sharia and American law conflict, it is American law that must give way." In a nutshell, this means that Islam is expanding, Islam is intent on establishing Islamic religious and educational centers for its communities in every city in the world, Islam is demanding Western societies assimilate shar'ia law, and Islam does not believe that tolerance is a two-way street. Or perhaps Spencer, like the rest of us, just needs more education. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, assures us that Islamic law "is not that far removed from what we read in the Declaration of Independence." That's what he told Huffington Post readers last year. In America, he wrote, "What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Qu'ran and the Hadith." (The Hadith is the sayings of Mohammed.) At least one prominent American political figure isn't afraid to publicly disagree. "Sharia is explicitly at odds with core American and Western values," Newt Gingrich has declared. "It is an explicit repudiation of freedom of conscience and religious liberty as well the premise that all citizens are equal under the law." According to Spencer, "Gingrich has become the first national politician to take notice that the threat we face today from Islamic jihadists is not simply terrorism." Let's pray Gingrich doesn't one day find himself hauled before an American court echoing the following words of the Dutch PM:
Lady Justice wears a blindfold, but she has splendid hearing. I hope that she hears the following sentences, loud and clear: It is not only a right, but also the duty of free people to speak against every ideology that threatens freedom. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States was right: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.