Geert Wilders acquitted of 'hate speech'

A court in the Netherlands has acquitted free speech advocate and political leader Geert Wilders of inciting hatred of Muslims.

The ruling is likely to strengthen Wilder politically while expanding the national conversation over Muslim integration into Dutch society:

"I am extremely pleased and happy," Wilders told reporters after the ruling. "This is not so much a win for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech. Fortunately you can criticize Islam and not be gagged in public debate."

The ruling could embolden Wilders further. He has already won concessions from the government on cutting immigration and introducing a ban on Muslim face veils and burqas.

"This means that his political views are condoned by law, his political rhetoric has been legalized," said Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam's Free University.

"This has made him stronger politically. He is needed for a political majority, he is basically vice prime minister without even being in the government."

Some Dutch citizens have started to question their country's traditionally generous immigration and aid policies, worried by the deteriorating economic climate, higher unemployment, incidence of ethnic crime and signs that Muslim immigrants have not fully integrated into Dutch society.

Similar concerns have helped far-right parties to gain traction elsewhere in Europe, from France to Scandinavia.

Predictably, some Muslims groups were outraged:

Minorities groups said they would now take the case to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, arguing the ruling meant the Netherlands had failed to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination.

"The acquittal means that the right of minorities to remain free of hate speech has been breached. We are going to claim our rights at the U.N.," said Mohamed Rabbae of the National Council for Moroccans.

No doubt they will get a sympathetic hearing at the UN with the anti-Semites, anti-Western, anti-Christian representatives becoming enraged at the result of the court case.

But what can they do to the Netherlands? Not much, which means their efforts will be for PR purposes and nothing more.

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