Friday, August 10, 2007

Spiked II

(photo by jacco de boer)

The leading right wing populist politician in the Netherlands called Wednesday for a ban on the Quran, alleging that the Muslim holy book justifies violence.

Geert Wilders, whose party won 9 of the 150 seats in parliament last year on an anti-immigration platform, published his demand on his Web site and in the De Volkskrant newspaper following an assault over the weekend on a young politician of Iranian background who publicly renounced his Islamic faith.

"Let's stop with this politically correct hemming and hawing," Wilders wrote. "I've had enough of Islam in the Netherlands: not one more Muslim immigrant. I've had enough of the worship of Allah and Mohammed in the Netherlands: not one more mosque. I've had enough of the Quran: forbid that fascist book."

Wilders acknowledged that the idea didn't have any support from other politicians.

He compared the Quran to Hitler's Mein Kampf, which cannot be publicly sold in the Netherlands and is available only in university research libraries.

His remarks were prompted by the attack Saturday on Ehsan Jami, 22, a member of the city council of Voorburg who had appeared on television to renounce Islam. Jami, who was not seriously hurt, has now received police protection.

Banning the Quran would send a signal that it "can never, ever can be used as inspiration or excuse for violence," said Wilders, who also is under police protection after receiving numerous death threats.

If you've read this much, you might as well read:

The mainstream media struggles mightily with how to report on Geert Wilders. Freedom of speech is a blessing and a right. But those with the power to speak loudly bear a great responsibility to speak well and wisely.

This is true for Wilders; and true for the media.

I think Wilders thinks he's speaking from his heart and standing up for what he believes in.
But maybe he didn't notice: he's talking about banning a holy book that is the basis of a world religion. In addition, he's an advocate of free speech, talking about banning books.

And, I wonder: what does he think of the many offensive passages in the old testament?

I had a good argument with a friend of mine recently about free speech and Muslims.

My viewpoint was that it's poor taste to insult people of any kind.

My friend insisted that freedom of speech means freedom to insult Muslims.

I agreed _ but I still think insulting people is poor taste, and Muslims is people. Us is them.

My friend argued that the real reason I would be worried about insulting Muslims is that they go out of their way to be insulted and I was basically not expressing my true views about Muslims, because I was afraid they might get angry. In other words, I was self censoring because of an implicit threat.

That's an argument Christopher Hitchens makes, too.

Anyhow I disagreed. I still think it's poor taste to insult people, and I think you should only do it when there's a very good reason. And you should say the reason.

And when someone says something stupid, it's not always really worth repeating.

Everybody wants to be respected. The politicians of this world, and the press of this world, have a duty to do their best to show respect.

It's not really that complicated.

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