I'm Now Watching Geert Wilders' Fitna,

at LiveLeak. (It appears to match the description given in this Reuters account.)

UPDATE: I just finished watching the movie. Parts of it are an indubitably sound reminder of the dangers posed by extremist Islam, and the support that it finds from some traditional Islamic religious teachings.

Other parts assert that extremist Islam is a problem at the heart of the Islamic world generally, and of Islam in the Netherlands and in Europe, and not just a tangential matter (the way that fundamentalist Mormon outliers are tangential to modern Mormonism, or, even more extremely, the way the Branch Davidians were tangential to the Seventh-Day Adventists from whom they sprang). But here too Wilders' view seems sound: Unfortunately, while by all accounts most Muslims do not adhere to the extremists' views, the extremist movement is prominent enough in Middle Eastern and European Islam that it is indeed a peril to freedom.

Nor does the rhetoric strike me as excessive. This is of course a rhetorical work, not an academic inquiry, and it's trying to stir people emotionally. But I didn't see much of hyperbole or gratuitious insults. Wilders is arguing against an important and dangerous ideological movement; my sense is that his approach is well within bounds of legitimate criticism.

So I think this is a significant contribution to the ideological debate, and it seems to me that we -- and especially Wilders' fellow Dutch, to whom he is speaking most specifically -- should take it seriously, naturally together with whatever responses might come out.


Geert Wilders' Fitna: What Do You Think About It?

I posted my thoughts on this short film below, but what are yours? Please leave your comments here, once you've watched the movie. And please focus primarily on the movie itself, or the reaction to it, rather than on the broader debates about Islam (though when you're commenting about the movie, you may of course refer to the relevant parts of the broader debates).


Threats Cause Fitna To Be Taken Down By Its Hosting Service:

The Hollywood Reporter reports:

The controversial anti-Muslim film by Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been removed from the Web by its British Internet provider, which said its employees have been seriously threatened.

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature and some ill-informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, LiveLeak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove 'Fitna' from our servers," the company said....

The thuggery of those making the threats is appalling, though unsurprising. Thanks to Dan Schmutter for the pointer.

UPDATE: Thanks to readers who responded to my request for pointers to other copies of the film; there is a list of pointers here, a Wikileaks copy here, and Dutch versions elsewhere. That's the beauty of the Internet.


LiveLeak Brings Back Fitna:

Here's their statement on the subject:

On the 28th of March LiveLeak.com was left with no other choice but to remove the film "fitna" from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

As I've commented before, I sympathize with distributors who feel pressured to remove materials for fear of violent retaliation. I have argued that "leading bookstores, like leading universities, need to take some risks -- and, yes, even risks that involve potential risks to customers and employees -- in order to protect the marketplace of ideas that sustains them." But I recognize that we can't expect everyone to be heroic on this score, and that goes double for smallish outfits that might not have a great deal of money to invest in security.

Still, while those who give in to threats shouldn't get much blame, those who resist the threats (even with a brief delay for ramping up security) deserve praise. So, good work, LiveLeak: You've struck a badly needed blow for freedom, and against the thugs.


Illegal To Compare Islam with Nazism?

That's what a Dutch appellate court seems to be saying, in ordering the prosecution of Dutch member of Parliament Geert Wilders. The press release doesn't go into detail about the statements involved, but it does say, "the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism," and expressly condemns as beyond the pale analogies between the Koran and Mein Kampf. Here's the entire statement:

On 21 January 2009 the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered the criminal prosecution of the member of parliament Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. In addition, the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism.

The Court of Appeal rendered judgment as a consequence of a number of complaints about the non-prosecution of Wilders for his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. The complainants did not agree with the decision of the public prosecution which decided not to give effect to their report against Wilders.

The public prosecution [I assume this refers to the prosecutors' office, whose decision not to prosecute the court is reversing -EV] is of the view, amongst others, that part of the statements of Wilders do not relate to a group of worshippers, but consists of criticism as regards the Islamic belief, as a result of which neither the self-esteem of this group of worshippers is affected nor is this group brought into discredit. Some statements of Wilders can be regarded as offending, but since these were made (outside the Dutch Second Chamber) as a contribution to a social debate there is no longer a ground for punishableness of those statements according to the public prosecution.

The Court of Appeal does not agree with this view of the public prosecution and the considerations which form the basis of this view.

The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation. This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.

Secondly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether a possible criminal prosecution or conviction would be admissible according to the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court based thereon, which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the initiation of a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on as well, provided that it is proportionate, does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.

Thirdly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether criminal prosecution of Wilders because of his statements would be opportune in the Dutch situation (the question of opportunity). According to the Court of Appeal the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.

As regards the insult of a group the Court of Appeal makes a distinction. In general the Court determines that the traditional Dutch culture of debating is based on tolerance of each others views to a large extent while Islamic immigrants may be expected to have consideration for the existing sentiments in the Netherlands as regards their belief, which is partly at odds with Dutch and European values and norms. As regards insulting statements the Court of Appeal prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law, as a result of which an active participation to the public debate, by moslims as well, is promoted.

However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with "Mein Kampf"). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.

The Court of Appeal concludes that the way in which the public debate about controversial issues is held, such as the immigration and integration debate, does not fall within the ambit of the law in principle indeed, but the situation changes when fundamental boundaries are exceeded. Then criminal law does appear as well.

Otherwise, the Court of Appeal emphasizes that this is a provisional judgment in the sense that Wilders has not been convicted in this suit of complaint. The Court of Appeal has only judged whether there are sufficient indications --- at the level of a reasonable suspicion --- to start a criminal prosecution against Wilders. The penal judge who will ultimately render judgment in a public criminal trial will answer the question if there is ground for conviction, and if so, to which extent.

The movie Fitna, which appears to form part of the basis for the prosecution, seems to be available here. If readers can point me to the Wilders statements (preferably in English translation) that form the basis for the prosecution, I'd love to link to them as well — of course, not because I will necessary agree with them (I suppose I might agree with some but not with others, especially if they speak broadly about Islam generally), but because seeing them is necessary to evaluate the merits of the prosecution, and the degree to which the prosecution would threaten free discussion.

Thanks to Anne Jitta for the pointer.

UPDATE: The decision, in Dutch, is here (thanks again to Anne Jitta for that pointer as well). If anyone can point me to an English translation of the decision, I'd be much obliged.

For a perspective on Geert Wilders' thinking, see James Taranto's Wall Street Journal interview with Wilders.

Also, a comment by Dunstan suggests that in the Netherlands, examples of Godwin's Law actually lead to action by The Law. I suspect that Godwin does not approve.


Britain Refuses to Allow Dutch MP Geert Wilders To Enter:

Brussels Journal quotes this letter to Wilders stating that he is excluded from Britain:

Dear Mr Wilders

The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the Secretary of State is of the view that your presence in the UK would pose a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to one of the fundamental interests of society. The Secretary of State is satisfied that your statements about Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in your film Fitna and elsewhere, would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.

You are advised that should you travel to the UK and seek admission an Immigration Officer will take into account the Secretary of State's view. If, in accordance with regulation 21 of the immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, the Immigration Officer is statisfied that your exclusion is justified on grounds of public policy and/or public security, you will be refused admission to the UK under regulation 19. You would have a right of appeal against any refusal of admission, exercisable from outside the UK.

Yours sincerely,

Irving N. Jones

On behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department

There's more at Brussels Journal about the story, which has an internal British Parliamentary political dimension.

I definitely do not support the British decision, and I would oppose any such decision by the U.S. government (not that I know of any in the wind). But I should note, for those who are interested in comparing European law and American law on free speech (as I sometimes do), that the American precedent on this question, Kleindienst v. Mandel (1972), generally allows the U.S. government to exclude speakers based on their political views.

(Thanks to John Derbyshire (NRO's The Corner) InstaPundit for the pointer; for my views about the Dutch prosecution of Wilders, see here.)