Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, set to become a shadow partner of the next coalition government, goes on trial in Amsterdam on Monday for inciting hatred against Muslims. Wilders’ Freedom Party together with other parties forming the next coalition have agreed to ban the burqa. Yet this is surely the least controversial move since it has already been implemented by other European states, such as France. The peroxide blonde Wilders sees his own trial as an attack on freedom of speech in the Netherlands. His lawyer reported that Wilders thinks that “in the Netherlands, one must be able to say whatever one wants, barring incitement to violence.” Continue reading
Recently two events made me question how the UK, and Europe in general, understand the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ – the invitation to attend the annual Buckingham Palace garden party extended to white supremacist BNP’s Nick Griffin and the Home Secretary’s decision to ban the popular Muslim tele-preacher Dr Zakir Naik from entering the UK.
There is no one single definition of ‘freedom of speech’ and an attempt to formulate one can only result in empty theorizing and utopian visions. Freedom of speech is linked to local, regional and international contexts, social realities, cultural differences and an understanding of what freedom means. What for one person is ‘freedom of speech’, for another is just ‘freedom of insult’ or ‘unacceptable behavior’. Continue reading
Why did our European and US governments invade Afghanistan? How many of us can recall the general rhetoric of a Just War fought in the name of an ‘Enduring Freedom’ to liberate Afghan women from their burqa and Afghan men from their long beards, as well as bringing to justice bin-Laden? The Afghan campaign has been a half military success, with US and Nato generals blaming each other for the other half failure, while bin-Laden, if not dead by natural cause, can celebrate Bush’s most evident flop. The Afghan war, while facilitating a new form of old corruption in the cities and capital, has increased the suffering of the rural population, often caught in battles of which they are only the victims. Yet some say that Afghanistan is now a better place since it is on the route toward democracy, though a fictional and corrupted one. Continue reading