The verdict is finally in and Wilders has been acquitted of all charges. It is only a partial victory, as the outcome does not actually guarantee freedom of speech. The Australian reports:
At the end of his trial, prosecutors again called for the charges to be dropped, saying that although his comments may have caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal, as they criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people…
Bram Moszkowicz, the lawyer for Mr Wilders, said: “A politician, in the context of public debate, can say a little more and go a bit farther than you and I.”
So… the Dutch are still not free to criticize Muslims as “a people” and politicians enjoy more freedom of speech than regular citizens. I am not happy with such distinctions. I am happy that Wilders’ lawyer appears to be Jewish.
The judge interpreted Wilders’ remarks as challenging Islam as an ideology, which is not a criminal offence in the Netherlands. “[…] although gross and degenerating, it did not give rise to hatred,” the judge said.
So… it is not legal to challenge Islam as a religion, only as an ideology. Again, I am not happy with this distinction.
In any event, now we can look forward to the reaction from Muslims around the world: Rioting, burning, killing and threats against the Dutch and other non-Muslims – all underscoring exactly what Wilders has been saying all along.