Sunday, May 13, 2012

Should critically discussing Islam be a form of hate speech?

American Thinker
Several days ago, I noted with interest that Dutch journalist and historian Lars Hedegaard has been acquitted by a unanimous Dutch Supreme Court of charges that he violated Holland's notorious "hate speech" laws. His crime? He made a public utterance that state prosecutors concluded was "denigrating" of Islam.

Hedegaard dared say that Islam should be criticized for endorsing coerced child-bride marriages. The prosecutor never alleged that anything Hedegaard stated was untrue. Truth under the Dutch hate speech law is largely irrelevant.

The acquittal follows on the heels of the more widely publicized dismissal of charges against flamboyant Dutch politician Geert Wilders for violating the very same law. Wilders' crime was the production of the film Fitna, which had the audacity to draw a connection between certain passages of the Koran and Islamist jihad. Like the Hedegaard prosecution, Wilders' prosecutor never alleged that anything in the film was untrue.

While the ultimate acquittals were encouraging, the fact that these men were forced to spend years in court fighting such frivolous charges is more than a travesty. And this doesn't begin to take into account the small fortune such legal disputes cost both the state and the defendants.

The irresponsible willingness of governments to promulgate and encourage the prosecution of truthful but critical comments on Islam needs to be closely scrutinized.

In the U.S., voices have been heard calling for Muslim communities to circumvent the federal Constitution and govern themselves using the socio-political component of Islam called sharia. Sharia itself may fairly be characterized as hatching the monster of all "hate speech" laws. It calls for capital punishment of anyone who utters criticism of Muhammad or the religion he founded. The U.K. already is allowing several Islamic communities to govern themselves according to sharia.

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