(First published in Urban Times on 12th Oct 2010)
Geert de Wilders is on trial for inciting hatred. Many rejoice, and with good reason. De Wilders has gone too far. But if you take away the malice from his comments and the horrible taste in which he makes them, you’ll see that he touches on issues that no one dares touch – issues which somebody ought to, sooner or later. These issues are, in a nutshell: the unwillingness or inability for immigrant or resident Islamic-minorities in the West to adapt to Western culture and its laws and customs; general Islamic demands from various groups at various times that Western culture instead adapt to Islamic customs and sensitivities, bending and breaking fundamental open-society premises to do so; censorship of satire pertaining to Mohammed and Allah; censorship of all criticism pertaining to Islam and some of its repressive qualities; islamollycoddling due to fear of being branded racist; and manipulation of the premises of open society to promote religious beliefs that may be in direct or indirect violation of those premises in the first place. Geert de Wilders has raised these issues – in all the wrong ways and for dubious agendas – and will eventually fall, as he deserves. He’s gone too far. But don’t throw away the baby with the dirty water. Acknowledge the issues, identify and face them. Make an example of de Wilders, not a scapegoat, by tackling the problems he points at, head on, without fear or prejudice. Through open debate and criticism. With decisiveness and courage. With intent to uphold universal values and a society of mutual respect. Open the way to a secular-compatible, open-minded Islam, because it’s dying to come out of the closet. Give it a chance. Help it strike down its sick, extremist, violent offshoots – help it cut itself free from intolerant purism – help it break the boundaries and leave its perceived infallibility behind – help it move on and evolve to a more permissive and inclusive state of mind, as the times necessitate, as everyone knows it can.