As an independent Muslim woman who doesn’t appreciate being told what to do, say, wear, read or write, I have a special place in my heart filled with disgust for those who embrace the bigoted ideologies of Islamophobes like Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders. But as an outspoken writer and attorney, I also have a special — and much larger — place in my heart filled with respect and adoration for human liberty.
So, when I found out that Mr. Wilders, leader of the Netherlands’ increasingly influential anti-immigration, anti-Islam so-called Freedom Party, was on trial for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, my reaction was mixed. Initially, I was overcome with what could only be described as pure schadenfruede. But then, my delight in what I sincerely hoped was his supreme misery quickly turned into annoyance and then outrage at the prospect of such an attack on free speech.
Granted, Mr. Wilders has compared the Holy Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He has claimed that Islam is not a religion, but rather “an ideology of a retarded culture.” He has stated that Islam is out to destroy all of Western civilization and that “not one more” Muslim ought to be allowed to immigrate into the Netherlands. And most absurd of all, amid all his bombast, he has insisted that he has no problem with “Muslim people,” just their “retarded” fascist ideology that he refuses to acknowledge as a bona-fide religion. In short, it’s not us he hates, but rather, everything about us.
Still, to try someone in a court of law, to threaten him with a sentence of up to 16 months in jail or $10,000 in fines, just for running his mouth, is inherently abhorrent to me. Certainly, I have said and written many things that have offended some, and I too have hate mail and death threats to show for it. Defending the rights of gays, lesbians and the transgendered from an Islamic perspective and speaking out against various domestic and international policies promoted by the U.S. government or the current Iranian regime have all made me particularly unpopular in certain circles. And I thank God and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for never having been put on trial for any of my controversial statements.
Under different circumstances, though — say, if I were to return to Iran having written and spoken out as strongly as I have against the regime’s oppressive domestic policies — I could very well find myself in Mr. Wilders’ shoes. As such, I have no choice but to defend his right to speak freely, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because in another time or place, it could just as easily be me facing hefty fines or prison time.
So today, for the record, I would like to stand up in defense of Mr. Wilders’ freedom to speak his twisted mind. I do so despite his attacks on my faith and my people. I do so despite his blatant hypocrisy, demanding a personal freedom from censorship while concurrently endorsing a ban on the Qur’an, the veil and pretty much all things he deems “Islamic” in Holland. I do so despite disagreeing with nearly every word that comes out of his vicious mouth. And I do so because my “retarded” ideology refuses to let me sink to his level.
Three of the most revered prophets of Islam — Moses, Christ and Muhammad — taught all of their followers to treat others as they wished to be treated. Thus, as a follower of Islam and the teachings of its great prophets, I am bound to defend Mr. Wilders’ basic human rights as I would my own.
So, even though I have more respect for wild goats than Geert Wilders, my faith, my education and my conscience compel me to defend the bigot’s right to run his mouth, and I pray that others will stand with me here — especially my fellow Muslims, writers and attorneys for whom this is an issue of moral and professional obligation.