Netherlands: Geert Wilders trial
As a reader pointed out, I've been remiss in not covering the trial of Geert Wilders. I had collected stories, but I felt I was going into data overload with it all. I will try to keep up in the future.
Meanwhile, Gates of Vienna has been following the trial closely, and they have a good roundup of everything going on around the Wilders trial.
Geert Wilders claimed he would put Islam to trial, and therefore many Islam critics see this as a major event.
I think Wilders' trial is indeed a major event for the Netherlands - he's being put on trial for voicing criticism - but I doubt he'll be able to prove his point in court, as the letters below illustrate. I also doubt that a Dutch court would actually agree to turn this into a trial of Islam. Geert Wilders in the one standing trial. His views are well known, as are both sides of the debate. The Koran is available to anybody who wants to read it, as are the local news, and everybody can decide for themselves how violent Islam is, and how violent are its followers.
Wilders says he is only critical of Islam, and not of Muslims. The court would have to decide whether that is possible. Personally, I think he's not only critical of Islam. He wants to ban Islam as a religion, and that is a very slippery slope. In case anybody wonders why Islam critics scare Jews - this is it. Throughout the Middle Ages Judaism has been put on trial countless times. In France, for example, it was decided following such a trial to ban the Talmud. Precious scrolls were burned, and Jewish study was practically wiped out in France for centuries to come.
Even if we would have the same court and same attitude. Books today are cheap, and the Koran is available by internet to anybody who wants it.
Wilders wanted to bring 18 expert witnesses (NL): Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Wafa Sultan, Simon Admiraal, Hans Jansen, Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, Afshin Ellian, Mohammed Bouyeri, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, Theo De Ross, Bill French, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Sam Solomon, Tom Zwart, Fawaz Jneid, Raphael Israeli, Andras Sajo, and Henny Sackers.
He was allowed only three: Wafa Sultan, Simon Admiraal and Hans Jansen, and they would be heard behind close doors.
Six Dutch Islam and Koran scholars wrote a letter to the court (NL). The six scholars are Prof. Fred Leemhuis, Prof. Jan Michiel Otto, Prof. Gerard Wiegers, Prof. Pieter Sjoerd, Prof. Ruud Peters and Dr. Marlies ter Borg.
I will not translate it all, but I'll try to bring the main points:
The Koran has violent passages, but so does the Bible. Muslims suffer more than the West from Islamic terrorism.
Wilders claims that the Koran is a violent book and that religious Muslims only act based on the Kora, therefore it's impossible to practice Islam in the Netherlands. Wilders compares the Koran to Mein Kampf, but Mein Kampf only calls for war and for the elimination of Jews, while the Koran includes calls for peace and reconciliation.
Wildesr brings only half quotes, which ignore those aspects of the Koran. He takes verses which talk about war and applies them to day-to-day life. Moderate Muslims use such passages to base their peaceful world view. such Muslims do exist and participate in life in the Netherlands.
Religion is a whole composed of values, norms and writings. It is preached and followed by people. Violence is something which people do, not a religion. Therefore, a religion cannot be violent or peaceful. By calling a religion 'violent' you are actually calling its believers violent.
According to the six scholars, history shows that Islam is not more violent than Christianity. And the battles between Christians and Muslims caused far less suffering than the internal battles in both Christianity and Islam.
Both religions are past the time when religion was being spread by the sword. Extremists who do think so are an exception and are not representative of Islam.
Dr. Hans Janesen wrote in response (NL) to this letter that there is no evidence of the peacefulness of Islam in mosque sermons, Sharia manuals and Koran commentaries. Those call for intimidating, murdering and fighting those who do not believe differently. The letter was not signed by Islamic religious leaders. At most the 'important Muslim theologian' Tofiq Dibi agrees with it (Dobi is a Muslim Dutch politician). The letter is therefore a dream. The Koran will not be more or less violent just because the Amsterdam court decides this way or that way.
I don't agree with everything the six scholars wrote, but I do agree that every religion is what its followers make of it. It's easy to claim that the Bible is 'just as' violent as the Koran, but it doesn't really mean anything, since no Jew or Christian would actually stone a guy who violates the Sabbath, for example. Religious writings are guidelines, but it is humans who interpret them.