Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Dutch to Debate Free Speech

Is free speech worth protecting? What if free speech is used to criticize Islam? Newspapers have wavered back and forth on this issue in the past. Some newspapers believe it is worth protecting. Others have decided to censor themselves in order to avoid offending believers of the “Religion of Peace”. This week the Dutch government will debate if a prominent citizen of its country should be protected after criticizing Islam (and after the Dutch Government promised to protect her) or if it would be more convenient for the government to simply leave her to her own devices.

The issue is whether or not Ayaan Hirsi Ali deserves to have government provided security. Ms. Ali has been in hiding since the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gough. Mr. Van Gough was killed because he had produced an 11 minute film critical of how women are treated in Islam. Ms. Ali wrote the script for that movie. A man stepped from the shadows and attacked Van Gough on his way to work one morning. Van Gough’s attacker shot him and almost cut his head off before stabbing a five page letter to his chest addressed to Hirsi Ali. She has been in protective custody since that time. The man who killed Van Gough was acting on a fatwa that had been issued against Van Gough. Many Muslims also want Ali killed for her part in the making of the film.

If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Ali, I have a short review of her latest book, Infidel. In her book, Ms. Ali describes what life was like growing up as a Muslim in Africa and the Middle East. After suffering an assortment of abuses (including female genital mutilation) she fled to the Netherlands and adopted that country as her new home. Hirsi Ali became a critic of Islam and how women are treated in its name. She has stated she no longer believes in God. This alone earns a death sentence under Islamic law. However, she has taken great pains to shine a light on the injustices done to women in the name of Islam. That has earned her a life of bodyguards and 24 hour a day protection. Protection that was promised to her when government officials asked her to enter politics.

However, some in the Netherlands still believe that fanatical Muslims can be appeased. These individuals believe that if they withdraw their protection of Hirsi Ali, then maybe fanatical Muslims will leave their nation alone. There are people in the Netherlands and Europe who have clamored to have her protection removed. There are also those who have tried to get to her before, and those who hope someone gets her. Her critics say she is too critical of Islam. If she has to have 24 hour a day protection, I would ask if she is being as critical as she could be. Some have said she has brought these troubles on herself. Individuals such as Ms. Ali should be able to say what they wish in a Western nation without fear of being stabbed in the streets.

Many on the left in our country wish our laws were as liberal as those in the Netherlands. The Dutch government is trying to hide it’s cowardice behind the financial cost imposed on them by protecting Ali. I find it hard to believe that the cost to protect her is more expensive than the cost free speech and open debate will suffer in the West if some harm should come to her because the Dutch government is worried about offending some of the people within their country. The Dutch are often shown as the model of a free, liberal, Western Government. They now have the opportunity to show they know how to do the right thing when a courageous womans life may will hang in the balance.


Shadylady said...

I'd actually heard of her (i.e., went on to do a little "research" after watching Van Gogh's 6 May) and I shouldn't think so.

Also, after van Gogh was killed (and I honestly don't remember how long after), his then 14 year old son was also physically threatened with death by the same people (or associates thereof) who had killed his father.

familyman said...

I agree she should be protected.

But, Qoute - "Many on the left in our country wish our laws were as liberal as those in the Netherlands."

What does that sentence have to do with your argument?

Andy D said...

I reference it at the end of the paragraph when I talk about the Dutch being shown as a model of free, liberal government. If they are going to be the poster child for free speech, then they need to protect those citizens of their country who engage in free speech. I don't mean either as an attack against people on the left, more of a call to action.

Kram said...

Any updates on this, Andy? I haven't been able to find anything.

Andy D said...

The only information I have been able to locate is a footnote on Wikipedia's site about Mrs. Hirsi. They site a dutch article saying that as of October 1st, the government will only pay for her security while she is in the Netherlands. If she travels abroad, she is on her own.

This is an interesting "compromise". One of the articles I read before writing this post stated that security is much more expensive for her in the Netherlands. People there recognize her and the death threats are much more common. In the United States, she isn't as well known, so there the security detail doesn't have to be as tight.