The Persecution of Gregorius Nekschot
We’ve written previously about the plight of the Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot, who is being persecuted by his own government for publishing “discriminatory” cartoons — i.e. cartoons that might be considered offensive by Muslims. See the bottom of this article for a complete list of earlier posts on the topic.
An article in today’s Wall Street Journal explores the background to the Nekschot case in the Dutch political context, and has this particularly chilling note:
[Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin] added fuel to a mounting political furor by revealing the existence of a previously secret bureaucratic body, called the Interdepartmental Working Group on Cartoons. Officials later explained that the cartoon group had no censorship duties and had been set up after the 2006 Danish cartoon crisis to alert Dutch officials to any risks the Netherlands might face. The group examined Mr. Nekschot’s work, say officials, but played no part in his arrest. Headed by a senior bureaucrat from a national agency coordinating counterterrorism, it draws from the intelligence service, the interior minister, the prosecutor’s office and various other government bodies. [emphasis added]
The Dutch intelligence service is monitoring what is drawn by the nation’s cartoonists.
Their country is disintegrating around them, with rampant crime and lawlessness due to unchecked Muslim immigration, and the paid servants of the Dutch state are worrying about what cartoonists are drawing.
God help us all.
Americans should not be too dismissive of these trends — “Well, that’s just Europe, and we all know Europe is lost” — because ominous signs indicate that the USA is heading for exactly the same destination; it’s just going to get there a little bit later.
As Paul Green reminds us:
Nor should it be imagined that the United States is all that far away from a European-style designation of certain types of free expression as “hate crimes.” Listen to the speeches of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama as he declares that “hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last year” because a “certain segment has basically been feeding a kind of xenophobia” and “Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs” have been “ginning things up.” It is quite clear that Obama views “ginning things up” through criticism of a self-designated victim group as tantamount to inciting hate crimes, and therefore essentially a hate crime in its own right. What “secret bureaucratic bodies” might his administration, backed by a heavily Democratic Congress, set up to deal with those of us who have the temerity to resist the encroachment of Islamic supremacism through the exercise of our right to free expression?
The WSJ has more:
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The cartoon affair has come as a shock to a country that sees itself as a bastion of tolerance, a tradition forged by grim memories of bloody conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The Netherlands sheltered Jews and other refugees from the Spanish Inquisition, and Calvinists fleeing persecution in France. Its thinkers helped nurture the 18th-century Enlightenment. Prostitutes, marijuana and pornography have been legal for decades.
“This is serious. It is about freedom of speech,” says Mark Rutte, the leader of a center-right opposition party. Some of Mr. Nekschot’s oeuvre is “really disgusting,” he says, “but that is free speech.”
The saga has turned the previously obscure artist into a national celebrity. His predicament reprises, with a curious twist, a drama that debuted in Denmark just over two years ago. Then, Danish cartoonists published a series of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in the nation’s Jyllands-Posten newspaper. The drawings set off a tempest of often violent protests across the Muslim world and a fierce debate in Europe about how to balance secular and sacred values. One of the Danish cartoonists fled his house and went into hiding late last year after the state security service uncovered a murder plot against him. (The elderly artist is now back at home, guarded by police.) Last month, a suicide bomber killed six in an attack on the Danish Embassy in Pakistan.
The Dutch scenario involves similar issues but has followed a very different script. This time the state has stepped in to rein in the artist, rather than protect him, and it is secular champions of free speech who are angry. They haven’t resorted to violence but have stirred up a political storm. Parliament held an emergency debate on the affair and cartoonists have bombarded the Dutch Justice Ministry with a blizzard of faxed protest caricatures.
“Denmark protects its cartoonists. We arrest them,” says Geert Wilders, a populist member of the Dutch Parliament famous for his dyed-blond bouffant hairdo and incendiary denunciations of the Quran as an Islamic version of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” The arrested cartoonist, says Mr. Wilders, is “a bit obsessed” with Muslims and sex, but “it is not bad for artists to have a little obsession.”
How to handle Muslim sensitivities is one of Europe’s most prickly issues. Islam is Europe’s fastest-growing religion, with immigrants from Muslim lands often rejecting a drift toward secularism in what used to be known as Christendom. About 6% of Holland’s 16.3 million people are Muslims, and nearly half of Amsterdam’s population is of foreign origin. Some predict the city could have a Muslim majority within a decade or so.
The contrasting Danish and Dutch responses “show that there is a serious struggle of ideas going on for the future of Europe,” says Flemming Rose, a Danish newspaper editor who commissioned the drawings of Muhammad in Jyllands-Posten. At stake, he says, is whether democracy protects the right to offend or embraces religious taboos so that “citizens have a right not to be offended.”
Only certain citizens have a right not to be offended. Adherents of one particular religion, for example, are protected from offense, while everyone else can go hang.
Mr. Nekschot can take some small comfort in the boost to his career — assuming he can stay out of jail:
Until his brush with the law, Mr. Nekschot was barely known outside a narrow circle of Internet-savvy aficionados. Newspapers shunned his caricatures. “They all said ‘no way,’ “ he recalls. “They thought I was too offensive, too explicit and too strong on sensitive issues like religion.” He set up his own Web site, at www.gregoriusnekschot.nl/blog, in 2003 to break the blockade. He published two books, “Sick Jokes” in 2006 and “Sick Jokes 2” earlier this year, but sales languished. A big book distributor refused to touch them.
Today, he’s a cult phenomenon. Hits on his Web site went from a few thousand a day to over 100,000 a day when news of his arrest broke, he says. Newspapers that wanted nothing to do with him now print his work. He’s been interviewed on television — with his face hidden — and his work is currently on display in the Parliament building, where Mr. Rutte, the politician, has set up a “free-thinkers space.” Other exhibits include poems by Mr. Van Gogh, the murdered filmmaker, and abstract paintings of seminaked women that were banished from a town hall in central Holland after complaints from Christians and Muslims.
Guessing Mr. Nekschot’s true identity has become a media parlor game — to the chagrin of one prominent cartoonist who was named in print, wrongly, as the mystery man. The case has also stirred much speculation in the media and Parliament about why an apparently dormant investigation first launched in 2005 suddenly became so urgent that Mr. Nekschot had to be snatched from his home without warning. The prosecutor’s office says it simply took a long time to figure out Mr. Nekschot’s true identity and then find him.
But they did find him. None of us is truly anonymous — if the state wants to expend the time and resources to track us down, than it can do it.
The cartoonist blames his woes on what he calls Holland’s “political correctness industry,” a network of often state-funded organizations set up to protect Muslims and other minority groups. One of these, an Internet monitoring group known as MDI, says it received dozens of complaints about the cartoonist’s mockery of Islam and first reported him to the prosecutor’s office in 2005.
“We’re not sure what he does is illegal, but there is a possibility that it is not legal,” says the group’s head, Niels van Tamelen.
It might be illegal. Someone might get offended. And then that someone might get violent.
Conclusion: Gregorius Nekschot must go to prison.
Mr. Nekschot himself is very worried. “I’m afraid of getting a judge who doesn’t have a sense of humor,” he says.
How likely is it that a judge in the Netherlands has a sense of humor?
Previous posts on the Gregorius Nekschot affair: