Freedom of conscience and expression have been matters of life and death in the history of Western civilization. In the present, freedom of conscience continues to carry a high price, as Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch centre-right politician and populist, who is best known for his opposition to Islam, can attest. In the Dutch Parliament he once said:
Islam is the Trojan Horse in Europe. If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time. One century ago, there were approximately 50 Muslims in the Netherlands. Today, there are about 1 million Muslims in this country. Where will it end? We are heading for the end of European and Dutch civilization as we know it. Where is our Prime Minister in all this? In reply to my questions in the House he said, without batting an eyelid, that there is no question of our country being Islamified.
Wilders is leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, which holds a small number of seats in the Dutch and European Parliaments. He is an intelligent and shrewd politician, so he should not be discounted as a crackpot.
It is his stand on religion—he comes from a Catholic family, but rejected Catholicism when he came of age—and Islam in particular, that carries a heavy price. Unfortunately, in the 21st century there are elements in the Islamic world who call for the assassination of those whom they accuse of defaming their religious beliefs. Wilders lives under police protection, receiving no shortage of death threats.
Wilders also faced legal challenges from civil authorities in the Netherlands. In 2009, he was put on trial in Amsterdam, facing charges for inciting hatred against Muslims. He was acquitted of these charges in 2011. In pursuing these legal actions, the Dutch government was trying to get Wilders to recant—that is, to end his criticism of Islam. Wilders shows no indication of backing down of such criticism.
The freedoms of thought and of expression are cornerstones of Western Civilization. While I find his views extreme and do not agree with them, the fact is that Wilders has shown his willingness to pay the price, in risking his life and going to trial, for standing up for his right to freedom of conscience. These are qualities that I admire in him.