Calls from countries with a largely Muslim population to ban Geert Wilders film Fitna have fallen on deaf ears in the Netherlands, where freedom of expression is seen as an unassailable right. NRC Handelsblad’s legal affairs correspondent, explains the options. No, at least not in principle. The Dutch constitution does not allow censorship, which is defined in Article 7 as the freedom to publish or show anything without prior consent. This freedom applies not just to the printing press. It also covers art, movies, photos, cartoons – indeed any medium that can be used to express oneself. It’s a basic civil right and a founding principle of Dutch democracy. Basic civil rights also include the freedom of religion, protection from discrimination and the right to equal treatment. In democratic societies these basic rights are sacrosanct and protect individual citizens from the potential abuse of power by governments. Folkert Jensma report.
Danish Muslim imams sought to soothe Muslim anger on Friday after newspapers reprinted a drawing of the prophet Muhammad that caused outrage in Islamic countries two years ago. The newspapers republished one of the drawings in protest against what they said was a plot to murder the cartoonist who drew it. Mostafa Chendid, an imam at the Islamic Faith Community, said Danish media had confused freedom of expression with the freedom to insult others. He also called for Muslims to turn the other cheek rather than pursue violence. Several hundred Muslims gathered in central Copenhagen on Friday to protest the publication of the cartoon, shouting, God is great. Five major Danish newspapers, 10 smaller papers, and a Swedish daily reprinted the drawings. “Freedom of expression gives you the right to think, to speak and to draw what you like… no matter how many terrorist plots there are,” an editorial in the Berlingske Tidende paper noted.
The European Commission is soon to publish an updated version of the “2004 European Guide to Integration,” listing improved practices and lessons garnered over the past few years. The Guide will be presented to European ministers during a conference in Potsdam, Germany about pathways for immigrant integration, how to deal with newly arrived refugees, and how to encourage civic participation, employment, and entrepreneurial initiative among immigrants. The first edition was published in 2004 at the Dutch suggestion that Islamophobia had seized the EU. It was also a response to American criticism of European approaches to integration that the U.S. government considers to be a security threat.