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Islam and Free Speech
by Peter Hoekstra
The Netherlands is bracing for a new round of violence at home and against its embassies in the Middle East. The storm would be caused by "Fitna," a short film that is scheduled to be released this week. The film, which reportedly includes images of a Quran being burned, was produced by Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament and leader of the Freedom Party. Mr. Wilders has called for banning the Quran -- which he has compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- from the Netherlands.
After concern about the film led Mr. Wilders's Internet service provider to take down his Web site, Mr. Wilders issued a statement this week that he will personally distribute DVDs "On the Dam" if he has to. That may not be necessary, as the Czech National Party has reportedly agreed to host the video on its Web site.
Reasonable men in free societies regard Geert Wilders's anti-Muslim rhetoric, and films like "Fitna," as disrespectful of the religious sensitivities of members of the Islamic faith. But free societies also hold freedom of speech to be a fundamental human right. We don't silence, jail or kill people with whom we disagree just because their ideas are offensive or disturbing. We believe that when such ideas are openly debated, they sink of their own weight and attract few followers.
Our country allows fringe groups like the American Nazi Party to demonstrate, as long as they are peaceful. Americans are permitted to burn the national flag. In 1989, when so-called artist Andres Serrano displayed his work "Piss Christ" -- a photo of a crucifix immersed in a bottle of urine -- Americans protested peacefully and moved to cut off the federal funding that supported Mr. Serrano. There were no bombings of museums. No one was killed over this work that was deeply offensive to Christians.
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