This will be a post rounding up a few things that were on my to do list, but I just didn't get round to.
First off, the municipal elections in Holland. As reported here and here the results were at first glance not really encouraging. The shift leftward has been analyzed in the media mainly as a form of protest against perceived 'anti-social policy' by the current (national) government. And not indicitative of any change in views on outstanding issues.
To give just an example in Rotterdam Labour won big, gaining 19 seats in the council, but Livable Rotterdam, the fraction where Pim Fortuyn started his political career for real, still managed to hang on to 14 seats, making it the second largest fraction in Rotterdam. This is a step back from being the largest fraction in Rotterdam, but it is a big indicator that a goodly portion of Rotterdammers approved of LR's policies and confrontational but honest approach to discussion.
There's reason to worry, though. For the first time left wing parties have openly pandered to foreign voters. The Green Left shamelessly advocated loosening requirements for obtaining the Dutch nationality and immigration. Wouter Bos, Labour leader, wrote in his book 'This country can do so much better' that Islam is here to stay and we better get used to a more prominent presence of believers in Dutch society. On teh other hand there is the growing inpatience if large sections of Dutch society with the constant demands for attention and Rezzzpect by the muslim community. All this resulted in the fact that for the first time mostly muslim immigrant groups came out as a voters bloc. It is estimated that over 80% of foreign voters gave Labour their vote and 'tipped the vote', as Brussels Journal observes.
However, rather taken aback by Labours landslide and overall gains of the left bloc (Labour, GreenLeft and Socialist party (latest polls show a majority for this bloc of 82 out of 150 seats in the Second Chamber or parliament), Wouter Bos was very reluctant to commit to a left bloc government if next years national elections were to show similar results. His preference for the moment seems to be a cabinet of Labour and Christian Democrats. Surprisingly (to me) he showed some measure of good sense with that. I fear a left bloc government would only further polarize Dutch society and contribute to the futher 'Weimar-ification' of the Netherlands.
BUT... There's still 14 months to go until the national elections (if for some reason the current cabinet doesn't implode prematurely, that is). Given the results in last Tuesday's elections it seems clear the current government needs to do a bit of extra homework to get the message across of what they've done succesfully and convince voters it could have been so much worse. Whether the Lefts succes will last another 14 months still remains to be seen.
Then the Hofstad convictions. Western Resistance has a good round up of the whole story while (rather suprisingly) the BBC actually uses the M and T words with respect to the Hofstad group.
Though the hard-core islamophobe in me wanted the sentences to be 9 times jail with the keys through far, far away, I have to admit this new bit of jurisprudence might prove to be very useful. Despite what the Hofstad group lawyers (and apparently miss Hirsi Ali) say, this does not limit free speech.
The judge in the case, judge Allard de Boer, in his verdict reasoned that free speech is quaranteed in the Netherlands. The fact that the defendants lawyers could actually argue excersis of free speech on behalf of their clients, even though their clients would themselves pose strict limits on same freedom, proves this. Spreading objectionable thought like found in the Hofstad group is under this verdict not curbed. However, the judge argues that where people organizing themselves around ideas that threaten national security and start to act accordingly, threatening citizens and the taking action to undermine the state, such an organization could be defined as a criminal organization with terrorist's aims. In essence, a spokewoman for the court told the NOS news, the judge defined the Hofstad group a terrorist group not on the basis of their ideas, but their actions.
This afternoon Ayaan Hirsi Ali has commented (NL) she disapproved of one of the verdicts. Fahmi B. was sentenced to 18 months (with substraction of pre-incarceration, setting him free after the trial) for membership of the Hofstad group and the possession and dissemination of extremist materials. Hirsi Ali claims this verdict limits free speech and free speech should be unlimited. She said the Hofstad groups radical school of thought should've been engaged in open discussion, not with jail sentences.
I don't know who Hirsi Ali has been hanging out with of late. Undoubtedly she is a brave woman and Ne'erlands hope in these dark days. But she's showing a definite 'Enlightenment fundamentalist' streak in her different arguments, lately. Brussels journal has already noticed this here, here and here. And with that she loses some of the shine of freedom she used ot carry with her.
As I've noted earlier, in relation to the Danish cartoon brouhaha, I don't believe in the absoluteness of free speech. Every liberty a man posesses is, and should be, limited where it threatens the liberties of fellow citizens, or his neighbors, or whatever. Having said that: Freedom of speech must me defined as wide as possible. If dangerous ideas ar forced underground, they are that much harder to counter in reasoned debate.
However, the nefarious twist that the discussion about free speech underwent, was that we started discussions on it's limits, when we were too afraid to admit that we were having these discussions out of FEAR. Fear of what muslims might do to us. And thus we were (thinking about) allowing the limits of free speech to be imposed on us by outside forces. We discussed, not the characater and limits of free speech, but we actually discussed handing others, outside our European continent, to determine what our limits on free speech should be.
That was the danger that lurked beneath the weak kneed grovelings of Solana, Frattini and Uk minister Straw, to name but a few. A country should well and truely be master over it's own borders, whether real or abstract, relating to its geography or relating to the freedoms it grants its citizens. In the freedom fo speech discussions viz-a-viz Islam it is absolute paramount we do not give in to blackmail or plain thuggery. Absolutely paramount. Never give in to fear. For if we do we *will* have lost. Portions of out liberties will have effectively been occupied by a foreign power. That out betters were talking about surrendering such cultural terrain without so much as a word of protest is so shameful as to merit a European wide 'storming of the Bastille' to rid Europe of the Jack Straws and the Franco Frattini's of this world.
But the myth of the absoluteness of freedom of speech, so effectively propagated during the Danish brouhaha is now being perpetuated in a wholly unproductive fashion. Fahmi B. was doing the 'dissemination' in a bid to recruit new fellow mujahideen. He was busying himself with subversion and plain treason of the country he was born in, had (one of) his nationality from.
There is nothing in the way of free speech that would excuse this treachery or the subversion of others to join his treasonous cause. Preventing his punishment would seriously limit the security services in doing their job properly without doing anything whatsoever for the practical excersise of free speech. It makes an ideological point, 's all. And it doesn't make it very convincingly either.