Two standards for hate speech

If the news reports of fashion designer John Galliano’s court case about anti-Semitic slurs and Geert Wilders acquittal of Muslim-hate speech had not come consecutively, I might not have connected them.

The difference between the two European men? On the surface, not much. Both wore suits in court, although admittedly, one wasn’t wearing a shirt with his suit. Both are accused of a vile kind of language.

Wilders is accused of saying hateful things, not just about political Islamists, but Islam itself. He openly does not distinguish between them, and does not apologize for his views. For many peaceful, law-abiding Muslims who give to charity, take part in society and are fully-fledged citizens in the West, his speech is a blow.

To be clear, no religion should be free from careful scrutiny or even informed debate. We are all accountable for our words and deeds and, as a public figure and someone who trades on his public persona, Wilders is even more accountable.

Rather than using the status that has been accorded to him to promote understanding and acceptance, Wilders has chosen to scapegoat Muslims as the root cause for multicultural failure. This is nothing new. History does have a habit of repeating itself.

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