This week's column is an open letter to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
Last week, in the presence of Dutch dignitaries visiting New York City to mark the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's remarkable first voyage on behalf of the Dutch East India Co. to "Nieu Amsterdam" (New York), you spoke of the need to safeguard freedom of expression. "Of course, I do not appreciate everything I hear," you said, according to a translated report from the Amsterdam newspaper De Telegraaf. "But when you start restricting that, you step on a slippery slope. Before you know it, you can no longer say what you want."
Congratulations, Mr. Mayor. With those words, you have became the first and only public official in the United States to express support, at least in principal, for Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). Wilders, at the unexpected order of a Dutch appeals court, now faces criminal prosecution for exercising his freedom of expression about Islam. As the headline over your remarks in Amsterdam's De Telegraaf puts it, "Bloomberg helps Rutte and Wilders" -- Rutte being Mark Rutte, a second Dutch parliamentarian (and, in fact, Wilders opponent) who has come out against Wilders' prosecution.
This is either big stuff, Mr. Mayor, or I am grasping at straws. Maybe both. The fact is, an unnaturally incurious and stony international silence has met the outrageous Dutch decision to bring a duly-elected leader before a tribunal of judges for what he has said, written and expressed about Islam -- for committing, according to postmodern parlance, "hate speech."
Such a term is postmodern, but the crime it describes is premodern, a violation, in non-Western eyes, of the medieval Islamic prohibition against any and all criticism of Islam. Thus, this trial of the 21st century will turn on the will of an advanced, secular Western state to force one of its citizens to accept a fossilized, sectarian, non-Western taboo. That this citizen is Holland's leading proponent of advanced, secular and Western liberties, starting with freedom of speech, adds a circular irony to the state's shameful action. And no one, save a handful of mainly anti-jihad writers, seems to care.