On June 10, 2004, Brigitte Bardot, the 69-year old French movie legend, was ordered by a Paris court to pay a fine of 5,000 euros ($6,500) for for portraying Muslims in a negative light. According to the court, she had done so in her book A Cry in the Silence, in which she opposed the Islamization of France. Bardot’s publisher was fined the same sum.
The case followed a complaint by an organization that, in an apt example of liberal new-speak, calls itself the Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples [Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples].
Bardot was a repeat offender, the judge pointed out. She had already been convicted earlier for criticizing the way in which Muslims slaughter sheep.
Moreover, the French media noted, Bardot had also made unfriendly remarks about gays—proving that she did not just hate Muslims but every type of diversity.
Despite Bardot’s celebrity status, her conviction received little international attention.
There was even less attention for the conviction on June 29 of Swedish pastor Ake Green to one month imprisonment. Green was convicted by a Kalmar district court for describing homosexuality in a sermon as a tumor on society.
Greene had ended his sermon with the words,
What these people who live under the slavery of sexual immorality need, is an abundance of grace. We cannot condemn these people. Jesus never belittled anyone. He offered them grace.
Nevertheless the court ruled that his words incited to hatred and held that the right of gays to be protected from such language outweighs the right to make homophobic statements in the name of religion. By calling gays sinners, Green had, as the French court would say, depicted them in a negative light.
The pastor’s conviction prompted just one international political reaction. Vladimir Palko, the Interior Minister of Slovakia, protested to the Swedish ambassador in Slovakia. In Europe people are starting to be jailed for saying what they think, Palko said. It reminded him of the dictatorship the Slovaks had been living under until 1989.
According to Palko, a devout Catholic, what had happened in Sweden was an example of how a left-wing liberal ideology was trying to introduce tyranny.
Palko was at once decried by moderate Slovak politicians and the media. They said Palko was a narrow-minded bigot, whose words were damaging to Slovakia and made Slovaks look like total idiots.
A few months later, the rest of Europe’s liberals made clear what they think of the likes of Vladimir Palko when they vetoed the appointment of the Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione as the European Union‘s Commissioner for Freedom, Security and Justice. On October 5, during a hearing in the European Parliament, the Commissioner designate had outraged the Euro-parliamentarians by saying that, as a Catholic, he considered gay activities sinful, although he added that this would not affect his political decisions: One has to make a distinction between morality and law. I may think of homosexuality as a sin but that has no effect unless I say it is a crime.
In Sweden, however, Ake Green had found that, though homosexuality may not be a crime, expressing the opinion that it is a sin definitely is a crime.
Buttiglione’s remarks were sufficient for the European Parliament to refuse to accept him as Commissioner. However, the real reason why Buttiglione was vetoed as Europe’s Justice czar may also have been his proposal to establish reception centres for asylum seekers and economic immigrants outside Europe, rather than to allow them to enter Europe illegally.
On November 9, 2004, there was the conviction in Brussels of the Vlaams Blok (VB), Belgium’s biggest political party, by the country’s Supreme Court. Apart from advocating the secession of Flanders, Belgium’s Dutch-speaking northern half, the VB is the only party the country that is openly critical of immigration and defends traditional Christian values. That means it is both Islamophobe and homophobe. The VB was brought to court by the government agency, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight against Racism.
According to the Belgian Supreme Court, the VB was a racist organisation because it had published certain texts with an intention to contribute to a campaign of hatred against foreigners. Even a text by a Turkish-born VB member about the treatment of women in fundamentalist families (such as the one she came from) depict[ed] the image [of Muslim immigrants] as unethical and barbarian.
To make their point clear, the judges added that the text was not necessarily untrue, but the criminal offence was that it had depicted the foreigners in a negative light.
As a result of the VB conviction, the party was forced to disband. It has meanwhile reestablished itself under a new name, the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). However, in early January 2005 the Belgian Senate started procedures to rob the new VB of its finances.
It is remarkable that neither in the case of Brigitte Bardot’s conviction, nor in that of pastor Green’s or Belgium’s most popular party, American politicians have voiced concern about what is going on in Europe. No American conservative had the courage of Vladimir Palko. Perhaps the Bush administration thinks it wise to keep its distance from the likes of an old starlet, a fundamentalist preacher and the Flemish secessionists.
The great American 20th century journalist H.L. Mencken pointed out, however, that it is not necessary to agree with the opinions of those whose freedom of opinion one defends.
On the contrary. The trouble with fighting for human freedom, Mencken said, is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
This is Mencken’s law. It is the argument to be used against any kind of hate crime bill.
The fact that such legislation is pushed by Muslims and radical gay activists alike, points to the single issue that unites them: their anti-Christian zealotry.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that the administration of a born-again Christian such as George W. Bush seems to be blind to the demise of democracy that we are currently witnessing in Europe—and which may soon happen in the U.S, too.
No doubt Bush will raise Mencken’s wise words when he visits Europe next month.
(Posted on January 21, 2005)