Free Speech Versus Islam - 19 January 2010 - From Alex Rossi

It seems a court case in Holland - which starts today - will test what freedom of speech truly means. The man in the dock is Geert Wilders - a politician with far right views. He's been charged with inciting racial hatred and discrimination. He's well known for his outspoken views on Islam. A film he made - called Fitna - juxtaposes the Koran with images of terrorist attacks. He also claims the Prophet Muhammad would be hunted down as a terrorist if he was alive today. Other inflammatory statements compare the Koran to Mein Kampf and Islam more generally to Nazism.

All fairly provocative stuff but should Mr Wilders be allowed to say it as he lives in a free and democratic nation? The prosecution says no: all of his statements create division and a climate of hate which exacerbates existing racial tension.

Holland incidentally has its fair share of problems with immigration. The country had an open door policy in the 1980s and 1990s which saw large numbers of people arriving from Turkey and Morocco. The authorities are now trying to reverse the policy due to its unpopularity.

Mr Wilders has made a great deal of political capital out of people's fears about the growing immigrant population. His words about Islam are offensive to Muslims and undoubtedly controversial.

The question though remains; should you defend the right for people to say things that some people find offensive in the name of freedom of speech? (...)