Freedom of speech is under threat today. Not only in Europe, where I come from. But also here, in America.
The last time I was in the United States was less than two weeks ago. I was in Garland, Texas, where I gave the keynote speech at a contest of Muhammad cartoons.
The contest was held in a conference center, where after the Paris Charlie Hebdo assassinations, an Islamic organization had convened to demand that freedom of speech be restricted and Muhammad cartoons be forbidden. The Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland was organized to make a stand against this demand. We should never allow ourselves to be intimidated.
Bosch Fawstin's winning entry in the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas, held on May 3, 2015. (Image source: Bosch Fawstin)
The winner of the Garland contest was a former Muslim. There was something very symbolic about the fact that he was an apostate. Under Islamic Sharia law, apostasy is punishable by death. Under the same law, making illustrations of the prophet Muhammad is also punishable by death.
The winner of the contest had made a picture of a fierce looking Muhammad, waving a sword. "You cannot draw me," Muhammad said. Underneath the picture, the artist had written: "That is exactly why I am drawing you!"
That is the true American spirit. This cartoonist is an example to us all.
Bosch Fawstin (second from left), the cartoonist who won the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Texas on May 3, is presented with his prize by (from left to right) Robert Spencer, Geert Wilders and Pamela Geller. (Image source: Atlas Shrugs blog)
Under Islamic Sharia law, depicting Muhammad is a crime. But as an American, the artist is not living in an Islamic country. He is living in America. And here, in America, you are allowed to make pictures and drawings, no matter what the Sharia says. And you are also allowed to change your religion and become an apostate. And we should allow no one ever to rob us of these freedoms. If America were to give in to Islamic law, it would no longer be America. Its Judeo-Christian values would be lost. Its civilization would be lost. Its freedoms would be lost.
The enemies of our civilization try to impose Sharia law on us. Barely a few minutes after I had given my speech in Garland, two jihadis attacked the event. They shot a police officer in the leg, but fortunately they were killed before they could do more harm. Through violence and terrorism, these two jihadis tried to impose Sharia law on America. Thanks to brave American policemen, they did not succeed.
We should never allow the terrorists to win. If we react to threats over cartoons by no longer making cartoons, the terrorists have won. But if we react by drawing and showing even more cartoons, the signal is clear: Terror has no effect on us. We will not be intimidated by terror and violence, by doing exactly the opposite of what terrorists want. The terrorist will have lost.
This is why I have invited the Garland Mohammed cartoon exhibition to be shown in the Parliament of the Netherlands. We should show it all over the free world. In Europe and America, Canada, Australia, in the entire free West -- we have to stand up for freedom and make a stand against Islam.
Before I continue, allow me to tell you a little bit about myself.
I am an elected politician, a member of the House of Representatives in the Netherlands. I am the leader of the Party for Freedom. In the last general elections, we gained about 10% of the national vote. I speak on behalf of almost 1 million people. My party is not a marginal phenomenon. It is even the biggest party in a recent major national television poll.
However, I have been marked for death. I am on the death list of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic organizations, such as the Pakistani Taliban, and ISIS. For over ten years now, I have been living under 24/7 police protection. I have lived with my wife in army barracks, prison cells and safe houses, just to be safe. Wherever I go, armed policemen accompany me to protect me.
The jihadis want to kill me, but others want to silence me. Not by murdering me, but by legal or political harassment. They try to convict me in court or have me banned. All this is happening not in third-world dictatorships, as you might expect, but in Western democracies.
In my country, the Netherlands, I had to stand in court a few years ago because I spoke out against Islam and the Islamization of my country. Fortunately, I was acquitted. But now I have been charged again. And the only reason is that I have voiced my opinion. They call my speech "hate speech," but I do nothing else other than defending the Judeo-Christian values of our civilization and speaking the truth about Islam.
Two months ago, I was in Austria, where I spoke in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna about the threat of Islamization in Europe. Islamic organizations demanded that the Austrian authorities prosecute me for my words. And last month, I was in the German city of Dresden, where I addressed 15,000 people at a public rally. The public prosecutor had officers attend the meeting in order to listen to what I said, so that they could assess whether to charge me with incitement.
Is there a spy or a public prosecutor in this room? I don't think so. America does not muzzle people.
Two weeks ago, I was in Washington DC for a meeting with members of your Congress, at the invitation of congressmen who wanted to inform themselves about the situation in Europe. Two Muslim congressmen, Keith Ellison and André Carson, however, wanted to have me muzzled. They tried to have me banned from entering your country. They were unsuccessful. Because in America, people are still free to speak. And I have no doubt, Americans will never give up that freedom.
Because it is the essence of what makes America America! It is what makes America unique.
There is more at stake than our freedom of speech. Our very existence, our freedom to exist, is in danger. If we allow ourselves to be self-censored about anything we say about Islam, then soon Islam will start to tell us how to live, how to dress, how to breathe.
We will even lose the right to life if we do not follow Sharia's commands. If we give in to totalitarianism, we will lose everything, including our lives. That is how civilizations decay. That is how democracies perish.
It is our duty to ensure that this never happens.
Of course, I realize that while most terrorists today are Muslims, not all Muslims are terrorists. Of course, I realize that the terrorists are only a minority -- but they are many.
Research by the University of Amsterdam showed that 11% of the 1 million Muslims in the Netherlands are prepared to use violence for the sake of Islam. That is 100,000 people in a country of 17 million inhabitants.
The terrorists may be only a minority, but polls suggest that they have the support of the majority.
Surveys in my country revealed that 73% of the Islamic population in the Netherlands consider Muslims who go to Syria to fight in the jihad to be heroes. And 80% of the Turkish youths in the Netherlands do not think that the violence by groups such as ISIS against non-believers is wrong. Four out of five.
And may I ask: Where are the demonstrations of Muslims who do not agree with the violence committed in the name of Islam and its prophet? I have not seen any of them, have you? The majority may not commit violence, but they do not oppose it either.
We cannot put our heads in the sand and do as if all these facts do not exist. We have to face the reality.
In Nazi Germany, too, it was only a minority that committed the atrocities. But the majority allowed it to happen. In the Soviet Union, too, it was only a minority that committed the horrible crimes. But the majority allowed it to happen.
As Edmund Burke, the great philosopher of liberty, once said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
So, this is the first step towards safeguarding our freedoms: Realize the facts, speak out the truth, draw the conclusions, and act upon them. If we do not act, we are bound to lose.
In times like these, when our weak leaders close their eyes to the dangerous threat of totalitarian Islam, in times like these when the task of raising the alarm has fallen on ordinary citizens, in times like these, freedom of speech is more important than ever.
George Orwell once said: "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." That is why your First Amendment is so important. It is needed especially to protect the freedom of speech of those who speak the truth and are hated for it.
The words "hate speech" have a very specific meaning today. Criticizing Islam is considered hate speech nowadays. You are allowed to put a crucifix in a jar of urine. Or depict Israel as a Nazi state. That is not considered an act of hatred. But if you draw a picture of Muhammad or speak out again Islamization or tell the truth about Islam, you are considered to be an extremist, a hatemonger, a provocateur.
The fact is that the more Islam we get, the less free our societies become. During the past decades, our politicians allowed millions of Islamic immigrants to settle within our borders. They came with their culture and with their Sharia law. And now, they try to impose it on us. Instead of saying: 'If you come to our country, you have to adapt to us', our political leaders said: 'Keep your culture, we respect Islam and its sensitivities.' Nowhere the demand was made that the immigrants assimilate.
And now the European nations have fallen so deep that they enforce the Islamic taboos in their own laws. They call it a hate crime when freedom-loving people reject the Islamic taboos. Criticizing Islam has become hate speech, punishable by our own laws.
We are not only confronted with Islamization, but also with the folly of cultural relativism and the weak appeasement mentality of our political leaders. This cowardliness has to stop. If this situation continues to go on, it will lead us straight to catastrophe.
That is why I do what I do. I will not stand idly by and let our civilization and democracy perish. I speak out against Islam and I speak out against our weak leaders. I love my country, I love freedom, I do not want to live in slavery and that is why I speak out.
Without a First Amendment, the consequences for speaking out are harder than if you have a First Amendment. But nevertheless, our duty remains the same: In the name of freedom, we have to speak out. No matter the consequences. Because liberty and dignity, that is what we stand for.
The truth is our only weapon -- we must use it. Free speech is a fragile thing that must be boldly defended. So long as we are free to speak, we can tell people the truth and make them realize what is at stake. The West's political, academic, and media establishment are concealing from the people the true scope of the Islamic threat. We must spread the message. That is our first and most important duty.
If immigrants subscribe to our laws and values, they are welcome to stay and enjoy, as anybody else, all the rights our society guarantees; we will even help them to assimilate. But if they commit crimes, act against our laws, impose Sharia law on us, or wage jihad, we must expel them.
We have to stop pretending that Islam is a religion. Islam is a totalitarian ideology that aims to conquer the West. A free society should not grant freedom to those who want to destroy it. As Abraham Lincoln said: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves".
Every halal shop, every mosque, every Islamic school, and every burka is regarded by Islam as a step toward the ultimate goal of our submission.
And finally, we must remember that as Islam has global ambitions, we are all in danger. We should stand with every nation and every people who are threatened by jihad. This includes Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, whose conflict with the Arabs is not about land; it is a conflict between freedom and tyranny. We must all support Israel because we are all Israel. And we should never trust Islamic criminal regimes such as Iran. A treaty with the Islamic State of Iran about nuclear weapons is a travesty and a major threat to the security of Israel and the entire West.
I am from Europe. You are Americans, but we are all in the same boat. We should unite against our common adversary. The Islamic tide is strong, but the West has repulsed it before, and we can do so again.
Ronald Reagan said that "the future does not belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave."
So let us be brave. And secure the future.
This address was delivered in a slightly different form to the Gatestone Institute in New York City, May 12, 2015.