Several European governments have made it clear to their citizens that criticizing European migrant policies or migrants is criminally off-limits and may lead to arrest, prosecution and even convictions. Although these practices constitute police state behavior, European governments do not stop there. They go still farther, by ensuring that Islam in general is not criticized either.
Finland is the European country most recently to adopt the way that European authorities sanction those who criticize Islam. According to the Finnish news outlet YLE, the Pirkanmaa District Court found the Finns Party politician, Terhi Kiemunki, guilty of "slandering and insulting adherents of the Islamic faith" in a blog post of Uusi Suomi. In it, she claimed that all the terrorists in Europe are Muslims. The Court found that when Kiemunki wrote of a "repressive, intolerant and violent religion and culture," she meant the Islamic faith.
During the trial, Kiemunki was asked why she did not make a distinction between Islam and radical Islam. She replied that she meant to refer to the spread of Islamic culture and religion, and that she "probably should have" spoken of radicalized elements of the religion instead of the faith as a whole. Kiemunki was fined 450 euros. Her lawyer has appealed the verdict.
Kiemunki issued a press release after the verdict, in which she said:
"I am still of the view that declaring statistical facts or even sharing an opinion is not a crime if someone doesn't like it... I wrote that I don't want our country to be overtaken by a culture and law based on a violent, intolerant and oppressive religion."
According to YLE, she added that her essay did not generalize about Muslims, but pointed out that not all Muslims are terrorists. "In these times, specifically in the recent past and today, all of the perpetrators of terrorist acts have turned out to be Muslim," she said.
So in Finland, since the court's decision, citizens are now required to make a distinction, entirely fictitious, between "Islam" and "radical Islam," or else they may find themselves prosecuted and fined for "slandering and insulting adherents of the Islamic faith." As Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "These descriptions are very ugly, it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it." There are extremist Muslims and non-extremist Muslims, but there is only one Islam.
It is a pity that Kiemunki did not present the court with quotes from the Quran, such as, "Fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them..." (9:5), and "So fight them until there is no more fitna [strife] and all submit to the religion of Allah." (8:39). Perhaps, then, the court could have at least tried to explain to the public in more concrete detail the differences between "Islam" and "radical Islam."
In the Netherlands, a state-funded hotline, run by the anti-discrimination bureau MiND, said that it could not act on a complaint about death threats against homosexuals posted to an online forum, in which the Muslim poster called for homosexuals to be "burned, decapitated and slaughtered." The reason why this anti-discrimination watchdog group could not act on the complaint was that, "The remarks must be seen in the context of religious beliefs in Islam, which juridically takes away the insulting character." MiND concluded that the remarks were made in
"the context of a public debate about how to interpret the Quran... some Muslims understand from the Quran that gays should be killed... In the context of religious expression that exists in the Netherlands there is a large degree of freedom of expression. In addition, the expressions are used in the context of the public debate (how to interpret the Koran), which also removes the offending character."
So, while Geert Wilders was prosecuted in the Netherlands for talking about "fewer Moroccans" during an election campaign, a state-funded watchdog group says that threatening homosexuals with burning, decapitation and slaughter is just fine, so long as it is Muslims who are making those threats, as the Quran tells them that such behavior is mandated. This might be one of the most astounding examples of voluntary submission to sharia law in the West thus far.
A spokesman for the MiND hotline later admitted that, after "further research" on the issue, it had concluded that the complaint had been "unjustly assessed" -- after Dutch MPs called for the hotline to be stripped of public funding.
In February 2016, a Danish district court found a man guilty of making statements on Facebook that the court found to be "insulting and demeaning towards adherents of Islam." The man had written:
"The ideology of Islam is as loathsome, disgusting, oppressive and as misanthropic as Nazism. The massive immigration of Islamists into Denmark is the most devastating thing to happen to Danish society in recent history."
He was fined for "racism." The High Court subsequently overturned the verdict in May 2016. The court found that the man was in fact innocent of racism, as his statements were "directed at the ideology of Islam and Islamism."
It is troubling that Western governments are so eager to crack down on anything that vaguely resembles what has erroneously been termed "Islamophobia," which literally means an irrational fear of Islam. Considering the violence we have been witnessing, it would be irrational not to have fear of its threats. As Shabnam Assadollahi recently pointed out in an open letter to Canadian Members of Parliament, there are quite a few things in Islam of which one legitimately ought to be fearful.
All these governments need to do is consult the speeches of one of the most influential living Islamic scholars of Sunni Islam, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi hosts one of Al Jazeera's most popular programs, Sharia and Life, which reaches an estimated 60 million viewers worldwide. Already in 1995, Qaradawi told a Muslim Arab Youth Association convention in Toledo, Ohio, "We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America! Not through the sword, but through dawa [outreach]."
Dawa, the Islamic call to conversion, is the Islamic summons for the non-violent conquest of non-Muslim lands, including Europe. As explained by Qaradawi in a recording from 2007, the aim of the conquest consists mainly the introduction of sharia law. According to Qaradawi, sharia law should be inserted gradually, over a five-year period in a new country, before implementing it in full. This sharia law includes chopping off hands for theft; killing apostates and homosexuals, denigrating and oppressing women, as in polygamy, beating them as a means of "disciplining" them, and so on. For those Westerners who have studied Islam and listened to what the most influential Islamic scholars have to say, there is quite a bit to be "phobic" about. It would be refreshing to hear the views of European leaders and courts on these aspects of sharia law instead of their almost ritual condemnations of those who have actually studied Islamic sources and seek to raise awareness of the nature of sharia law.
While prosecuting and sanctioning people who criticize Islam is becoming more common in Europe, this practice used to be reserved only for Muslim countries officially governed by sharia law, such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan, where it is forbidden to insult Islam.
It is a pity that European courts and other state bodies have begun taking their cues from Islamic law. Apparently, European judges and politicians are no longer capable of appreciating the immense freedoms that used to be the norm on the continent, and which they seem all too willing, of their own free will, to abolish.
John Richardson is a researcher based in the United States.