When it comes to the right to speak one’s mind about Islam, the record of the last few years makes it clear which direction the West is moving in. In France and Italy, Oriana Fallaci is put on trial for disparaging Islam. In Canada, Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant are hauled before “human rights commission” tribunals for criticizing Islam in print. In Australia, an Islamic organization sues two pastors for “vilification of Muslims.” In Britain, a Daily Telegraph columnist is arrested on charges of hate speech for having written negatively about Islam, and the Archbishop of Canterbury proposes that Parliament pass stronger laws against such speech acts. And in the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, the head of the Freedom Party, which performed so well in the June 9 general elections that Wilders may end up in the governing coalition, still faces trial for having made a film about the Koranic foundations of terrorism.
Then there’s Norway, where I live, and where the last few days have seen yet another dark development. By way of background, permit me to begin by quoting myself. On pages 230-31 of my book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom I sum up the more alarming aspects of Norway’s Discrimination Law, passed in 2005:
It forbids “harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs,” and, in turn, defines harassment as “actions, omissions, or utterances [my emphasis] that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating.”
In other words, it’s illegal just to say certain things.
Defendants may be accused not only by the individuals whom they’ve supposedly offended but also by semiofficial organs such as the Anti-Racist Center and the Center against Ethnic Discrimination (both of which helped formulate the law, and both of which exist less to oppose real racism and discrimination than to oppose political incorrectness generally) or by the government’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud.
Which means that a handful of far-left organizations have been given enormous power to silence those they disagree with.
Violations of the law by individuals are punishable by fine; violations by individuals in concert with at least two other persons (such as a writer conspiring with an editor and publisher, perhaps?) can be punished by up to three years’ imprisonment — this in a country where murderers often get off with less. Moreover, the burden of proof is on the accused: you’re guilty until proven innocent.
And this in a supposedly free country.