Brussels 9/11: the end of free speech
Those who frequently roam the streets of Brussels can remember hardly a day on which there isn’t a demonstration for or against something outside one of the European offices. We’ve even had the garbage men whose brooms were the wrong size. On average, five hundred demos a year are approved in the European Union capital, approximately two per working-day.
As one would expect of a liberal democracy, only about once a year is a demo actually forbidden, and then only where the direct incitement of a felony is involved, and by felony I mean murder, child abuse or genocide. Otherwise, the most bizarre and absurd demos are routinely permitted.
Nevertheless, Brussels mayor Freddy Thielemans forbade a demo for the 11th of this month, the anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington. The demo, which included a minute’s silence for the victims of 9/11, had been announced as a protest against the on-going Islamicisation of Europe, and specifically against the introduction of Shariah law. It’s not an unpopular cause in Brussels – or in many other places. The ban didn’t go unnoticed (in German) in Europe and in America. Nor did the fact that, embarrassingly for mayor Thielemans, only two days earlier a demo by United for Truth, an organisation that claims that the US government and Mossad were behind the 9/11 attacks, had been permitted.
As political symbolism it’s a disaster, of course. In the “capital of Europe” the citizens of the European Union are prohibited from expressing concerns almost any sane man would consider valid, and with which he would probably be sympathetic. The picture of an utterly ruthless and detached autocracy emerges, and it is not attractive.
For his part, Thielemans explains his behaviour by raising the possibility that Muslims will feel insulted and could become violent, from which all manner of excess might ensue. And in addition, adds the mayor, the organisers of the forbidden demo don’t believe in “the compatibility of Islam and democracy”.
So that’s it. To be allowed to demonstrate in the capital of Europe we Europeans must demonstrate the correct belief “in the compatibility of Islam and democracy” ... along with a profound inability to notice the lack of similar beliefs in Saudi Arabia or Iran, I suppose. At least then we couldn’t be accused of being racists and xenophobes, both charges he brought against the demo organisers.
The background to the scandal is straightforward: Brussels has acquired such an extensive Muslim population that Flemish policemen who don’t have an extensive “immigration background” are given strict instructions not to eat or smoke in public during Ramadan. Right in Thielemans back yard, the very “Islamicisation of Europe” that the demonstration organisers sought to protest is advancing steadily. It’s a tragedy of which MR readers will know many other examples.
What’s in it for Thielemans, of course, is that by banning the 9/11 demonstration he can strengthen his political base among Brussels’ Muslims. But to his Flemish voters he proves what he denies: that a reaction to the Islamicisation of Europe could be neither racist nor xenophobic, but justified.
But there is more. The whole thing reminds us of that other “forbidden” demo in Brussels ... the one against the Danish Cartoons, when thousands of Muslims marched through the streets of Brussels, proclaiming their hatred of the West. That time mayor Thielemans turned a blind eye to the ignoring of the ban, and the police were ordered to remain in the barracks.
For a time it seemed that something similar might be arranged for the 9/11 demonstration. But it turned out to be a police trap. - a fact which can be verified via this rvt-television (the official Flemish broadcast) news report. Although the 9/11 demo remained forbidden, the police stated in advance that the demo would be “tolerated” if there would be no violence and if the demonstrators would simply stand still, and did not try to march through the streets of Brussels.
Then this happened at Schuman Square, in the shadow of the European parliament (video in Dutch). Meanwhile, mayor Thielemans had summoned police reinforcements from the city of Liege in French-speaking Wallonia. By the way, Liège’s nickname is the “ardent city”. This is no accident.
As you can see, the interviews by Frank Vanhecke, Vlaams Belang president and MEP, and by Filip Dewinter presiding MFP, were suddenly and brutally interrupted by the same French-speaking police from Liège. And while they were arresting the VB leaders these ardent enforcers of the law shouted “dirty Flemings” (“sales flamingants”) at their prisoners. More creepy details can be read in the Washington times . The injuries have been recorded on medical certificates.
I will take a moment now to address the friction perceived between SIOE and Vlaams Belang. In my opinion, and speaking as a non-Vlaams Belang member, but a Fleming and a free speech activist the call from SIOE for VB not to fly the flag of the Flemish nation, while all other European demonstrators apparently were allowed to fly their own national flags, seems discriminatory to me. Indeed, it’s not the fault of the Flemish that in Brussels the flying of the flag of the Flemish nation is more sensitive than elsewhere, and that the Muslim’s pejorative name for a fellow-Muslim who holds down a normal job instead of living off a mix of social benefits and “black economy” labour is “a Fleming”.
A more specific assessment of mayor Thielemans’ justification for his ban on the 9/11 demo was published by the Wall Street Journal - full text below. In addition, it should be understood that the mayor “mislaid” the original SIOE application, written in English, for the 9/11 demo in Brussels. Under Belgian law the language of the first document prevails, and determines the future route of actions through the legal process. With SIOE, the case could easily be “directed” to the French-speaking chamber of the Belgian State Council, instead of the Dutch-speaking chamber. This was taken to be detrimental to the English-speaking proponents’ case for free-speech, and they lost their bid to overrule the mayor’s decision.
For those who are interested, the original speeches of the forbidden Brussels demo can be read at the Stop the Islamisation of Europe site (SIOE) (Posted on September 16th, 2007).
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