Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Belgium: 6 Months in Jail for "Stop Islamization" Banner

Caption: Banners in question at another protest in February of last year 

If you think Belgians enjoy the same freedom of speech as we do in America, this story might interest you. Four members of a Flemish separatist organization in Belgium have been sentenced to 6 months in jail for displaying banner that read, "Stop Islamization" with caricatures of women in burkas and face coverings. A Belgian court has ruled that this was an incitement to hate.

The below article from VRT News (Be) is translated from Dutch by Fousesquawk. We are also working on English subtitles for the enclosed video.

Four members of radical-right group, Voorpost, sentenced for inciting hate and violence because of banner, "Stop Islamization"

The criminal court of Mechelen has sentenced four members of the radical-right organization, Voorpost, for incitement toward hate and violence during a protest in May of last year. On a banner under the words, "Stop Islamization", were pictured some women in burkas or niqabs, and this combination, according to the court, went too far. Various Parliament members from Vlaams Belang (party) have protested against the verdict in Mechelen.

It was on Saturday 30 May, 2020 on the Saturday Market in Mechelen that the radical-right organization, Voorpost, held a protest against what they say is Islamization. There some members also held a banner with the words, "Stop Islamization". Under the words was a row of women wearing niqabs and a second row of women with burkas.

According to the criminal court in Mechelen, that banner went too far. "By having such signs and banners, the accused have the aim of instilling fear and creating hate in society by convincing onlookers of the idea that possibly in the future, Islam will dominate Flanders, " the verdict reads.

They sketch an imagined danger whereby each woman, as a result of this so-called Islamization, will be forced to wear a burka or niqab, or that every woman, as a result, will wear a burka or niqab. Such ideas attempt to feed on the fear of the hate against Muslim society or to awaken it, so that (others) will be incited to engage in similar hateful and fear-mongering behaviors, said the court.

The four members of Voorpost are all sentenced to 6 months imprisonment. For three of them. this was postponed, for one the sentence was in effect. Their lawyer, Luc Deceuninck, will now look into whether they will appeal. But that seems probable. "This was just freedom of speech, a political statement, nothing else," says Deceuninck in an initial reaction to the judgment.

"If someone says stop Islamization, they are not saying stop Islam. They are saying: Stop the pervasive influence of certain Islamic customs in our society. That is what they mean. The court actually did not answer our arguments," said the displeased lawyer.

Vlaams Belang campaigns for free speech

Several parliamentarians from Vlaams Belang have protested in Mechelen against the verdict of the criminal court of Mechelen. On the Grand Market they unfurled banners with the same message, filled in with posters with the message, "Stop censorship". 

The criminal conviction of the four Voorpost-activists is far beyond a miscarriage of justice. This is an attack on free speech, democracy, and the possibility of carrying on opposition. The resistance against Islamization is not an incitement to hate or violence. That is just freedom of speech. That is protecting what is dear to us, our identity," said Vlaams Belang chairman, Tom Van Grieken in "The Journal".

Among those present were most of the leaders of the party, such as chairman Tom Van Grieken, federal group leader Barbara Pas, European Parliament member Gerolf Annemans, and some 25  Parliament members, including Flemish Parliament members Filip Dewinter, Sam Van Rooy, Anke Van Dermeersch, and Guy D'haeseleer.

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