Hate-speech laws

Hate-speech laws
Posted on March 19, 2016 | Bob Barrigar | Written on March 19, 2016
Letter type:


Times of Israel

Author's Note:

Author's Note:

Geert Wilders is at it again. The headline reads "Dutch anti-Islam MP in court on hate speech charges", and the by-line reads "Geert Wilders’ statements against Moroccan immigrants could land him two years in prison". Viewable at


I take no position on this particular case. But I am troubled by the chronic failure of the law and the media to distinguish between several different but sometimes related categories of cases.

For example, in this Geert Wilders case, various of the following possible categories may apply to his statements:

Distrust all Moroccans and keep them out of the country.

Distrust all Muslim Moroccans and keep them out of the country.

Distrust all Muslims and keep them out of the country.

Some Moroccans pose a dangerous threat. Keep those Moroccans out of the country.

Some Muslims pose a dangerous threat. Keep those Muslims out of the country.

I say the foregoing, but I do not ask you to hate any of those people – they are the victims of their own environment and history. But I do say that they pose a threat to us; keep them out of the country.

Islam is an evil religion; no Islamic migrant should be admitted to the country.

The everyday Muslim, having no standard of comparison, may not be aware that Islamic jihadists use their religion as justification for acts of terror. But the fact remains that we may become the victims of that terror, and for that reason should take suitable measures to minimize the risk to ourselves, including barring admission to our country.

You may well be able to think of other categories that might apply.

Unfortunately, so-called "hate laws" or "anti-hate laws" often fail to distinguish between these various categories and others that you may think of. We have the same problem with Human Rights Tribunals. The burden of proof in many if not all of these Tribunals is this: was the complainant offended? If the answer is "yes", then a finding against the individual whose words offended the complainant follows. The legal expenses of the complainant are typically paid by the Tribunal. The accused individual has to pay her own expenses.

There is a huge difference between saying "Your religion strikes me as fomenting danger to infidels, me included" and "You and your tribe are unworthy individuals – get out of my country". Here’s hoping that our laws and institutions eventually recognize distinctions of this sort.

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retired patent attorney