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IN LANDMARK SPEECH AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NYC — Oct. 21, 2009
Ladies and gentlemen, it is a privilege and a great honour for me to speak at this fine academic institution, which gave the world so many Nobel Prize winners. As a Dutchman, I am proud that your first Nobel laureate, in 1906, was of Dutch descent: The youngest President of the United States: Theodore Roosevelt.
I thank Columbia University for inviting me, and I also thank the US border police for allowing me to enter this great country of democracy, liberty and free speech. Ladies and gentlemen, today, the dearest of our many liberties is under attack all throughout Europe. Free speech is no longer a given. What we once considered a natural element of our existence, our birth right, is now something we once again have to fight for.
I would not qualify myself as a free man. 5 years ago I lost my personal freedom. Since then I am under 24-hour police protection. In addition some people tried to rob my freedom of speech: A Dutch Islamic organization tried to stop the appearance of my documentary ‘Fitna’. Because of ‘Fitna’ the most radical Dutch imam claimed 55.000 Euros in compensation for his hurt feelings. The State of Jordan is possibly going to issue a request for my extradition, to stand trial in Amman. I have been charged in France.
In my own country, the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal overruled the decision of the Dutch public prosecutor not to prosecute me. So, now I have to stand trial in my own country, next January.
But, it is not about me. I am not the only European who fights for freedom of speech, there are so many more: The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard made a Muhammad-cartoon and all of a sudden we were in the middle of the so called ‘Danish cartoon crisis’. The Italian author Oriana Fallaci had to live in fear of extradition to Switzerland because of her book The Rage and the Pride. An Austrian politician, Susanne Winter, was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence because she spoke bluntly about the prophet Muhammad. The Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot was arrested by 10 police men because of his drawings. And the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh was brutally murdered in the streets of Amsterdam by a radical Muslim.