Right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who called the Quran "fascist" and compared it to Hitler’s "Mein Kampf," didn’t incite hate of Muslims, a court in the Netherlands has ruled in a case seen by some as a test of free speech.
And the judge said that while Wilders' 17-minute film "Fitna" — which attempts to show that the Quran motivates its followers to hate — was "hurtful" and "shocking," it did qualify as free speech.
Wilders, 47, who has received numerous death threats and has to live under 24-hour guard, argued that he was exercising his right to freedom of speech when criticizing Islam.
With his dyed blond hair, Wilders — whose Freedom Party is now the third-largest in the Dutch parliament, a measure of support for its anti-immigrant stance — is one of the most outspoken critics of Islam and immigration in the Netherlands.
Wilders said he would continue to speak out against what he called the threat of Islam, the BBC reports.
"The good news is it's legal to be critical about Islam," he said. "And this is something that we need, because the Islamisation of our societies is a major problem and a threat to our freedom. And I'm allowed to say so."
The ruling against Wilders may strengthen his political influence and exacerbate tensions, Reuters writes, adding that he has already won concessions from the government on cutting immigration and introducing a ban on Muslim face veils and burqas.
"This means that his political views are condoned by law, his political rhetoric has been legalized," said Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam's Free University.
"This has made him stronger politically. He is needed for a political majority, he is basically vice prime minister without even being in the government."
Minorities groups said they would now take the case to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, arguing the ruling meant the Netherlands had failed to protect ethnic minorities from discrimination.