On March 15, Jürgen Habermas gave a lecture at the University of Tilburg, the Netherlands, on "The Post-Secular Society. What does it mean?"
After the lecture the audience was interested in what he had to say about an impending anti-Islam film by right-wing parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who has been threatening for some months now to publish a film in which a copy of the Qur'an is burned. Wilders has argued the Qur'an should be banned for inciting hate and violence, and he wants a stop to all immigration from non-western countries.
When Habermas was asked to speak about Geert Wilders' phantom film, he said one should first distinguish between the constitutional or legal issues related to this announcement, on the one hand, and political issues, on the other. "There is nobody in this room who would disagree with the constitutional principle of freedom of press as one of our most important basic rights, which often even trumps other basic rights."
Habermas believes Wilders announced the film in such a way that it is obvious he intends to arouse or polarise public opinion. "It's hard to think this effect is not intended." As for whether there were competing rights that might be violated by the film, Habermas points out such cases often involve libel, harm to third persons, or disruption of public order. "I'm not a lawyer, and this has to be proved purely on legal terms and we hope that both the minister and courts, if it comes to that, handle it correctly."
"My first and only question would be why would you, Mr Wilders, think it is necessary to continue the provocations you had in this country with very severe consequences? This is a totally political question. What is the reason? In 1968 we had students, my own students too, who were systematically violating certain rules for the purpose of provocation."
Citing the older generation's silence about Germany's crimes against humanity at the time and the tabloid press reaction to the shooting death of a student protester, Habermas says: "I think at that time, most of the students had very good reasons to provoke".
Addressing Wilders, Habermas says: "I would ask him for his reasons to make the provocation, presupposing that there is no need for any provocation, if there is no issue which has only now to be brought to public attention. Provocation can be justified in terms of the situation where the issue at stake can only get necessary public attention through this provocation."
(From article by Marijke van der Meer, Radio Nederlands)
This info was kindly provided by Thomas Gregersen