Geert Wilders – Islamophobe extraordinary
Searchlight, September 2007
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net profiles the controversial Dutch politician
GEERT WILDERS, leader of the right-wing populist Freedom Party, crashed his way into the headlines again on 8 August with an open letter in the newspaper Volkskrant, calling for the Koran to be banned.
The previous weekend Ehsan Jami, a former Muslim who is trying to establish an organisation to defend the right of people to turn their back on Islam, was beaten up after months of threats against his life. For Wilders, a former MP for the right-wing liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), this unpleasant incident was the perfect opportunity to launch his latest assault on Islam.
Since winning nine seats in the 150-seat parliament in the general election of November 2006, the Freedom Party, and Wilders especially, has been busy poisoning the political atmosphere with Islamophobic statements.
After warning of an “Islamic tsunami” hitting the Netherlands and claiming that “the Dutch culture is a thousand times better than the Islamic”, Wilders targeted the Koran at the beginning of this year when he called on Muslims to tear out half its pages. This caused uproar inside and outside the country and questions to be raised by the Saudi ambassador.
Attacking half the book is no longer enough, it seems. In his open letter Wilders says: “This fascist book, in which the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed is written down, has to be banned, just like Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I have had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands.” He adds: “No Muslim immigrants should enter our country any more.”
When the Iranian ambassador criticised Wilders’s policy as not constructive in any way and serving nobody’s interests, Wilders reacted by calling Iran a country of villains and telling the ambassador to back off. Egypt has also condemned Wilders. An official letter from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wilders’s plan was “a sign of racism among certain European politicians and showed a profound lack of knowledge of Islam”.
Every public display of Islam, especially headscarves and mosques, annoys Wilders. He does not believe that moderate Islam exists and fiercely attacks any proposals to promote or strengthen moderates. It is his firm belief that Islam and the culture of immigrants with an Islamic background are not and will never be compatible with the “values of Dutch society”.
To gain attention for his socially divisive message, Wilders is becoming increasingly strident. After Moroccan supporters invaded a pitch at an international friendly match between the Dutch and Moroccan under-21 teams, he suggested shooting rioting football hooligans in the knees. When Dutch hooligans run amok as they did several times last season, Wilders and his eight fellow MPs are silent.
Wilders’s wild comments have left him isolated among politicians but probably supported by many voters. If there were another general election now his party could win 16 to 20 seats. Isolation does not bother him and he riles against the political elite.
The Dutch coalition government has distanced itself from Wilders’s call to ban the Koran in an attempt to avoid the type of uproar that occurred in Denmark in 2006 after the publication of anti-Muslim cartoons in a newspaper. An official statement by Ella Vogelaar, the Minister for Integration, declared, “it has to be absolutely clear that a ban on the Koran is not happening in the Netherlands and will never happen”. Nevertheless Wilders continues to damage relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. His words, says Vogelaar, “are insulting to most Muslims”.
Other parliamentary parties too are racing to dissociate themselves from Wilders and two lawyers have independently filed a complaint against him for “inciting racial hatred and violence between various groups in society”.
It is a measure of Wilders’s extremism that even Philip Dewinter, leader of the right-wing extremist Vlaams Belang in neighbouring Flanders, does not back his “useless” proposal to outlaw the Koran and says that freedom of speech should prevail as a European value. The British National Party also thinks it pointless to ban the Koran. Its press officer Stuart Russell argues that it is better to oppose the building of new mosques than to ban a book that is available on the internet anyway.
Wilders himself still lives in a safe house and is heavily guarded because of continuing threats on his life. His policy will undoubtedly adversely affect community integration, further separating communities. It may radicalise young people of migrant origin, prompting those of Dutch descent to answer Wilders’s call to defend “superior Dutch society” against the “invasion of Islam’. In such a scenario Wilders and his Freedom Party are likely to benefit.