If elections were held in the Netherlands today, polls predict that Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom could win more votes than any other formation. Since breaking away from the Liberal Party in 2004, Wilders has rapidly drawn support from all sectors of the population. And yet, the 45 year-old MP--sentenced to death for blasphemy by offended Muslims--has been living under 24/7 protection for the past three years. Far from defending Wilders right to free speech, the Dutch government is allowing a lawsuit against him for hate speech to be heard in the courts. And reputable media of all stripes commonly present Wilders as a “far right extremist xenophobe.” His offenses are ticked off—he disseminated “Fitna,” a “provocative” film that links terrorism to Islam; he says Islam is not a religion, Muslim immigration should be halted and if Mein Kampf is banned in Holland the Qu’ran should be banned too.
Is the “extremist” label useful? Does it help us evaluate Wilders’ credibility on the issues he addresses or does it serve to hide the essential truth of a life and death struggle between Islam and the free world? If Wilders is an extremist, the dangers he warns about can be downgraded. If his objections to Islam are motivated by xenophobia, wouldn’t it be normal for Muslims to react with indignation?
Let us peel off the label and take a close look at the man. Wilders, a frequent visitor to the United States, was the guest of honor at the April 25 - 28 Free Speech Summit organized by the Florida Security Council [www.FloridaSecurityCouncil.org/events] where he spoke to enthusiastic standing-room audiences. Wilders is not a rabble-rouser. He handles a red hot issue - Islam - with dignity. His arguments are rational, not emotional. They are based on ample documentation and broad experience, and he formulates them with political acumen. Wilders stands in defense of liberty against what he calls the totalitarian ideology of Islam and the cowardly surrender of European leaders. Shouldn’t he be allowed to speak freely?
Lord Nazir Ahmed threatened to send 10,000 Muslim protestors into the streets of London if Wilders--invited by Baroness Caroline Cox and Lord Malcolm Pearson--were allowed to present his film, “Fitna” in the House of Lords last February. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith got the message. Wilders was refused entry.
Wilders never fails to mention his gratitude toward American authorities who place no obstacles to his frequent visits to the United States, a country he loves for its freedom. But Islamic intimidation emerged in Florida. Citing “security issues,” the Delray Beach Marriott franchise, owned by Michael and Mark Walsh of Ocean Resorts, broke its contract with the Florida Security Council two weeks before a scheduled dinner. After the Florida Security Council president, Tom Trento, investigated and found that no security threat had been detected, the Marriott replied, “We just don’t want you here.” A CAIR front organization, “United Voices for America,” approached the Florida GOP with a request for the removal of House majority leader Adam Hasner as punishment for attending a private dinner with Wilders. And the ADL upbraided the Dutch MP with a barrage of misguided respect for Islam.
What does Wilders have in common with other victims of death threats-- Somali-Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, French professor Robert Redeker (http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/refugee-in-his-own-country-february-09-france-islam-rushdie-threats), Indian writer Salman Rushdie, Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard? None of them is an extreme right wing fanatic. What they share are negative opinions about Islam. Such opinions are permissible in the free world. And prohibited by Islam. Are Dutch citizens, voting in ever greater numbers for Wilders’ Party of Freedom, right wing fanatic extremists? Or honest people concerned about the rapid Islamization of their native land?
The massive influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe over the past three decades cannot be compared, either culturally or demographically, with the diverse waves of immigration that have shaped European--and American-- societies. Apologists for Muslim immigration, who remind us that earlier waves of refugees suffered from discrimination and have now blended into our nations, are missing the point. Yes, immigrants were often slandered, mocked, and rejected. They were, even in the best of times, subjected to limitations, quotas, sanitary screening, financial and occupational requirements. And citizens of our democratic nations who opposed immigration were free to thrash out the issues in public and defend their positions. They were not stabbed, slaughtered, bombed, or silenced by death threats.
Whether one believes that Muslim immigration is another beautiful opportunity for diversity or an existential threat to Western civilization, there can be no doubt that western European nations are fast reaching a demographic tipping point on the path to becoming Muslim-dominated societies. These countries have already undergone a radical transformation of daily life. Again, some sing the praises of this Islamization, others warn of its dire consequences, but no one can deny that it is underway. Drawing on the works of Bat Ye’or and former imam Samuel Solomon, Wilders reminds us that this immigration fulfills a sacred obligation for Muslims to immigrate and transform host societies until the entire world submits to Allah.
Holland’s permissive social policies—open drug use in “coffee shops,” shop-window prostitution, euthanasia, gay rights, sexual freedom, live and let live tolerance--have collided with the sharia ethics espoused by a large and growing Muslim immigrant population. It is the realities on the ground—the assassination of Pim Fortuyn, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the death threats to Ayaan Hirsi Ali and to Wilders himself, and the constant intimidation and widespread criminality - and not some shameful rejection of “others” that leads Dutch voters to support the Party of Freedom.
Geert Wilders may represent a new breed in European politicians, capable of mobilizing the forces of self-defense in a country known for its progressive values. His strength lies precisely in placing the issue of Islamization at the center of his political platform. He does not apologize for his ideas, does not try to disguise them or tuck them in surreptitiously while singing the praises of diversity and pretending we are all alike. He forthrightly rejects cultural relativism, unashamedly defends Western civilization, and unambiguously supports Israel.
Unlike his European counterparts--and it would seem the current American administration--Wilders does not condition his support for Israel on painful concessions and forced surrender to questionable peace plans that would in fact spell the death of the Jewish state. His opposition to Islam is based on values, not on the rejection of Muslims as people. His defense of Israel and the United States—highly unpopular in Europe-- is not opportunistic pandering to Jewish voters and influential Americans; it is based on shared values and a clear sense of right and wrong. At Free Speech Summit events Wilders elicited standing ovations from Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, blacks, whites, Asians
In a private conversation I asked Geert Wilders the European question: “tell me about your family.” It means: “where were they during WWII and the Holocaust.” Wilders was born in the southeastern town of Venlo, population 60,000. The east bank of the Maas River that divides the town is a few miles from the German border. Wilders’ father was in the Resistance. His grandfather was arrested.
And what took him to Israel at the callow age of 18? He was attracted by the beautiful Israeli girls. He lived for several years near Jericho at a time when cross-border attacks from Jordan often sent residents into the shelters. He returned to Holland, studied, worked, and became interested in politics when he saw things “going in the wrong direction.” His association with the Liberal Party, first as speech writer for Frits Bolkestein, then as a Member of Parliament, gave him the opportunity to travel extensively in the Middle East. As a young MP in 1998 he proposed legislation to curb Muslim immigration. “People thought I was crazy, but after 9/11 some remembered ”
We talked about the situation in other European countries. Cautious, well-informed, and determined to maintain his integrity, Wilders concentrates on coalescing power in his home base and avoiding questionable alliances. He has more to gain by developing his vibrant trans-Atlantic contacts than in seeking alliances at this point with any European party.
One of Wilders’ most virulent French critics, NoÃ«l Blandin of La RÃ©publique des Lettres, lumps him with “Islamophobes such as Oriana Fallaci, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Robert Redeker.” Accusing Wilders of “actively defending ‘Western values’ in his diatribes,” Blandin call him a “militant Zionist,” with ties to the Israeli secret services, who often visits Jerusalem, and regularly proposes legislation inspired by “racist Israeli laws.”
Europeans who saw enraged Muslims march through their streets in January shouting Death to the Jews, who see their police retreat and their governments surrender under Islamic pressure, are not convinced that the danger comes from a leader like Wilders who stands firm in the defense of Western values; the danger comes from European politicians who recklessly court the Islamic vote to the detriment of all citizens, whatever their origin or beliefs.