Geert Wilders
Member of Parliament, The Netherlands

Geert Wilders has released a controversial film about Islam which no TV company would broadcast and some politicians in the Netherlands tried to ban.

The Dutch MP has upset the Muslim world before, by calling for a ban on the Koran and likening it to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Nicknamed "Mozart" because of his mane of platinum blond hair, he was voted politician of the year in 2007 by the Dutch political press, partly because of his "well-timed one-liners".

But his opponents see him as a provocateur and a disillusioned colleague describes him as "the most stubborn man I've ever met".

His stance has created problems for the Dutch government, which fears a re-run of the cartoon furor in the Muslim world. Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has complained of the danger to Dutch companies, soldiers and residents abroad.

When asked about the impact of his film, Mr. Wilders told a TV interviewer: "It's not the aim of the movie but people might be offended, I know that. So, what the hell? It's their problem, not my problem".

Born in the Limburg town of Venlo in 1963, Geert Wilders came from a Catholic background and went to a Catholic secondary school. He is no longer religious and once told a friend he knew little about Easter, despite regularly speaking out on the Netherlands' Judeo-Christian heritage.

The son of a printing company director, his own career began in social and health insurance. It was socio-economic policy that brought him into politics, as a speech-writer for the liberal VVD party. The VVD was also home to ethnic Somali politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose views on Islam have often been compared with those of Mr. Wilders.

He was elected as city councilor in Utrecht in 1997 and MP the following year. Because of his party's support for Turkish entry into the European Union, he left the liberals in 2002 and struck out on his own. He has prompted comparisons with Pim Fortuyn, the maverick political leader who famously described Islam as a backward religion. Fortuyn was murdered by an animal rights activist in 2002, shortly before an election.

But it was in November 2004 that Mr. Wilders' career dramatically changed with the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist, Mohammed Bouyeri.

Together with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Van Gogh had produced the short film Submission, which featured an actress in see-through clothing with Koranic script on her body.
Although he had no involvement in the film, Mr Wilders was now to have a permanent bodyguard, in common with Ms Hirsi Ali, because of their outspoken views on Islam.

He set up his Freedom Party (PVV), later attracting widespread political support for his call for a ban on the burqa - which covers most of the body - even though the measure would have affected only around 50 women.

Mr. Wilders' greatest success was in picking up nine seats in the Dutch parliament in 2006 elections, and securing 20% of the vote in his home town of Venlo.
But he has never achieved the same high ratings in the opinion polls as the late Pim Fortuyn. And lawyer Gerard Spong, a friend of Fortuyn's, argues Mr. Wilders is very different. "Geert Wilders... incites hatred against Muslims, and Pim did not do that: he had sex with Moroccan boys in dark rooms," he told Dutch television.

Mr. Wilders is adamant that he is not a racist. "We have to learn and defend who we are," he says.

He is married to a Hungarian woman he met at the Hungarian embassy in The Hague.

Dutch conservative TV presenter Bart Jan Spruyt got to know him when he set up the Freedom Party, becoming his speech-writer and freelance adviser.
"
I have to admit it was the most naive thing I've ever done in my life," says Mr. Spruyt of his brief period with the party. "Mr. Wilders is a very gifted and talented politician. All TV programs are about his movie: he knows how to play with the media, how to dominate the public debate. The problem was and is that he is a monomaniac, but not in a pejorative sense."

In other words, he is a politician 24/7. Bart Jan Spruyt says you cannot talk to Geert Wilders about novels or music because politics is his life and he is also unwilling to co-operate with others. "It's He, Himself, Him," he says.
And he can understand why. The presenter remembers walking with Mr. Wilders surrounded by six bodyguards to the MP's room, which he likened to a furnished cell at a suburban bank.

From that perspective, he could understand that the politician's mind was focused on the death threats against him.

But Mr. Wilders' politics were not always about Islam. In 2005, he was one of the leading campaigners for a Dutch No vote against the European Constitution, arguing that it limited national sovereignty.

In March 2006, Mr. Wilders told the BBC that he thought that 5-15% of Dutch Muslims were sympathetic to radical Islam. "I believe we have been too tolerant of the intolerant. We should learn to become intolerant of the intolerant," he said. "People like Mohammed Bouyeri who killed Theo van Gogh, they should be arrested under administrative detention for the safety of Dutch families."

He has seen administrative detention without trial used in Israel, which he has visited on many occasions.

The Dutch Muslim community has reacted to Mr. Wilders in different ways, according to National Moroccan Council Chairman Mohamed Rabbae. He says there are those who think he is a friend of Israel and the Israeli embassy. Some see him more as an opportunist promoting fear and hate, while a minority does not see him as an enemy at all.
"He's a little bit crazy because he's giving the impression to some people that he's going to combat Islam," says Mr. Rabbae. "He's a kind of Don Quixote, fighting against things and presenting goals which will never happen."
Like Mr. Spruyt, Mohamed Rabbae believes Mr. Wilders may have become isolated by the limitations imposed by living with bodyguards.

The controversy has parallels with the row over the Danish cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad. Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen was quick to criticize Mr. Wilders when the Dutch MP went on Danish TV to praise the prime minister's stance on freedom of expression.


Writings by Geert Wilders  (View Biography)

Title Date
Geert Wilders: "In My Opinion, Islam Is Not a Religion"2017/09/16
The Europe We Want2017/09/03
Selling Out Pentecost to Islam2017/06/02
Debate in Dutch Parliament about President Trump2017/02/02
Wilders to Prime Minister Rutte: Stop Deceiving the People2017/01/24
Speech by Geert Wilders at the "Europe of Nations and Freedom" Conference2017/01/22
Political Revolution Is Brewing in Europe2016/12/21
Reaction of Geert Wilders to His Conviction2016/12/09
Final Statement of Geert Wilders at his Trial2016/11/23
Reaction of Geert Wilders to Penal Demand of Public Prosecutor2016/11/17
Wilders's Plan: Time for Liberation2016/11/09
Let's Lock The Door To Islam2016/09/29
Give Women the Right to Defend Themselves2016/01/13
Declaration of Geert Wilders before the Court2015/11/26
Muhammad Cartoons shown on Dutch TV2015/06/25
Defending Freedom of Speech2015/05/21
Statement of Geert Wilders during His Interrogation by the State Police2014/12/09
Stop Denying the Obvious: Islam is a Problem2014/09/26
Geert Wilders: "War Has Been Declared against Us"2014/09/04
The Terrorists Are Among Us2014/06/30
The First Amendment Is What We Need in Europe2012/05/01
Final Remarks of Geert Wilders at His Trial in Amsterdam, June 1st, 20112011/06/01
Final remarks by Geert Wilders at his trial in Amsterdam, May 2nd, 20112011/05/02
Pre-Trial hearing: "If Something Is True, Can It Be Punishable?"2010/01/20
European Update (Excerpts)2009/06/16
Human Rights Exist for the Protection of Individuals, Not Religions and Ideologies (Excerpts)2009/04/30
Free Speech Behind Bars?2009/03/02
Geert Wilders Speech in House of Lords if He Would Not Have Been Banned from the United Kingdom2009/02/13
Protect People, Not Religions2009/01/27
Facing Jihad2008/12/16
"Wilders is Hitler"2008/11/03
New Threats To Free Speech2008/10/27