The winding lines outside the church reminded me of the TSA; once inside, the metal detectors and pat-downs had me wondering if I’d taken a wrong turn and wound up at the airport. It’s not every day that security is required at church, but it’s also not every day that a prominent and controversial nationalist politician crosses the Atlantic to speak before a throng of American supporters.
Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders did just that this past Thursday at the Cornerstone Church in Nashville. There he delivered an ominously titled speech, “A Warning to America,” to a lily-white audience that must have exceeded one thousand; there were only a few dozen empty seats in this sprawling megachurch.
The event was organized by the newly formed Tennessee Freedom Coalition (TFC) a Tea Party-style, grassroots organization with broadly conservative goals. The group is not explicitly racial, though according to the issues page on its website, it does seek to “promote cultural cohesion by opposing illegal immigration,” which is a first step towards opposing non-Western immigration.
The TFC’s marketing efforts, which included radio ads and social media outreach, helped draw a huge crowd to see a European politician most Americans have never heard of. Another supporter of the event was the well-organized anti-Islam movement in the Nashville area which has made national headlines for opposing the construction of a mosque in nearby Murfreesboro and for introducing anti-Sharia legislation at the state level.
While the turnout was encouraging, the speech itself was uneven (you can read the full text here). Most American Renaissance readers are familiar with Mr. Wilders’s staunch opposition to Islam combined with indifference to the question of race. This speech was no different, with Mr. Wilders regularly railing against Islam as a “totalitarian ideology of hate and violence,” but never mentioning race.
At times, the speech seemed inappropriate for an American audience. For instance, Mr. Wilders said that “leaders who talk about immigration without mentioning Islam are blind. They ignore the most important problem Europe and America are facing. I have a message for them: It’s Islam, stupid!” While this may be a politically savvy approach for a conservative politician in Europe, in America, our immigration problems are not Islamization nearly so much as they are Hispanicization. Anyone who thinks Islam is “the most important problem” America faces is out of touch.
Fortunately, Mr. Wilders atoned for these timid remarks by calling for an outright end to immigration from non-Western countries to all of “our [Western] countries.” He boasted of how his party, through its role in a coalition government, has pushed through a restriction of immigration “from non-Western countries by up to 50 percent in the next four years.” He encouraged Americans to make similar efforts and “stop immigration from non-Western countries, which are mostly Islamic countries.” Though this last assertion is wrong, the proposal received a roaring ovation.
Mr. Wilders also took strong jabs at multiculturalism, declaring it a “disaster,” and decrying the “devastating results of multicultural society.” He called for an end to cultural relativism, admonishing the audience to “repeat it over and over again, especially to our children: Our Western culture based on Christianity and Judaism is superior to Islamic culture.” This, too, received a standing ovation.
On the whole, the audience embraced Mr. Wilders’s message, even at its most inflammatory. He referred to mosques as “hate palaces,” described his fight as one against “Islamic barbarism,” and proposed shutting down all Islamic schools “because educating children in a spirit of hate is one of the worst things imaginable,” all with the tacit and even explicit approval of the audience.
The only dissenter was a wimpy-looking leftist who softly cried, “Jesus told us to love everyone,” before scurrying out of the sanctuary. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wilders replied by saying, “I have no problem with Muslims, but I do have a problem with the totalitarian Islamic ideology of hate and violence.” Moderating lines like this peppered his speech and detracted from his otherwise hard-hitting presentation.
Some race realists wonder whether Mr. Wilders actually understands race and criticizes Islam as a politically expedient proxy for non-whites. Clearly, many of his grievances against Islam are legitimate, though he sometimes overstates the case for rhetorical purposes. What is undeniable is the success of this approach in the Netherlands, where his Party for Freedom is currently the third-largest and an indispensable part of the coalition.
Mr. Wilders has risen to prominence as the foremost European critic of Muslim immigration, largely because of his ongoing “hate speech” trial in the Netherlands and his tendency to criticize Islam from a left-wing perspective. He usually hammers away at Islam’s oppression of women and homosexuals, though these elements were surprisingly absent from his speech at Cornerstone.
Mr. Wilders’s approach is very effective in Europe, and though his message was well received by conservative Christians, it is not right for the United States. The practices of Muslims and Muslim immigration are a relatively minor problem for us. He is, of course, a politician, but I was disappointed by the narrow focus of his speech.
Nevertheless, it was impressive to have gathered more than 1,000 Americans for a non-partisan political speech on a Thursday evening. Nor was I the only one to notice just how white the crowd was. Any time white Americans start thinking in terms of their own interests, and distinguish themselves from other groups, it is an important step toward racial consciousness. For that, and for his political breakthrough in the Netherlands, we can be thankful to Geert Wilders.
Mr. Randall lives in Nashville.