Guardian (London), July 16, 2010
Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders addresses a press conference in London. Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders wants the Western world to ban immigration from Islamic countries. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images
An anti-Muslim populist in the Netherlands is forming an international alliance to spread his message across the west in an attempt to ban immigration from Islamic countries, among other goals.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom party, told the Associated Press that he would launch the movement late this year, initially in five countries: the US, Canada, Britain, France and Germany.
“The message, ‘stop Islam, defend freedom’, is a message that’s not only important for the Netherlands but for the whole free Western world,” Wilders said at the Dutch parliament.
Among the group’s aims will be outlawing immigration from Islamic countries to the west and a ban on Islamic sharia law. Starting as a grassroots movement, he hopes it eventually will produce its own lawmakers or influence other legislators.
Ayhan Tonca, a prominent spokesman for Dutch Muslims, said he feared Wilders message would fall on fertile ground in much of Europe, where anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling for years.
“So long as things are going badly with the economy, a lot of people always need a scapegoat,” Tonca said. “At the moment, that is the Muslims in western Europe.”
Tonca called on “well-meaning people in Europe to oppose this.”
Known for his bleached-blond mop of hair, Wilders is a shrewd politician who has won awards in the Netherlands for his debating skills and regularly stands up for gay and women’s rights.
But he rose to local and then international prominence with his firebrand anti-Islam rhetoric that has led to him being charged under Dutch anti-hate speech laws and banned from visiting Britain until a court there ordered that he be allowed into the country.
Wilders said he hopes to position the alliance between traditional conservative parties and far-right wing groups, saying that in Britain there is “an enormous gap” between the ruling Conservative party and the far-right BNP: “The BNP is a party that, whatever you think of it, it’s not my party I think it’s a racist party,” he said.
Wilders, who calls Islam a “fascist” religion, has won increasing support the Netherlands in recent years even while he has been subjected to round-the-clock protection because of death threats.
His Freedom party won the biggest gains in a national election last month, coming third with 24 seats in the 150-seat parliament, up from the nine before the election.
However, mainstream parties will not form a coalition with Wilders, leaving him on the margins of Dutch politics for the next parliamentary term.
Wilders is due to stand trial in October on hate speech charges stemming from his short internet film Fitna, which denounced the Qur’an as a a fascist book that inspires terrorism. The film aroused anti-Dutch protests around the Muslim world, and he was banned for several months from entering Britain.
But he is unrepentant and said he now wants to take his message outside the Netherlands.
“The fight for freedom and (against) Islamisation as I see it is a worldwide phenomenon and problem to be solved,” he said.
Wilders declined to name any of the other founders of the organisation he is calling the Geert Wilders International Freedom Alliance. He has been criticised for running his party as a one-man show.