As one of the world’s most prominent critics of Islam, Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders doesn’t go anywhere without his security detail of as many as six plainclothes police officers, and his crossing of international borders can result in political uproar, having already been banned in Britain at one time.
Now, it’s three U.S. congressmen, complaining of alleged ongoing “participation in inciting anti-Muslim aggression and violence,” who are urging Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to deny him a visa ahead of his planned visit to the U.S. this week.
Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and André Carson, D-Ind., who both are Muslim, along with Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., wrote a letter April 23 citing “the International Religious Freedom Act, which allows the Department of State to deny entry to a foreign leader who is responsible for severe violations of religious freedom.”
Nevertheless, Wilders – who insists he doesn’t hate Muslims but believes Western civilization is threatened by adherents of the Islamic supremacy taught in the Quran – showed up on Capitol Hill Wednesday and spoke at two events at the invitation of Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and Steve King, R-Iowa
King’s communications director, Sarah Stevens, told WND the congressman invited Wilders a month or so ago to speak at the weekly Conservative Opportunity Society breakfast he chairs. Wilders spoke Wednesday on his latest book, “Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me,” and also attended an evening reception with Congress members and staff along with representatives of foreign-policy groups on Capitol Hill.
Ellison, Carson and Crowley showed up Thursday at a news conference King and Gohmert held for Wilders in front of the U.S. Capitol and voiced their opposition to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in a video interview.
“Personally, I find it disturbing, but mostly sad, because, you know, the people of the Netherlands are a good people, and this is absolutely true, with a great history of tolerance, great history of giving art to the world and great gifts,” Ellison said.
“And it’s unfortunate,” the Minnesota congressman continued, “that someone such as this would come over here and sort of represent himself as a member of that society.”
Wilders, for his part, would contend that Ellison actually is drawing attention to the central issue: It’s the intolerance of Muslim immigrants and their refusal to assimilate, Wilders argues, that threatens the historic Judeo-Christian Dutch culture that forms the basis of a tolerant, pluralistic society capable of “giving art to the world and great gifts.”
As for whether or not Wilders represents his country, in 2009 he remarked: “Half of Holland loves me and half of Holland hates me. There is no in-between.”
King was unable to speak to WND due to schedule constraints, but he was interviewed by the De Telegraaf reporter in front of the Capitol Thursday, who asked him for his view of Wilders.
“I think he’s solid and courageous. I introduced him yesterday as a man who will stand up and speak the truth – even if he’s under death threats, speak the truth,” King said in the video interview.
“He’s done that consistently for a decade.”
Wilders is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at an event Sunday in the Dallas area called the “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest.” Held at the venue where Muslims hosted a “Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect” conference one week after the Paris Charlie Hebdo massacre in January, the event’s organizers, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, see Wilders as representative of their aggressive defense of freedom of speech.
ADI is run by author and Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Geller, and author and Jihad Watch Director Robert Spencer, who themselves have been branded by Ellison, Carson and their allies as “Islamophobes.” Geller and Spencer argue their work amounts to citing the justifications from the Quran and other Islamic texts used by Muslims who employ violent acts and other means to assert Islamic supremacy.
Summarizing their complaint, the three protesting congressmen told Kerry and Johnson that Wilders’ “policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures.”
“He justifies his desire to ban the Quran and Islam from the Netherlands with depraved comments like, ‘Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology, the ideology of a retarded culture.’ We should not be importing hate speech,” they write.
Wilders’ defenders point out that the Dutch word he used to describe Islamic culture can be translated as “backward” rather than “retarded,” insisting that while Wilders doesn’t mince words, he is no hater of people.
“I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam,” explains Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom, the fourth-largest party in the Dutch parliament.
That sentiment apparently is of little consolation to many of the more than 1 billion people who identify as Muslim, but Wilders contends the orthodox teaching of Islam derived from Muhammad is an existential threat to Western civilization.
While he puts the percentage of Islamic extremists at about 5 to 15 percent of Muslims, he contends “moderate Islam” doesn’t exist and notes the Quran itself states that Muslims who accept the Islam’s holy book in part are “apostates.”
As evidence of the failure to assimilate, in a speech to parliament last year he cited a study showing that nearly three-quarters of ethnic Turks and Moroccans in the Netherlands regard those who leave the European nation to join jihadists in Syria as “heroes.” Wilders pointed out that the same percentage of Dutch Muslims condoned the 9/11 attacks.
Wilders has been under constant security protection since November 2004, when two North African Muslims were accused of planning to murder him and another outspoken critic of Islam in the parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The attack at the Hague came shortly after the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Moroccan national.
Wilders was banned from the U.K. as an “undesirable person” under Prime Minister Gordon Brown in February 2009, two days before he was scheduled to show his short film “Fitna” at the invitation of two members of the House of Lords. Wilders appealed the ban to Britain’s Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, which overturned it in October 2009.
Wilders writings and film “Fitna” warning of the “Islamization” of the Netherlands and Europe prompted Turkish, Moroccan and Antillean organizations in the country to bring charges against him of criminally insulting religious and ethnic groups and inciting hatred and discrimination.
In June 2011, he was acquitted of all charges. Judge Marcel van Oosten called Wilders’ statements about Islam “gross and denigrating” but ruled they didn’t constitute hatred against Muslims and, therefore, were “acceptable within the context of public debate.”
Limiting free speech
In their letter, Ellison, Carson and Crowley assert Wilders’ right to speak freely in the U.S. under the First Amendment is limited because he allegedly incites violence and “prejudicial action” against protected groups.
In the U.S., freedom of speech is a bedrock principle that distinguishes free societies from ones living under oppressive regimes. Freedom of speech, however, is not absolute. It is limited by the legal and moral understanding that speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups is wrong. As Mr. Wilders continues his pursuit of political power, granting him entry will embolden him to engage in further incitement of violence and discrimination against Muslims.
Legal analyst Eugene Volokh noted the incitement exception to free speech, according to Supreme Court precedent, is “limited to speech intended to and likely to produce imminent lawless conduct — conduct in the coming hours or maybe few days.”
Wilders’ statements, Volokh wrote in a Washington Post blogpost, appear to be constitutionally protected, he said, because they “don’t urge any imminent conduct (or even any criminal conduct, as opposed to long-term changes in the law). Such statements’ are “incitement” in the Congressmen’s opinion only because the Congressmen apparently view constitutionally unprotected “incitement” (or, as they term it earlier, “hate speech”) much more broadly.”