|The Spirit of Geert Wilders
By Mark Steyn
When I was asked to write a foreword to Geert Wilders’ new book, my first reaction, to be honest, was to pass. Mr. Wilders lives under 24/7 armed guard because significant numbers of motivated people wish to kill him, and it seemed to me, as someone who’s attracted more than enough homicidal attention over the years, that sharing space in these pages was likely to lead to an uptick in my own death threats. Who needs it? Why not just plead too crowded a schedule and suggest the author try elsewhere? I would imagine Geert Wilders gets quite a lot of this.
And then I took a stroll in the woods, and felt vaguely ashamed at the ease with which I was willing to hand a small victory to his enemies. After I saw off the Islamic enforcers in my own country, their frontman crowed to The Canadian Arab News that, even though the Canadian Islamic Congress had struck out in three different jurisdictions in their attempt to criminalize my writing about Islam, the lawsuits had cost my magazine (he boasted) two million bucks, and thereby “attained our strategic objective — to increase the cost of publishing anti-Islamic material.” In the Netherlands, Mr. Wilders’ foes, whether murderous jihadists or the multicultural establishment, share the same “strategic objective” — to increase the cost of associating with him beyond that which most people are willing to bear. It is not easy to be Geert Wilders. He has spent almost a decade in a strange, claustrophobic, transient, and tenuous existence little different from kidnap victims or, in his words, a political prisoner. He is under round-the-clock guard because of explicit threats to murder him by Muslim extremists.
Yet he’s the one who gets put on trial for incitement.
In 21st-century Amsterdam, you’re free to smoke marijuana and pick out a half-naked sex partner from the front window of her shop. But you can be put on trial for holding the wrong opinion about a bloke who died in the seventh century.
And, although Mr. Wilders was eventually acquitted by his kangaroo court, the determination to place him beyond the pale is unceasing: “The far-right anti-immigration party of Geert Wilders” (The Financial Times) . . . “Far-right leader Geert Wilders” (The Guardian) . . . “Extreme right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders” (Agence France-Presse) is “at the fringes of mainstream politics” (Time) . . . Mr. Wilders is so far out on the far-right extreme fringe that his party is the third biggest in parliament. Indeed, the present Dutch government governs only through the support of Wilders’ Party for Freedom. So he’s “extreme” and “far-right” and out on the “fringe,” but the seven parties that got far fewer votes than him are “mainstream”? That right there is a lot of what’s wrong with European political discourse and its media coverage: Maybe he only seems so “extreme” and “far-right” because they’re the ones out on the fringe.
And so a Dutch parliamentarian lands at Heathrow to fulfill a public appearance and is immediately deported by the government of a nation that was once the crucible of liberty. The British Home Office banned Mr. Wilders as a threat to “public security” — not because he was threatening any member of the public, but because prominent Muslims were threatening him: The Labour-party peer Lord Ahmed pledged to bring a 10,000-strong mob to lay siege to the House of Lords if Wilders went ahead with his speaking engagement there.
Yet it’s not enough to denormalize the man himself, you also have to make an example of those who decide to find out what he’s like for themselves. The South Australian senator Cory Bernardi met Mr. Wilders on a trip to the Netherlands and came home to headlines like “Senator Under Fire For Ties To Wilders” (The Sydney Morning Herald) and “Calls For Cory Bernardi’s Scalp Over Geert Wilders” (The Australian). Members not only of the opposing party but even of his own called for Senator Bernardi to be fired from his post as parliamentary secretary to the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition. And why stop there? A government spokesman “declined to say if he believed Mr Abbott should have Senator Bernardi expelled from the Liberal Party.” If only Bernardi had shot the breeze with more respectable figures — Hugo Chávez, say, or a spokesperson for Hamas. I’m pleased to report that, while sharing a platform with me in Adelaide some months later, Bernardi declared that, as a freeborn citizen, he wasn’t going to be told who he’s allowed to meet with.
For every independent-minded soul like Senator Bernardi, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, or Baroness Cox (who arranged a screening of Wilders’ film Fitna at the House of Lords), there are a thousand other public figures who get the message: Steer clear of Islam unless you want your life consumed — and steer clear of Wilders if you want to be left in peace.
But in the end the quiet life isn’t an option. It’s not necessary to agree with everything Mr. Wilders says in this book — or, in fact, anything he says — to recognize that, when the leader of the third-biggest party in one of the oldest democratic legislatures on earth has to live under constant threat of murder and be forced to live in “safe houses” for almost a decade, something is badly wrong in “the most tolerant country in Europe” — and that we have a responsibility to address it honestly, before it gets worse.
A decade ago, in the run-up to the toppling of Saddam, many media pundits had a standard line on Iraq: It’s an artificial entity cobbled together from parties who don’t belong in the same state. And I used to joke that anyone who thinks Iraq’s various components are incompatible ought to take a look at the Netherlands. If Sunni and Shia, Kurds and Arabs can’t be expected to have enough in common to make a functioning state, what do you call a jurisdiction split between post-Christian bi-swinging stoners and anti-whoring anti-sodomite anti-everything-you-dig Muslims? If Kurdistan’s an awkward fit in Iraq, how well does Pornostan fit in the Islamic Republic of the Netherlands?
The years roll on, and the gag gets a little sadder. “The most tolerant country in Europe” is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered in the street, and you can’t do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of “She’s in the attic!”
According to one survey, 20 percent of history teachers have abandoned certain, ah, problematic aspects of the Second World War because, in classes of a particular, ahem, demographic disposition, pupils don’t believe the Holocaust happened, and, if it did, the Germans should have finished the job and we wouldn’t have all these problems today. More inventive instructors artfully woo their Jew-despising students by comparing the Holocaust to “Islamophobia” — we all remember those Jewish terrorists hijacking Fokkers and flying them into the Reichstag, right? What about gangs of young Jews preying on the elderly, as Muslim youth do in Wilders’ old neighborhood of Kanaleneiland?
As for “Islamophobia,” it’s so bad that it’s, er, the Jews who are leaving. “Sixty per cent of Amsterdam’s orthodox community intends to emigrate from Holland,” says Benzion Evers, the son of the city’s chief rabbi, five of whose children had already left by 2010. Frommer’s bestselling travel guide to “Europe’s most tolerant city” acknowledges that “Jewish visitors who dress in a way that clearly identifies them as Jewish” are at risk of attack, but discreetly attributes it to “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “Jews with a conscience should leave Holland, where they and their children have no future,” advised Frits Bolkestein, former Dutch Liberal leader. “Anti-Semitism will continue to exist, because the Moroccan and Turkish youngsters don’t care about efforts for reconciliation.”
Read the rest here: Permalink