Published on July 18th, 2016 | by Eli Clifton1
Wilders in Cleveland
by Eli Clifton
Donald Trump’s GOP convention will, no doubt, contain many firsts. The list of speakers seems to change by the hour, and people brandishing open-carry firearms have already been spotted outside the convention complex. But perhaps the oddest side-event will occur on Tuesday night when a Pro-LGBT party called “Wake Up” will feature anti-Muslim extremist and birther conspiracy theorist Pamela Geller, Milo Yiannopoulos (who has made anti-Semitic remarks in the past, according to the Anti-Defamation League), and controversial Dutch MP Geert Wilders.
Wilders, who makes regular trips to the US to raise money and promote his anti-Muslim agenda, might seem like a fellow traveler with Donald Trump. But the Dutch politician, who says he was invited to the convention “as a guest of the Tennessee Republican Party,” has been rubbing shoulders with increasingly toxic elements in Europe. He has even appeared at an event hosted by a Belgian political party that has sought pardons for Flemish Nazi collaborators and whose leadership engaged in Holocaust denial.
Wilders has never been one to shy from controversy. In 2007, he called for the Netherlands to ban the Koran on the grounds that it was hate speech no different from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. But, at least in the past, Wilders has been cautious about being associated with the anti-Semitic far right. “I’m very afraid of being linked with the wrong rightist fascist groups,” he told The Guardian in 2008.
But last March he gave a speech at the “Freedom-colloquium.” The invitation came from Vlaams Belang, a Belgian Flemish nationalist party, one of whose leaders, Roland Raes, questioned the scale of the Holocaust in a 2001 interview. A court in Brussels convicted him of Holocaust denial in 2008. In 2011, Vlaams Belang introduced legislation advocating amnesty for those who collaborated with the Nazi occupation from 1940-1945.
Wilders appeared to embrace both Vlaams Belang and Donald Trump in his remarks, saying:
We’re together here at an historical moment. What’s going on in Europe? What’s going on in the world? A political upheaval. A political revolution, if you like. Of course without violence, democratic. But it scares the establishment. In America, it’s Donald Trump. He is the symbol there. In Europe, we are at that symbol: you and I. It’s the beginning of the patriotic spring.
Later he said, “The heroes are the voters for Vlaams Belang.”
Wilders wasted little time in denouncing Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands and Belgium, telling the audience that “Islam and freedom don’t go together” and warning that, “If you give mass migration a blank cheque. If you don’t set any requirements for assimilation. The original population flees and Islam, in its blackest shape, replaces them.”
Breaking frequently for applause, Wilders went on to claim that the majority of Muslims support Muslim terrorists, saying:
Of course not all Muslims are terrorists. I know that. But most terrorists today are adherents of Islam. Something has to be said. That’s why we have free speech. Of course those terrorists are a minority within Islam in our countries. But that minority can count on majority support.
Watch his entire speech here:
Abraham H. Foxman, who was then national director of the Anti-Defamation League, denounced Wilders and those who sponsored his visit to Capitol Hill in April 2015—Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Louie Gomert (R-TX). He said “Mr. Wilders is entitled to express his opinions, but for an elected member of the House of Representatives to provide a platform for a man who is practically an international symbol of anti-Muslim hatred not only lends him credibility, it ill-serves the goal of having a Congress that lives up to America’s ideals of tolerance.”
Photo of Geert Wilders by Metropolico via Flickr.