"A TV addict with bleached hair who adores Maggie Thatcher and prefers kebabs to hamburgers, Geert Wilders has got nothing against Muslims. He just hates Islam. Or so he says. 'Islam is not a religion, it's an ideology,' says Wilders, a lanky Roman Catholic right-winger, 'the ideology of a retarded culture.'
The Dutch politician, who sees himself as heir to a recent string of assassinated or hounded mavericks who have turned Holland upside down, has been doing a crash course in Koranic study. Likening the Islamic sacred text to Hitler's Mein Kampf, he wants the 'fascist Koran' outlawed in Holland, the constitution rewritten to make that possible, all immigration from Muslim countries halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim 'criminals' stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported 'back where they came from'. But he has nothing against Muslims. 'I have a problem with Islamic tradition, culture, ideology. Not with Muslim people.'
Wilders has been immersing himself in the suras and verse of seventh-century Arabia. The outcome of his scholarship, a short film, has Holland in a panic. He is just putting the finishing touches to the 10-minute film, he says, and talking to four TV channels about screening it. 'It's like a walk through the Koran,' he explains in a sterile conference room in the Dutch parliament in The Hague, security chaps hovering outside. 'My intention is to show the real face of Islam. I see it as a threat. I'm trying to use images to show that what's written in the Koran is giving incentives to people all over the world. On a daily basis Moroccan youths are beating up homosexuals on the streets of Amsterdam.'
Wilders is lucid and shrewd and the provactive soundbites trip easily off his tongue. He was recently voted Holland's most effective politician. If 18 months ago he sat alone in the second chamber or lower house in The Hague, his People's Party now has nine of 150 seats and is running at about 15 per cent in the polls.
He shrugs off anxieties that his film will trigger a fresh bout of violence of the kind that left Van Gogh stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street and his estranged colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali in hiding, or the murderous furore over the Danish cartoons in 2005. The Dutch government is planning emergency evacuation of its nationals and diplomats from the Middle East should the Wilders film be shown. It is alarmed about the impact on Dutch business. 'Our Prime Minister is a big coward. The government is weak,' says Wilders. 'They hate my guts and I don't like them either.'
But he does want to create a stir. 'Islam is something we can't afford any more in the Netherlands. I want the fascist Koran banned. We need to stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands. That means no more mosques, no more Islamic schools, no more imams... Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims.'
Free speech or hate speech? 'I don't create hate. I want to be honest. I don't hate people. I don't hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology.'
The Dutch have a tradition of bluntness. Good to see it is not dead.
Posted by John Ray