Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker on mission to stop 'Islamisation'
Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who goes on trial Monday for inciting hatred against Muslims, believes he is on a mission to stop the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands.
Reviled and adored in equal measure for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the 47-year-old firebrand has made deep cracks in a long tradition of Dutch consensus politics with bold strides onto the shaky ground of multi-cultural tolerance.
"We dare to talk about sensitive subjects like Islamisation and we use plain and simple words that the voter can understand," is how Wilders, creator of the anti-Islam film "Fitna", explains his rising popularity.
The 17-minute commentary, featuring shocking imagery of attacks in New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 combined with quotes from the Koran, Islam's holy book, drew outrage in several Muslim countries when it was screened in 2008.
Nicknamed "Mozart" for his platinum-dyed mop of hair, Wilders describes his far-right label as "nonsense", but has no hesitation branding the Koran a "fascist" book.
He wants to ban the Koran, halt Muslim immigration, and tax headscarves.
"My supporters say: 'at last there is someone who dares to say what millions of people think'," Wilders has told AFP.
Having obtained credits for a law qualification, Wilders worked briefly in the insurance industry before starting his political career with the Dutch liberal VVD party in 1990.
He started off as a policy researcher and speech writer, was elected a municipal councillor in 1997 and a lawmaker the following year.
HE quit the VVD after 14 years, partly over its support at the time for Turkey's EU membership bid.
He created the Party for Freedom (PVV) for parliamentary elections in 2006, when he won nine out of 150 seats on a ticket to "limit the growth of Muslim numbers".
In elections in June this year, that number jumped to 24, making the PVV the third biggest party officially and the most popular according to many opinion polls.
Described as an autocrat by his detractors (he is his party's only registered member), Wilders has a talent for one-liners.
He does not talk about his private life -- his second wife is Hungarian -- and has remained mum on speculation that his bloodline is part Indonesian and that he dyes his hair to hide his roots.
He was temporarily barred from entering Britain last year to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages".
Seeking to build his profile abroad, Wilders travelled to New York last month to join protests against plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero. On Sunday, he is expected in Berlin for the unveiling of a new anti-Islam party.
"I want to defend freedom, which I think will disappear into thin air the moment the Islamic ideology gains a stronger foothold in this country," Wilders has told AFP.
"It is truly a mission and I personally pay a high price. For years, it has been all but comfortable," he said.
His home address is a closely guarded secret. He rarely ventures out in public, and never without a large security detail.
But this would never deter him, said the politician who has travelled to Israel dozens of times and claims to be driven by Judeo-Christian values.
"Islam will always remain our core business."
© 2010 AFP