Wilders on track 'to stop Islamisation'
Extreme-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders, whose anti-immigrant party was the big winner in European elections Thursday, believes he is on a mission to fight the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands
Reviled and adored alike for his anti-Islamic rhetoric, the 45-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.
His 17-minute commentary, featuring shocking imagery of attacks on New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 combined with quotes from the Koran, Islam's holy book, has drawn outrage in a series of Muslim countries.
It was released in March 2008 despite opposition from the Dutch government who feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
Nicknamed "Mozart" for his platinum-dyed mop of hair, Wilders describes his far-right label as "nonsense," but displays no hesitation in branding the Koran a "fascist" book.
"My supporters say: 'at last there is someone who dares to say what millions of people think'. That is what I do," Wilders told AFP ahead of his Party for Freedom's first participation in the European elections.
Exit polls showed the PVV took four seats, coming second only to the Christian Democrats of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
"People are fed up with the government; the leftist elite that has failed them," said Wilders, who does not intend to take up an EU parliament seat.
He has been living under 24-hour protection for the past five years due to death threats.
Wilders started his political career in the Dutch liberal VVD party which he quit after 14 years in 2004, partly over its support at the time for Turkey's entry into the European Union.
Having started off as a policy advisor and speech writer for the VVD, Wilders was elected a municipal councilor in 1997 and MP the following year, becoming an independent lawmaker when leaving the party in 2004.
He created the PVV for parliamentary elections in 2006, campaigning to "limit the growth of Muslim numbers" in the Netherlands, and taking nine out of 150 seats.
Arguing that "Islam is the Netherlands' biggest problem," Wilders has urged parliament to ban the Koran, comparing it with Hitler's "Mein Kampf."
He also wants a total ban of the burka as well as a halt on immigration from Muslim countries and on the construction of mosques in the Netherlands.
He faces a hate speech trial at home and was recently barred from entering Britain to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages."
"I want to defend freedom, which I think will disappear into thin air the moment the Islamic ideology gains a stronger foothold on this country," Wilders, who is married to a Hungarian, told AFP.
"It is truly a mission and I personally pay a high price. For years, it has been all but comfortable."
His residential address is a closely guarded secret. He rarely ventures out in public, and never without a massive security detail.
"Certainly, I have the ambition to become prime minister," Wilders said. "We don't want to remain in opposition forever."
But in a country historically governed by coalitions, the PVV would not seek this prize "at any cost," he said.
"Islam will always remain our core business."
AFP/ Alix Rijckaert