Friday, 13 February 2009

Pepijn Brandon on why Wilders is 'not wanted'

The decision of the British government to refuse entry to the racist Dutch MP Geert Wilders was greeted by angry howls from the Dutch media and government ministers. But there were also a lot of people in the Netherlands who greeted the decision with a smile.

The ban of the British government follows the recent decision by the Dutch Supreme Court that Wilders is eligible for prosecution on the grounds of racism and inciting hatred. Part of this is related to the 'film' Fitna – actually a vitriolic but rather incoherent set of cut-and-paste youtube images. Part of it is to his frequent racist slurs in parliament. Wilders compares the Quran to Mein Kampf, calls Moroccan youth 'street terrorists' and at one point even called on the government to withdraw the army from Afghanistan and send it into largely immigrant inner city areas.

Anti-racist campaigners have widely celebrated the Supreme Court ruling, although shamefully the parliamentarian left has largely kept aloof or joined the 'freedom of speech' chorus. But Wilders himself is not an advocate of free speech. He has often called for refusing foreign imams entry into the country. He has lambasted the government for being 'too soft' by not introducing stricter controls over the content of preaches in mosques. And at one point his party even attempted to get a government ban for a meeting of the International Socialists on the University of Amsterdam, because it discussed whether Wilders was racist.

Meanwhile, Wilders is moving more closely into the orbit of the established far right in Europe, announcing that he will attempt to form a 'right wing block' for the European elections and refusing to exclude the possibility of working together with the Belgian fascist party Vlaams Belang.

The only thing that worries many anti-racist campaigners about the decision of the British government is that it allows Wilders to present himself once again as a martyr. But the blame for this at least partly falls on the shoulders of those in the mainstream parties, who still protect Wilders from criticism for fear of loosing seats. To break this passivity, much more will be needed then foreign government bans or court cases. It needs a large and active campaign against racism and islamophobia on the Dutch streets.

Pepijn Brandon is the editor of the Dutch website --as well as an active campaigner against racism in the Netherlands who was in fact arrested and acquited twice in 2008 for distributing a poster calling Wilders an 'Extremist and a menace to Dutch society