THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Critics say the freedom to criticize Islam in Europe has been put in jeopardy after Dutch politician Geert Wilders was banned last week from entering Britain because of his attacks on Islam.
But while the controversial politician may have failed to enter the United Kingdom, the Dutch public has rallied around Wilders, and support for his party has exploded.
His party, the Party for Freedom, is now the second largest party in the Netherlands, based on recent polling. It's a stunning political development..
Wilders, like him or not, has a two fold mission. One is to sound the alarm bells about the spread of Islam in Europe, and the other is to show how far he thinks western governments have gone in appeasing radical Islam.
Hurd: Why do you think support for your party has surged?
Wilders: Common people in many cities in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and there are many smaller cities and villages, see that their country is changing, see that the influence of Islam and Islamization is growing, and they don't like that.
They are not xenophobes. They are not racist. They do not hate Muslims. But they feel that their own culture, based on Christianity, Judaism, and humanism is something to fight for.
Hurd: What does your not being allowed in the United Kingdom prove, if anything?
Wilders: It proves that the influence of Islam in Western European countries is huge.
Wilders still faces trial in the Netherlands for hate speech. But his political stock continues to grow.