Geert Wilders: Laws Stifle Islam Criticism

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CBNNews.com - He's been banned from Britain and is facing trial in his own country. But controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders received a warm reception at the National Press Club in Washington Friday.

The British government made headlines earlier this month when it refused to allow Wilders into Britain to screen his short film, Fitna, for members of Parliament.

The film features Koranic verses alongside images of Islamic terrorism.

The Brits thought Wilders' presence would provoke unrest among British Muslims; he was detained upon arrival at Heathrow Airport.

But during Wilders' stay in America this week, which included a meeting with lawmakers at the U.S. Capitol, his screenings of Fitna have provoked only two things: discussion and debate.

"Will we leave our children, will we leave Europe's children, the values of Rome, Athens and Jerusalem?" Wilders asked an overflow crowd at the National Press Club in Washington Friday. "Or the values of Mecca, Gaza and Tehran?"

CBN News sat down with the Dutch parliamentarian before his appearance at the Press Club--where he called for an international First Amendment that would repeal all hate speech laws. Wilders says such laws stifle criticism of Islam.

"If you are an Imam or a radical Muslim you can say 'kill the Jews,' or 'wipe Israel off the face of the earth,'" Wilders said. "You can say the most terrible things, and if you say it, you will be protected by law. But if somebody stands up and says 'hey, that is wrong, we have to fight all the crazy remarks of these Islamists,' you will be brought to court."

Wilders says that's exactly what happened in his native Netherlands, where a Dutch court recently charged him with hate speech against Islam.

"I'm a fighter and I don't believe I'll end up behind bars. But it's not about me," he told CBN News. "The question is: will free speech be put behind bars?"

Wilders' strong stance against Islam has come at a heavy price. For the past four years, he's lived under 24 hour police protection in a number of undisclosed locations.

And in addition to his legal troubles, many jihadists consider him Islam's number one enemy. Al Qaeda, for one, wants him dead.

So  what drives him to endure such a difficult lifestyle?

"We have to fight for our freedom because Islam means the end of freedom," Wilders said. "It's a high price to pay. And well, I manage because I have this mission. And I have a lot of support for it and it gives me a lot of energy. I'm still a very positive man."

Some have criticized Wilders for calling for the Koran to be banned in the Netherlands. He has compared it to Hitler's Mein Kampf--which was banned there years ago.

We asked him how he reconciles his support for a Koran ban with his tireless advocacy for free speech. Are the two viewpoints contradictory?

"We have a book which is (comparable) to Mein Kampf," he said of the Koran.  "It's also another book of a bad and totalitarian ideology. It is also full of incitement of violence and hatred. So if (the Dutch government) was so happy, 20, 30 years ago to ban, as socialists, Mein Kampf, what about the Koran?"

If convicted of hate speech, Wilders faces up to two years in a Dutch prison. He told us he's confident he'll be acquitted, and that he "won't allow terrorists to chase him out of politics."

His message is striking a chord with the Dutch people. A recent poll shows that if parliamentary elections were held today, Wilders' party--the Party for Freedom--would become the largest in the Netherlands.

*Original broadcast February 27, 2009.

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Erick Stakelbeck

Erick Stakelbeck

CBN News Terrorism Analyst

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