THE HAGUE, 12/02/09 - Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders announced yesterday he will travel to the UK today, ignoring the British government's decision to declare him a threat to public order. And challenging the authorities to arrest him.
On Tuesday, the UK ambassador presented Wilders with a letter which stated that he had been refused entry to the UK. The MP was to have shown his anti-Islam film Fitna in the parliamentary building at the invitation of a member of the House of Lords.
Wilders had already said on Tuesday he was considering going ahead with his trip to London anyway. The MP said yesterday that his decision is definite. He will board the flight to the UK. "We will see whether the UK government is really so cowardly as to refuse my entry," he told reporters yesterday.
According to the UK government, Wilders is a threat to public safety due to his ideas about Islam and Muslims. "The government refuses entry to our country to everyone who disseminates extremism, hatred and violent messages in our community," said a UK home affairs ministry spokesman.
Wilders was originally to have shown Fitna in the UK parliament in January, but this did not happen due to strong protests from the Muslim community. House of Lords member Lord Malcom Pearson had now again invited the PVV leader. According to Pearson, the film showing will go ahead today, with or without Wilders.
On TV programme NOVA, Pearson termed it "unacceptable" and "inexplicable" that his government should be so "weak and useless" as to deny freedom of speech to a parliamentarian off a European country. Pearson wants to encourage debate about Islam, particularly among Muslims, by showing the film that Wilders released on the internet in March 2008.
Pearson has invited Wilders to answer questions in the presence of experts this evening, after the film showing. A Channel 4 film which is comparable to Fitna is also on the programme.
The evening is to be chaired by Baroness Cox, also a member of the House of Lords, human rights campaigner and founder of the international Islamic Christian organisation for reconciliation and reconstruction. Pearson himself is a specialist in the European Union, Islam and education.
The Lower House has reacted with condemnation to the UK decision. The Speaker, Gerdi Verbeet, expressed her concern to her counterpart in the House of Lords. "I find this not good."
The conservatives (VVD) consider Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen must demand the UK admits Wilders after all. "I want Verhagen to step up the diplomatic pressure," said MP Hans van Baalen. "A Dutch parliamentarian must be able to travel in an EU country. Verhagen must make a formal protest."
Verhagen made it clear in a telephone call to his UK counterpart David Miliband on Tuesday that the Netherlands finds it "very regrettable" that the UK should declare an elected representative of another EU country persona non grata. Verhagen did not use the term unacceptable.
The leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) and centre-left D66, fierce rivals of Wilders politically, did call it "unacceptable" for him not to be allowed to go to London. They consider that if the British do not go back on the decision, Premier Jan Peter Balkenende must speak to his counterpart Gordon Brown.
Christian democratic (CDA) MP Van Haersma Buma terms the UK reaction "undesirable" and considers it "a far-fetched argument" that public order should be endangered by a visit from Wilders. CDA wants the cabinet to make a point of the UK refusal "in future discussions" in the EU.
Labour (PvdA), like the CDA, terms the refusal undesirable. The party is pleased however with the "alert and adequate reaction" by Verhagen. The PvdA, with a big Muslim following, did not want to say more.
Wilders himself appears to be only becoming more motivated to spread his message. "They will never ever keep me down, even if the next thing is that I can only go to Ameland," he said referring to a mini-island in the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea.
Vice-Premier Wouter Bos said yesterday that the British government is making a "wrong weighing-up" which "surprises me very much," he told reporters. "They are putting Wilders down as an inciter to hatred, but this you are only when you have been convicted." Additionally, a disturbance of public order could never be caused by Wilders but only by demonstrators misbehaving, in Bos' opinion.
An appeal court in Amsterdam ruled in January that Wilders must be prosecuted for incitement to hatred and discrimination and "insult of Islamic worshippers" for statements he made on Islam in the media and in Fitna. The Public Prosecutor's Office (OM) had established in 2008 that none of Wilders' statements were illegal. But the OM must bring a case against the MP anyway. (Source