In a SPIEGEL interview, Dutch Islam-opponent Geert Wilders discusses his fight for a Koran ban, why German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running scared on the immigration issue and his belief that the Netherlands' debate over Muslims has now crossed the border into Germany.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilders, you are said to be the strong man behind the new Dutch government because the minority cabinet depends on your support in parliament. Why is your party, 65 years after the Holocaust, relying on outdated approaches -- on religious and racial exclusion?
Wilders: We do not support religious exclusion -- and certainly not racial exclusion. We have no problems with other skin colors, nor with Muslims -- our problem is with Islam. Indeed, we are expressing exactly what many of our compatriots feel. We became the third strongest party during the elections in June and are now, according to the most recent opinion polls, already the second strongest party in Holland.
SPIEGEL: What do you have against Islam?
Wilders: Europe's greatest problem -- not just today, but already for decades now -- is cultural relativism. This has led to a situation today where Europeans no longer know what they should be proud of and who they really are -- because a so-called liberal and leftist-imposed concept says that all cultures are the same.
SPIEGEL: The same or equal?
Wilders: It has to do with what is described by the wonderful German word Leitkultur, which means "dominant" or "guiding" culture. I think that we should be proud that our culture is better than Islamic culture, for instance. Anyone who says this is not a racist, Nazi or xenophobe. Those are labels that have been put on many people in the Netherlands, Germany and England -- just because we believe that Islam is a totalitarian and violent ideology. More of an ideology than a religion, comparable to communism and fascism. Islam threatens our freedom.
SPIEGEL: You maintain that Dutch culture is better than the culture of Islamic countries. Why do you consciously seize upon comparisons that degrade other religions?
Wilders: Anyone who compares the traditions of Judaism, Christianity and humanism with those of Islam doesn't have to be an Einstein to see the difference. Do you know of a country in the Middle East where Islamic culture prevails and where there is a genuine constitutional state and independent journalism? Where non-believers, women and gays can do what they want? In the West people have given their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
SPIEGEL: You do not acknowledge that cultures and religions can be changed by people. Isn't that exactly how it was with the Catholic Church?
Wilders: Yes, but how long did it take? I am not saying that I want to ban Islam. I want less Islam in Europe -- because it doesn't allow any room for debate. By contrast, take Judaism and the life in the yeshivas: That is where they debate how the Talmud should be interpreted. With the Koran, however, anyone who does not believe every word is an infidel. And the punishment for that is well known: death.
SPIEGEL: You live around-the-clock with bodyguards and sleep in a heavily guarded residential complex owned by the government. When do you actually meet the people whose interests you claim to advocate?
Wilders: I take part in election campaigns. I show myself on the streets. That is nevertheless, admittedly, a strange sight: There are more police officers around me than you can count.
SPIEGEL: A costly burden for Dutch taxpayers.
Wilders: True. But the alternative would be that a democratically elected politician like myself, who has never threatened anyone with death, can no longer appear in public. In the struggle for the freedom of the Dutch people, I have lost my own freedom. I know that there can be no normal life for me, neither today nor tomorrow. But that is the price that has to be paid.
Posted on 11/09/2010 3:39 PM by Richard L. Rubenstein