Is Mr. Wilders a racist spewer of hate speech? How can you even ask, most readers will say. Look at his hair. Not for nothing were German carnival floats of right-wingers filled with slogans like "Blonde is the New Brown"--Marie Le Pen, the American fake president, and Mr. Wilders all do have that hair thing going.
When I read what the NY Times, the Guardian, even the Telegraph, say about Wilders I wonder that I consider defending him. But I don't think he's Trumpesque, even if his rhetoric gets scary. What gives me pause is that he was a colleague of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's in the VVD, the Dutch political party that describes its purpose as to further the free intellectual and social development of each
individual, without making distinctions according to religious or
ideological conviction, nationality, sex, race, colour of skin or
language. Central to its beliefs is freedom of choice for everyone. He left that party because he thought its policies could no longer hope to provide freedom for everyone without restricting radical Islam. Both he and Hirsi Ali came to believe that too many devout Muslim immigrants would not accept Dutch or Western values of freedom of speech and equality of men and women, because the Koran does not do so. In her writings, Hirsi Ali advocates a reformation in Islam. Catholics no longer burn people at the stake or break them on the rack for saying the pope is a fool or for subscribing to another belief system. Radical Islamists, Hirsi Ali points out, will not stop beheading people or cutting girls' genitals out or forcing young women to marry or be killed until they stop believing in their version of Islam. Her own choice, to renounce the religion entirely, has earned her death threats. Now, if she'd renounced Catholicism as publicly as she abandoned Islam, a lot of my nice Catholic in-laws wouldn't want to invite her to dinner. But they'd be shocked and horrified at the idea of killing her.
That's the big difference between a certain kind religious belief and the values that Hirsi Ali, and perhaps Geert Wilders, are trying to make people see. Integration isn't about "Can't we all just get along?" anymore. Integration really is about retaining freedom of speech and equality, and the folks who don't accept that need an education. Or they need to be excluded. So is the real issue with Wilders racism and hate speech? Or is he really struggling to preserve civilization? Readers, weigh in.