US groups helping fund Wilders
AMSTERDAM / NEW YORK - ReutersAnti-Islam groups in America have provided financial support to Dutch politician Geert Wilders, an anti-immigration campaigner who is seeking re-election to the Dutch Parliament this week.
While this is not illegal in the Netherlands, it sheds light on the international connections of Wilders, whose Freedom Party is the least transparent Dutch parliamentary group and a rallying point for Europe’s far right.
Wilders’ party is self-funded, unlike other Dutch parties that are subsidized by the government. It does not, therefore, have to meet the same disclosure requirements.
Groups in America seeking to counter Islamic influence in the West say they funded police protection and paid legal costs for Wilders whose party is polling in fourth place before the Sept. 12 election.
Wilders’ ideas, calling for a total halt to non-Western immigration and bans on Muslim headscarves and the construction of mosques, have struck a chord in mainstream politics beyond the Netherlands.
The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders’ legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred, its director Daniel Pipes said. The Middle East Forum has a stated goal, according to its website, of protecting the “freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, promoting American interests in the Middle East and protecting the constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats”. It sent money directly to Wilders’ lawyer via its Legal Project, Pipes said.
Represented by Dutch criminal lawyer Bram Moscowitz, Wilders successfully defended himself against the charges, which were brought by prosecutors in Amsterdam on behalf of groups representing minorities from Turkey, Morocco and other countries with Muslim populations.
Wilders said in an emailed statement that his legal expenses were paid for with the help of voluntary donations from defenders of freedom of speech. “I do not answer questions of who they are and what they have paid. This could jeopardize their safety,” Wilders said.
Wilders, 49, became a member of Dutch Parliament in 2006, campaigning against Islam, which he calls a threat to Dutch culture and Western values. He called Islam a violent political ideology and vowed never to enter a mosque, “not in 100,000 years.” His’ party gained 24 seats in the 150-seat lower house in June 2010.