Mr Geert Wilders, with his bizarre shock of bleach-blond hair, is a conspicuous public figure this side of the pond. As outspoken politician and chairman of the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, Wilders makes waves nearly anywhere he goes. Be prepared, he has now set sail for the States.
His most recent trip abroad was a two-hour stop over at London's Heathrow airport on February 12. Before booking his flight with BMI, Mr Wilders was warned. He would not be allowed into Britain.
Home secretary Jacqui Smith banned Wilders from entering the UK, labeling him an "undesirable person" despite the invitation by Baroness Cox and Lord Pearson to screen his short anti-Islamic film Fitna in the House of Lords. The Lords could watch the movie without Geert.
Fitna is a short film made up of excerpts from Suras of the Qur'an, interspersed with media clips describing acts of violence or hatred by Muslims. According to Geert, Islam encourages terrorism, antisemitism, violence against women, and Islamic universalism. In short, a fascist film to say the least.
The day the screening was meant to take place, only 30 people showed up. A slew of reporters waited outside parliament, hoping to get a chance to grill him. Geert never got there.
By not greeting Geert nicely (read allowing him in) the UK inadvertently strengthened his cause. The public largely condemned the ban.Terry Sanderson a leading UK author and journalist said to the Telegraph :
It may be a controversial opinion but he is entitled to express it. We think that the wrong people are being targeted here because the reason they have given for refusing him entry is that it may result in some kind of public disturbance."
Mr Wilders might not be very popular but he deserves to be properly ignored, not just deported, by the Brits.
The manhandling headlines splashed across British broadsheets resulted in an extra 4,000 hits on Wilders' website.
Upon his return to Holland, Geert must have reflected on his short visit to London and the success it turned out to be. The media attention he basked in amounted to the equivalent of several efficacious press conferences.
The number of Fitna viewers is not the only thing on the rise. Back in The Hague, the PVV enjoyed a massive flux in popularity. On February 15 Maurice de Hond, a Dutch political analyst, noted a significant increase in PVV electorates thereby placing the political party just shy of enough seats to win an election should they be held now.
And the demagogue keeps gaining ground. Mr Wilders, who considers himself a libertarian, is critical of Islam, in case you haven't picked up on that. He is also the bastion of free speech, according to some, and was just awarded the Oriana Fallaci Free Speech Award in Rome, Italy.
Next station on his whistle stop tour? The United States. Mr Wilders has been invited by Jon Kyl, a Republican Senator for Arizona, to present his anti-Qu'ran film to the senate. The screening will take place Thursday 26 February. Wilders does not expect any problems during his visit to the land of the free, or so he stated in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf.
And why should he? He was named man of the year by the American Horowitz Freedom Center. The conservative institute believes he is the embodiment of western tradition. He has been described as a man that fights Islamisation relentlessly, ignoring the threats he receives.
Hatemonger, demagogue or defender of free speech; the verdict is still out. Either way, banning Geert will not silence him. He will speak, and he will be free, and there is little we can do about it, but ignore him.
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