An investigation carried out by Reuters news agency has found that the anti-Islam Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, has received funding from US based organisations, notably the pro-Israel Middle East Forum. Wilders is the founder and leader of the extreme far-right Dutch Freedom Party. The party has seen significant electoral success in the Netherlands winning twenty-four seats in the 2010 general elections thus making it the third largest party in the parliament. The Freedom Party is contesting in this year’s general elections where voting is taking place today and polls put the party in fourth place.
Wilders is perhaps the most renowned far-right politician in Europe and his views on Muslims and Islam have earned him significant notoriety. Wilders agreed a deal in exchange for support for the coalition with the other main parties to ban face veiling as well as a number of other proposals. He has called for a ban on the Qur’an and compared it to Mein Kampf, described Muslims as ‘scum’, and called for bans on the wearing of headscarves and the construction of mosques.
“Anti-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.
“Wilders' party is self-funded, unlike other Dutch parties that are subsidised 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.
“The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders' legal defence 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.
“The case heard in October 2010 was filed in response to Wilders' comments in the Dutch media about Muslims and his film "Fitna", which interlays images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Koran and prompted protests by Muslims in Islamic countries worldwide. The court found he had stayed within the limits of free speech.
“Pipes declined to say how much his group paid for Wilders' defence.
“Moscowitz declined to discuss payments for Wilders' defence, citing client confidentiality.
The article states that Wilders calls Islam a “violent political ideology” and has “vowed never to enter a mosque”. It adds that the Norwegian terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik referred to Wilders in his manifesto, but that “Wilders has denounced Breivik and his actions.”
It continues that “David Horowitz, who runs a network of Los Angeles-based conservative groups and a website called FrontPage magazine, said he paid Wilders fees for making two speeches, security costs during student protests and overnight accommodation for his Dutch bodyguards during a 2009 U.S. trip.
“Pipes and Horowitz denied funding Wilders' political activities in Holland. Both run non-profit, tax exempt research and policy organizations which, under U.S. tax laws, are forbidden from giving direct financial backing to any political candidate or party. U.S. law does allow such groups to support policy debates financially.
“Horowitz agreed with the Dutchman's repeated, public comparison of the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf. Comparing the two works was a "fair analogy."
“Horowitz said U.S. backers helped Wilders raise money to pay legal fees to fight a ban from visiting Britain in 2009, where he planned to screen Fitna. The British government said at the time: "The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence."
“Wilders won an appeal in the British courts in October 2009 when the ban was overturned.
“Wilders has not revealed how his political activities are paid for. Former Freedom Party officials have said he has no personal funds and almost entirely relies on foreign donations.
“Like other Dutch political parties, members of parliament for the Freedom Party have been allocated 165,000 euros per year for expenses. Former Freedom Party officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the money, nearly 4 million euros per year, went to the party and has not been accounted for.”
The article states that Wilders has strongly denied these comments from former party officials.
Wilders links with pro-Israeli individuals and organisations were the subject of a documentary broadcast by the BBC, ‘Europe’s most dangerous man’. The programme highlighted that in his 20’s, Wilder lived in what is described as “one of the most extremist settlements in Israel”, and noted that “His early exposure to the ‘Jewish state’, its people and its worldview were to have a profound effect on him and his politics.”
His links to Pipes and Horowitz are not altogether surprising given the views that they share on Islam. Both were mentioned as key individuals in the report ‘Fear Inc.’ which explored the “relatively small, but interconnected group of individuals and organisations [who] spread anti-Muslim fear and hate in America.” Pipes also featured in the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) publication, ‘Smearcasting: How Islamophobes spread fear, bigotry and misinformation,’ as one of the ‘dirty dozen’ in their ‘Who’s Who Among America’s Leading Islamophobes’. Rather worryingly, a scholar of the Middle East Forum of which Pipes is president, was invited by Labour MP Louise Ellman earlier this summer to speak at an event hosted in Parliament, see our letter to Ed Miliband here.
The revelations of the transatlantic links are not entirely surprising in light of other attempts to develop closer relations between anti-Islam groups in Europe and the US. Links have been found between the American Third Position- a white supremacist group, and the British National Party. Most recently, co-operative tendencies were manifested in the launch of a ‘global counter-jihad’ initiative, which attracted the likes of the leader of the English Defence League, Stephen Lennon, Pamela Geller of Stop the Islamisation of America and Robert Spencer, all of whom have expressed support for Wilders.
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