Geert Wilders arrives in UK and explains his 'problems with Islam'
The Telegraph (U.K.), October 16, 2009
Police held back a crowd of Muslim demonstrators as Geert Wilders met Ukip peer Lord Pearson opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Explaining his controversial views on Islam, he said: ''I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I feel that the more Islam that we get in our societies, the less freedom that we get.''
The leader of the Dutch Freedom Party was allowed into Britain after overturning a Government decision led by former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to bar him from the country.
It was feared that his outspoken views on Islam could spark religious violence, but this was rejected by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal on Tuesday.
Mr Wilders denied responsibility for the publicity which has greeted his visit.
The 46-year-old said: ''If anybody has responsibility for this publicity, it is the UK Government and the Home Secretary and not Geert Wilders.''
Mr Wilders, who wants the Koran banned, insisted: ''I am not extreme, I am not a racist either.''
He has been under 24-hour protection for the past five years after receiving death threats over his views.
The controversial figure had planned a press conference on College Green opposite the Houses of Parliament, but this was hastily moved inside a nearby building when the protesters emerged.
Mr Wilders opened the meeting by saying: ''I would like to start by quoting one of the great British writers, George Orwell, who once said 'if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear'.''
He said oppression of homosexuals and journalists in some Islamic countries is ''retarded'' and he is fighting for the rights of non-Muslims.
The politician said he wants to return to the UK to screen his short film Fitna, which criticises the Koran as a ''fascist book''.
Lord Pearson, who invited Mr Wilders to Britain, said his arrival was ''a celebration of the victory of freedom of speech over those who would prevent it in this country, particularly the Islamists, the violent Jihadists who are on the march across the world and in the UK''.
The visit saw protesters brandishing banners saying ''Sharia is the solution, freedom go to hell'' and ''Geert Wilders deserves Islamic punishment''.
Abu Muaz, who said he was from a group called Islam For UK, said: ''If I were to say some of the things he has said, I would be arrested under the Terrorism Act. But because there is a war on Muslims, he gets an easy ride.''
The demonstrators said Mr Wilders was an ''enemy of Islam'', and called for Sharia law in the Netherlands.
He faces allegations in his home country of inciting racial hatred.
Mohammed Shafiq, from the Ramadhan Foundation, said it was right that Mr Wilders had been allowed into the UK, but he should be closely monitored while in the country.
He said: ''The right decision was made to let him in because we believe in freedom of speech in this country, no matter how abhorrent someone's views are. But he has got to be monitored so that he doesn't say anything to incite religious violence.
''If you start attacking somebody's faith in the way that he has, they could react violently. Islam is not above criticism, and criticism based on a mutual respect and tolerance is fine.
''But his hatred is no different to the intolerance that the BNP and the far right are preaching.''
A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) branded Mr Wilders ''a relentless preacher of hate'' and objected to ''the rapturous welcome he is receiving in the name of free speech''.
MCB secretary general Muhammad Abdul Bari said: ''At a time of heightened tension, with the unprecedented rise of the far right, we must all pull together and focus on points of unity and cohesion.
''Our unhealthy obsession with divisive figures only bolsters their objective to sow discord on the streets of Britain.''