Is Newsweek still publishing?
It’s a hostile article, but you can see that for yourselves.
Less than 24 hours after the recent terror attacks in Paris, I caught a train in Amsterdam bound for the Binnenhof, the elaborate lakefront complex at The Hague and home of the Dutch Parliament. I was there for a hastily arranged meeting with Geert Wilders, a veteran member of the House of Representatives and Islam’s arch-nemesis in Europe.
Security was tight that afternoon. Twice on the labyrinthian route to his office, I emptied my pockets, walked through metal detectors and watched as guards dug through my camera bag. Behind the key card-controlled door to his office, I was a little surprised to find Wilders, alone and standing behind his desk.
No fan of understatement, Wilders wore a shiny black Armani suit and a bright green tie. But it was his trademark platinum-blond pompadour that stood out, a haircut that many in the Netherlands compare to Donald Trump’s rat’s nest. Wilders may look just as cartoonish as The Donald. But unlike Trump, he’s a legitimate force in politics. For nearly a decade, he’s served as the leader of Holland’s anti-Islamic political party, and he regularly uses his platform to denounce not only violent jihadists but all of Islam.
This stance has made Wilders a target for Muslim radicals. Death threats regularly arrive at his office, so seeing him sitting in a leather chair without armed guards, even behind so many checkpoints, is a bit unsettling. When I ask him how he’s doing, he raises his eyebrows and answers: “Surviving.”
It’s an understandable response for a guy who has spent the better part of a decade wearing a bulletproof vest and being shuttled between safe houses to avoid assassination. “I’m not in prison,” he says. “But I’m not free, either. You don’t have to pity me, but I haven’t had personal freedom now for 10 years. I can’t set one foot out of my house or anywhere in the world without security.”
Wilders’s name is on the same Al-Qaeda hit list as Stéphane Charbonnier, an editor who was shot and killed during the jihadist assault on Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, that left 12 dead earlier this month. The massacre, along with the subsequent killings at a kosher supermarket in Paris, was a tragic day for the France. But for Wilders, it only added to his appeal. Since the attack, his Freedom Party has surged in national polls. It was already the most popular party in Holland, but if the 2016 parliamentary elections were held today, he’d pick up 31 seats out of 150, more than double his current figure.
If he found the right coalition partner, Wilders could even become Holland’s prime minister, a once unthinkable prospect. Ten years ago, his proposal to ban the construction of new mosques in the Netherlands was mostly seen as the ravings of a fearmongering extremist who compares the Koran to Mein Kampf. Now reporters call Wilders a “populist,” and they no longer dismiss his xenophobic rants as rubbish.
His consolidation of power here isn’t a foregone conclusion, but Wilders’s growing popularity in Holland is emblematic of a larger trend: Europeans are becoming increasingly hostile to both native-born Muslims and the recent wave of immigrants flooding across their borders. Islamophobes are burning mosques in Sweden, marching by the tens of thousands in Germany and ceding more and more control to those politicians who speak the loudest against the Muslim faith.
Wilders insists he derives no pleasure from his newfound influence, but in the hours after the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, he tweeted “This is war” to his 380,000 followers. By war, he tells me, he means a war with all of Islam. “The Islamification of our society is what’s causing this,” he said of the assault on Paris. “And it’s all inspired by the Koran.”
Wilders clearly knows that this is his moment, his chance to waggle his finger and proclaim “I told you so” to European politicians who haven’t, in his view, taken the threat of terrorism seriously. As he puts it, “They refuse to define the elephant in the room, which is Islam.”
Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders arrives to give a speech at a meeting of the ‘Die Freiheit’ (The freedom) political movement at a hotel in Berlin, Oct. 2, 2010. FABRIZIO BENSCH/REUTERS
NOTE: I was there at that meeting in 2010, in Berlin, here’s the video of Geert Wilders walking into the venue that I took.