In a post for ThinkProgress last month, I discussed how a tightly-knit group of anti-Islam activists and organizations in the United States are in fact collaborating with and at times funding similar discriminatory and bigoted elements in Europe.
In a recent apt example, notorious anti-Islam and far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has announced he will be addressing members of Congress at two events later this month. Wilders, who has called for a ban on the Qur’an, the construction of new mosques, and Muslim headscarves, boasted on his blog of his invitation to the United States by members of Congress. His invitees are none other than far-right congressmen Steve King (R-IA), known for his vociferous anti-immigrant stances, and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), infamous for his House floor tirades about “terror babies” and claims that “radical Islamists” are pretending to be Hispanics to come to the United States. The trans-Atlantic alliance is in fact a match made in heaven, as Wilders’ conspiratorial and xenophobic views align well with the extreme right fringe of the Republican Party.
After inquiries to Gohmert’s office for additional details about the April 29 reception, his staff merely told me that Gohmert had invited the Dutch politician to speak on Capitol Hill but that Gohmert is not hosting the reception. Wilders is also expected to speak at a breakfast the same day for lawmakers belonging to the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group that was founded by former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. “I feel deeply honored by the invitations. In my speeches I will warn my American colleagues of the dangers of Islamization,” wrote Wilders on his personal blog.
This is of course not Wilders’ first speaking engagement in the United States. Wilders spoke at a 9/11 commemoration rally in New York City in 2010 where he voiced his opposition to Islam. During a visit to Denver, Colorado in 2012, Wilders warned an audience at the Western Conservative Summit of the threat of “Islamization,” called Islam a “dangerous, totalitarian ideology” and argued for banning the construction of new mosques in the United States.
Last November, Wilders also spoke at notorious Islamophobe David Horowitz’s Annual Restoration Weekend in Palm Beach, Florida and proclaimed “Islam is eating away our Judeo-Christian and humanist civilization and [is] replacing it with intolerance, hatred, and violence.” He further stated: “Of course there are many moderate Muslims. I believe in moderate people, but I do not believe in a moderate Islam. There is only one Islam – the Islam of the Koran, the Hadith and the life of Muhammad, who was a terrorist and a warlord. But even though there are many moderate Muslims, it is wrong to think that the moderates are a majority. They are not.”
Wilders, who has compared the Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf and was cited by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in his online manifesto, has formed many allies and friends in the Islamophobia network here in the United States, including former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney. The Middle East Forum, a militarist think tank that is the source of much of the anti-Islam propaganda spread by activists and so-called experts in the United States, funded his legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against charges of inciting racial hatred in the Netherlands. David Horowitz also funded Wilders’ 2009 U.S. trip, during which Wilders participated in an event organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center that auctioned off cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad. Wilders is also working with U.S. allies to launch a new organization—the International Freedom Alliance (IFA)—which will promote an anti-Muslim and anti-Islam message.
The reception Louie Gohmert invited Wilders to will not be their first encounter. In fact, Gohmert appeared alongside Wilders during David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend conference in November 2014, where Gohmert fed Wilders tales about “terrorists” praying at the National Cathedral. In response, Wilders asked the audience to give Gohmert and Michele Bachmann a standing ovation for bringing up the issue. “You’re welcome back on Capitol Hill anytime. We have three members [of Congress] here and would love to sponsor you again anytime you come,” Gohmert said.
It appears as though Gohmert has indeed kept his promise and invited Wilders to speak on Capitol Hill later this month. While free speech protections are much broader in America than in various parts of Europe, where hate speech is often curtailed, our elected officials should nonetheless be absolutely prohibited from expending tax payer dollars and using government property to sponsor speeches by individuals who not only demean an ethnic group, but demonize an entire religious community.
Taeb is an attorney specializing in national security and co-author of the Center for American Progress’ report, “Fear, Inc. 2.0: The Islamophobia Network’s Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America.” Follow her on Twitter @YasmineTaeb.