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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wilders' New York speech passes off without incident

Geert Wilder's 15 minute speech to several hundred people at a protest against plans to build an Islamic  cultural centre close to Ground Zero in New York passed off without incident on Saturday.

In his address, Wilders drew a connection between New York and its Dutch roots. 'No mosque here,' he said. 'For their sakes, we must draw the line. So that New York, rooted in Dutch tolerance, will never become New Mecca'

Deviating from his written script, Wilders attacked the imam behind the cultural centre for his 'crazy and idiotic remarks'.

'The west has never harmed Islam before Islam has harmed us, over and over gain, for centuries,' he said.

Wilders also quoted US president Abraham Lincoln saying: 'those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.'

The rally's organisers claimed 40,000 people had packed in to the area close to Ground Zero to hear Wilders and other conservative US speakers.

Although few people in New York have heard of him, Dutch politicians awaited Wilders's speech because of its implications for the ongoing formation talks.

His party, the PVV, is involved in negotiations on forming a new right-wing government with the VVD Liberals and Christian Democrats.

Wilders has already said he feels free to say whatever he likes about Islam, despite his association with the possible next government.

And the three parties agreed to 'respect' each others' position on Islam before sitting round the negotiating table.

Nevertheless, there were fears that Wilders' appearance could damage the discussions - particularly because the PVV leader is seen by some as a representative of the Netherlands.

Candidate prime minister
Caretaker foreign minister Maxime Verhagen stressed after the speech that Wilders was speaking personally. Like the US government, the Dutch government respects the right of everyone to chose their own religion, he said.

VVD leader Mark Rutte did not comment on the speech.

Alexander Pechtold, leader of the Liberal democrats D66 and a vocal Wilders' critic, said earlier he felt VVD leader Mark Rutte should comment on Wilders' performance because Rutte is 'candidate prime minister'.

'On the eve of the the next step in Wilders' domination of Dutch politics, the completion of his marionette cabinet, he is going international,' Pechtold said. 'Not as a minister of foreign affairs but as as a speaker in a planning issue in New York.'

According to a Maurice de Hond poll, 20% of Dutch voters support Wilders' appearance in New York, 39% are opposed and 41% are neutral.

In The Hague, up to 150 people gathered in the city centre to demonstrate against Wilders' appearance at the New York protests.

Hirsi Ali
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the anti-Islam campaigner and former Somali refugee turned Dutch politician who now now works in the US, said she felt Wilders should have stayed in the Netherlands.

'If I was Wilders I would have been at the negotiating table,' the Telegraaf quoted her as saying.

In the Netherlands, Wilders has called for a ban on new mosques, the closure of Islamic schools and a tax on headscarves worn by Muslim women

To read the full speech please click Here.

Dutch News