October 7, 2010: Dutch politician Geert Wilders gave
a speech in Berlin last Saturday (October 2, 2010), igniting a
mild protest across the street from the hotel where Wilders
spoke to some 500 invited guests. Police said some more than
100 demonstrators held up banners reading "Berlin Against Nazis
– it's our Right to Stop Them" and "Send Geert Wilders
home," including one caricature depicting Wilders with a
mustache similar to Adolf Hitler. Wilders is well known for his
anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, but is a friend of
Israel and staunchly denies any connection with the neo-Nazi
movement or its philosophy.
Wilders was invited to Berlin by Rene Stadtkewitz, who is
also a critic of Islam and a former member of Angela Merkel's
Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Stadtkewitz founded his
"Freedom Party" during a heated national debate over
integration, particularly in relation to Muslims, ignited last
summer by a controversial book written by
former German Central Bank board member Thilo Sarrazin.
Sarrazin's claim that Muslim immigration was undermining
German society thrust the subject into the spotlight.
Mainsteam political parties in Germany and the press were
critical of Wilders' visit.
As expected, the German government did not
comment favorably on Wilders' visit. "It is not our style
to utterly condemn any religion," German Chancellor Angela
Merkel announced via her press secretary Steffen Seibert
in Berlin. Earlier Merkel had upset some of her neighbors
in the Netherlands when she told the Bundestag's committee
on European affairs that she regretted the formation of a
minority Dutch coalition government that depends on
Wilders' party for support.
Wilders wasted no time in his speech before replying to
Merkels' reaction to his visit to Berlin:
"Despite my busy schedule at home, however, I insisted on
coming to Berlin, because Germany, too, needs a political
movement to defend German identity and to oppose the
Islamization of Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel says that the
Islamization of Germany is inevitable. She conveys the message
that citizens have to be prepared for more changes as a result
of immigration. She wants the Germans to adapt to this
situation. The Christian-Democrat leader said: 'More than
before mosques will be an integral part of our cities.' My
friends, we should not accept the unacceptable as inevitable
without trying to turn the tide."
Wilders also explained why Germany is important in the
defense of Europe against Islamic influence:
"I am here because Germany matters to the Netherlands and the
rest of the world, and because we cannot establish an
International Freedom Alliance without a strong German partner.
Dear friends, tomorrow is the Day of German Unity. Tomorrow
exactly twenty years ago, your great nation was reunified after
the collapse of the totalitarian Communist ideology. The Day of
German Unity is an important day for the whole of Europe.
Germany is the largest democracy in Europe. Germany is Europe's
economic powerhouse. The wellbeing and prosperity of Germany is
a benefit to all of us, because the wellbeing and prosperity of
Germany is a prerequisite for the wellbeing and prosperity of
Europe. Today I am here, however, to warn you for looming
disunity. Germany's national identity, its democracy and
economic prosperity, is being threatened by the political
ideology of Islam."
For the most part, German news media presented a negative
view of Wilders' speech. However, "Die Zeit" blogger Jörg
Lau had an interesting summary analysis on the visit: "A
charlatan? Wilders sees himself as a prophet of the final
struggle 'for our identity.' He is great at inciting fear, but
also as a redeemer – from guilt feelings and civic
reservations. Alienating people from politics is his business
is, and it is thriving – right in the middle of Berlin,