The leader of the Dutch far-right is using a conviction for hate speech to boost his popularity

Speaking his mind.
Speaking his mind.
Image: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo
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Geert Wilders, a Dutch populist political leader, was convicted today of inciting discrimination for saying that the Netherlands would be safer with fewer Moroccans.

At a campaign rally in 2014, Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands.” The crowd shouted back: “Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders responded: “Then we will arrange that.”

His comments resulted in thousands of complaints, leading to a trial and today’s conviction which, nonetheless, carries no penalty. Wilders, who is riding high as the leader of the anti-immigration Party of Freedom ahead of a general election in March next year, said the verdict was “madness.”

As the standard bearer for the Dutch outpost of the populist wave sweeping the western world, Wilders is using the trial to bolster his anti-establishment credentials, milking coverage of his anti-Islamic comments as much as possible. In recent polls, Wilders’ party is projected to more than double the number of seats it won in the last vote, possibly surpassing the center-right People’s Party of current prime minister Mark Rutte as the largest in parliament (but falling short of a majority).

“I will never be silent. You will never be able to stop me,” Wilders said in a video response to the court verdict. “The Netherlands is entitled to politicians who speak the truth and honestly address the problem with Moroccans.” He defended himself and insisted “Moroccans are not a race and people who criticize Moroccans are not racist.”

Wilders is no stranger to appearing in court to answer for his inflammatory remarks. He was previously prosecuted and cleared in 2011 for comparing Islam to Nazism (he even likened the Quran to Mein Kampf). That case was widely seen as giving him and his party a publicity boost, and history may repeat itself following today’s verdict.

Here are just a few of his other controversial remarks over the years:

  • In 2008, he called Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture.”
  • “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” he said in a statement. “I’ve had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.”
  • “Islam is the Trojan Horse in Europe,” he said in parliament. “If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time.”
  • Following  mass sexual assaults in Cologne, Wilders made a video condemning Islam and blaming politicians for immigration that led to a “sexual jihad” and “Islamic testosterone bombs.”
  • In the same video, he proposed locking up all male asylum seekers “so not a single male asylum seeker can still go on the street and our women are finally protected.”