Popular Dutch lawmaker urges halt to non-Western immigrants
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – One of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands said Friday the country’s democracy is under threat and called for a five-year halt to non-Western immigration in the wake of the killing of a Dutch filmmaker by a suspected Muslim radical.
“We are a Dutch democratic society. We have our own norms and values,” right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders told The Associated Press in an interview. “If you chose radical Islam you can leave, and if you don’t leave voluntarily then we will send you away. This is the only message possible.”
In his first interview with the foreign media since the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on Nov. 2, Wilders said his own life has been repeatedly threatened. He said he has begun living under state protection and has even had to stay away from his own home.
Wilders split with the free-market coalition partner Liberal Party two months ago because it backed the candidacy of predominantly Muslim Turkey for the European Union.
He formed his own conservative party, the Wilders Group, which has one seat in the 150-member parliament. But a recent poll suggested his anti-immigrant message was reverberating through the electorate, and he would win 24 seats if elections were held today – up from 19 seats before Van Gogh’s murder.
Wilders said that without swift, bold action, Islamic fundamentalism will topple the country’s democratic system.
In Brussels, Belgium, European Union leaders met Friday to discuss immigration, one of Europe’s most pressing and sensitive issues. EU justice and interior ministers agreed to demand that new immigrants learn the language of their adopted countries and adhere to “European values” to guide them toward better integration.
Even as the number of immigrants arriving in Europe falls due to tougher policies, Wilders said closing the borders isn’t enough. Newcomers should be forced to integrate.
Wilders, known for his radical positions and peroxide-blond hair, has been a member of parliament since 1998. He was born and educated in the southern city Venlo, near the German border.