An upcoming conference in Denmark on Islam and freedom of expression is of two minds about Geert Wilders. One of the sponsors, the Danish People’s Party, is adamant that Mr. Wilders should be invited to the conference. One of the other parties — the Liberal Alliance — considers the Dutch MP and maker of Fitna to be an “inappropriate” guest for the conference.
After all, what does Geert Wilders have to do with freedom of speech?
Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated a couple of articles about the controversy. First, a report from the PVV website:
Wilders calls for increased freedom of expression
In the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, Geert Wilders proclaims himself in favor of increasing freedom of expression in Europe. In an article in regard to his possible participation in a Danish conference on Islam and freedom of expression, Wilders declares that — should he be invited — he will argue for a freedom of expression of “almost one hundred percent”.
“Everything should be possible, with the exception of calls to violence. Any prohibitions against hateful expressions and blasphemy articles must as soon as possible be removed from European legislation.”
In the article the PVV leader says that he finds the conference an excellent idea. He encourages the organization to offer a stage to voices coming from all sides of the political spectrum.
See also the article in Jyllands-Posten: Wilders: “Jeg er dybt skuffet over Fogh” (Danish) and the article in the Dutch newspaper Trouw: “Danish political tug-of-war on inviting Wilders”.
Danish political tug-of-war on inviting Wilders
It is uncertain whether Geert Wilders will get an invitation to a Danish congress on Islam and freedom of speech in April. There is a quarrel about his possible participation.
A congress on freedom of expression is one of the activities against extremism and radicalization among young people, a goal that Denmark this year will spend nearly three million euros on. The plan is to invite foreign speakers such as Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Geert Wilders.
The driving force behind this idea was Naser Khader, until two years ago one of the most popular Danish politicians and founder of an association for moderate Muslims. In 2007 this social liberal founded his own party, the Liberal Alliance, as a counterweight to the nationalist Danish People’s Party. But by his bungling as party leader and internal quarrels, soon only two of the five MPs remained: Khader and one colleague. And a few weeks ago, to everyone’s surprise, he left the party himself.
His position as organizer for the Congress in April, in the meanwhile has been taken over by the Minister for Integration, Birthe Rønn Hornbech (Liberals), who cooperates in this with the Danish People’s Party and the Liberal Alliance. But those last two disagree on Wilders: The Liberal Alliance believes it is inappropriate that Wilders should participate in a congress that seeks to promote a dialogue. The People’s Party demands, however, that the Dutch politician be invited. According to them, Wilders is an experienced expert who can highlight what it means to fight for freedom of expression.
In the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten Wilders says that if he is invited to the conference, he will plead for a freedom of expression of almost one hundred percent.
“Everything should be possible, with the exception of calls to violence. Any prohibition against blasphemy and articles on hateful expressions must as soon as possible be removed from European legislation.”
Wilders accuses the Danish Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen of ‘changing course’. “He maintained his stand in the cartoon affair, but he condemned my film [Fitna] and called it ‘offensive’.”
At the same time the PVV leader calls on the Danish organizers to let all voices be heard at the conference. “Invite also a radical imam.”