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Analysis: Dutch critic of Islam warns Bush

Geert Wilders.
by Leander Schaerlaeckens
Brussels (UPI) May 19, 2008
As President George W. Bush wraps up his trip to the Middle East, controversial Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, a passionate supporter of Bush and the U.S. war on terrorism, called on him to drop his "double agenda" in the region by ending support to Islamic states like Saudi Arabia.

Wilders, who briefly achieved global notoriety when he released his anti-Koran film "Fitna" in March, told United Press International that the United States should not overlook Saudi Arabia's flagrant bad governance and human-rights abuses.

"American relations with Saudi Arabia should be revised," he said, adding that Saudi Arabia's status as a major oil producer should not mean that its track record ought to be overlooked. "Saudi Arabia is no good and won't be for the foreseeable future," he said.

"I think supporting Saudi Arabia is a bad policy and shows a double agenda," said Wilders. But he demurred at the suggestion of sanctions or military action -- "it's not like they should invade tomorrow" -- suggesting only that the desert kingdom be subject to the same standards as other U.S. allies like Israel.

The parliamentarian recently returned from a trip to the United States and said he was surprised to find his anti-Islam agenda had so much resonance there.

Wilders heads a small anti-immigration party in the Dutch Parliament and lives under 24-hour police protection because of death threats resulting from his public comments about Islam and the Koran, which he has compared to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and says should be banned in the Netherlands.

Echoing the comments of some U.S. neoconservatives, Wilders has said he regards the spread of radical Islam as the next great challenge to the West, after fascism and communism.

"I think Islamization presents a threat to the public safety of the entire West, including the United States," he told UPI. "Direct and indirect dangers are present in (Muslim) politics and culture."

He said the shared enemy demanded closer trans-Atlantic ties.

"Islam's growth is the greatest threat of this century and we need to interact more on how we (the United States and the European Union) will protect traditional Christian and Jewish (territory)," Wilders said. "I see America as an ally in that fight."

He lambasted cultural relativism and said Islam was incompatible with democracy and Western values. "We shouldn't pretend that all cultures are equal and let equality rule. We've witnessed attacks on America and Europe, so we're all in danger."

Wilders, who describes himself as a Reaganite and is a longtime supporter of the GOP, endorsed John McCain for the presidency.

"If I were an American, I'd choose the Republicans again. ... McCain is the only candidate, and there are a lot of positive, and also some less positive, things to be said about him," he said.

But he fretted that complacency had set in, both in Europe and America. "We mustn't forget that sense of urgency that followed Sept. 11," he urged.

"Keep an eye on Islamization in America," Wilders advised the next president. "The people that I spoke to in America were concerned that there's no urgency surrounding (the issue of) Islamization."

He also counseled the United States against promoting Turkish accession to the European Union, which he opposes because of Turkey's "Islamic values."

"I'm not sure it's smart," Wilders said. "I don't know how the United States would react if we'd say that Mexico or Cuba, or any other country with whom relations are difficult, should become the 51st state.

"America thinks from a NATO point of view where Turkey is an appreciated ally. But relations between Turkey and its neighbors are bad, and I think that if Turkey joined the EU, the regional situation would only destabilize further."

He added that Turkey needs to learn to cohabit with its neighbors politically and economically and should remain a NATO member and cooperate with the EU, but without ever joining it.

"The EU is about sharing certain values, and Islamic values are simply not compatible," Wilders said. "And I wouldn't want Iran and Syria to border on the EU. The United States wouldn't want that either, but that's what would happen (if Turkey joins)."

"I'm not in favor of excommunicating Turkey and am in favor of good relations, but just because they're good neighbors doesn't make them family," he said. "It would only lead to trouble culturally."

He also argued that EU membership would create problems in Turkey by ruling out "a positive political role" for the military as a "counterbalance" to any moves to undermine the secular character of the state there.

"If (Turkey) were to join the EU, certain treaties would require it to extract the army from politics, and that would remove the counterbalance" to any efforts at Islamization.

The result, he said, would be disastrous. "Then we'd have an Islamized state within the EU."

"It's a bad suggestion and not in Europe's security interest," Wilders added of Turkish accession.

Despite his differences over the Turkey issue, Wilders, who sits on the Dutch parliamentary committees for defense, information and security services and foreign affairs, as well as the delegation to the NATO Assembly, said he'd keep advocating close American ties. "I'm an Atlanticist," he said.

"I relish close trans-Atlantic relations and an expansion of military ties, but sadly the reality is that the United States has become less popular." He said that advocating close trans-Atlantic ties, "like friendship with Israel, doesn't make you more popular as a European politician."

"American foreign policy hasn't exactly become more popular, alas," Wilders added.

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