I have previously expressed unease with strident critics of Islam like Geert Wilders, the shock-haired Dutch MP who claims that "moderate Islam does not exist" and once compared the Koran to Mein Kampf. But the Dutch authorities and the fundamentalist imams with whom he does battle insist on presenting Wilders as a deeply sympathetic character…by attempting to criminalize his views. The takeaway for the average Dutch voter is that because Wilders is a man of heterodox, but non-violent, views he should be subject either to prosecution (say the tolerant, liberal politicians and columnists) or decapitation (say some of his extremist critics).
And last month, the country of Spinoza, legalized hash, and window-dwelling prostitutes, decided to prosecute Wilders for being a "hate criminal" and making a short film that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said served "no purpose other than to offend." (Can one by buy Cannibal Holocaust in the Netherlands?) For good measure, the British government decided that Wilders was a horribly dangerous alien and blocked his entry into the United Kingdom last year (while defending former London Mayor Ken Livingstone's hug-in with Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a glorious step towards interfaith tolerance and electing George Galloway to parliament).
So has the anti-Wilders campaign paid off? As the Dutch government collapsed—the first European government to do so because of its military commitments in Afghanistan—Wilder's Freedom Party (PVV), made impressive gains at the polls. The Telegraph reports:
Municipal results announced on Thursday put his party in first place in Almere, a region near Amsterdam and second in The Hague, one the country's largest cities and the seat of the Dutch government.
If repeated in national elections on June 9, the Freedom Party could win 27 out of 150 seats, becoming the largest single party and putting him in line to become prime minister and form a new government….
The Guardian adds:
Wilders' Freedom party currently has nine of 150 parliamentary seats, but he came second in last year's European Parliament elections and an opinion poll at the weekend put him neck-and-neck for an election victory.
"We can have excellent results in the next few months and it can only change the Netherlands for the better," Wilders told Reuters.
According to the weekend poll, Balkenende's Christian democrats would take 26 to Wilders' 24 seats in parliament. The fourth fall of a Balkenende government in eight years suggests he could be replaced as Christian democrat leader.
"It is embarrassing," said the NRC Handelsblad newspaper. "There is good reason to doubt [Balkenende's] qualities as a leader."