Exclusive: U.S. conservative groups helped fund Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders
Anti-Islam groups in America have provided financial support to Dutch politician Geert Wilders, an anti-immigration campaigner who is seeking re-election to the Dutch parliament this week.
While this is not illegal in the Netherlands, it sheds light on the international connections of Wilders, whose Freedom Party is the least transparent Dutch parliamentary group and a rallying point for Europe’s far right.
Wilders’ party is self-funded, unlike other Dutch parties that are subsidized by the government. It does not, therefore, have to meet the same disclosure requirements.
Groups in America seeking to counter Islamic influence in the West say they funded police protection and paid legal costs for Wilders whose party is polling in fourth place before the Sept 12 election.
Wilders’ ideas – calling for a halt to non-Western immigration and bans on Muslim headscarfs and the construction of mosques – have struck a chord in mainstream politics beyond the Netherlands. France banned clothing that covers the face in April 2011 and Belgium followed suit in July of the same year. Switzerland barred the construction of new minarets following a referendum in 2009.
The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders’ legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred, its director Daniel Pipes said.
The Middle East Forum has a stated goal, according to its website, of protecting the “freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, promoting American interests in the Middle East and protecting the constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats”. It sent money directly to Wilders’ lawyer via its Legal Project, Pipes said.