AMSTERDAM/NEW YORK – Uniting their efforts behind a far-right Dutch lawmaker, who is notorious for his rhetoric against Muslims, anti-Islam groups in the United States have funded Geert Wilders, who is seeking re-election in this week’s vote.
A revelation by Reuters found out that several American groups that seek to counter the growing Muslim presence in the West have provided financial support for the Dutch MP, who is seeking re-election in the country’s general election on Wednesday, September 12.
For instance, the Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Wilders' legal defense in 2010 and 2011 against charges of inciting racial hatred, its director Daniel Pipes said.
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The payments, which amounts were not disclosed, were sent directly to Wilders' lawyer via its Legal Project, Pipes said.
The 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".
Other payments were also paid to Wilders by David Horowitz, who runs a network of Los Angeles-based conservative groups and an anti-Islam website called FrontPage magazine.
Horowitz said he paid Wilders fees for making two speeches; one in Los Angeles and another at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Other unspecified amounts were paid for security costs during student protests and overnight accommodation for his Dutch bodyguards during a US trip in 2009.
Notorious for his rants against Islam and Muslims, Wilders, the leader of far-right Freedom Party (PVV), rose among Dutch politicians over the past few years.
Since storming onto the political scene in 2004, Wilders has influenced Dutch immigration policy and set the tone of public debate, whether on Muslims and burqas or bailouts and the euro, in what once would have been regarded as politically incorrect language.
He has called for banning the Noble Qur’an, describing the Muslim holy book as “fascist”.
In 2008, Wilders released a 15-minute documentary accusing the Qur'an of inciting violence.
His party’s anti-Islam campaigns, however, have helped it make its biggest gains since Wilders has founded it in 2006.
Unlike other Dutch parties that are subsidized by the government, Wilders’ party describes itself as “self-funded”.
"I do not possess relevant information or documents" about the Freedom party finances or campaign contributions because the party does not receive subsidies, Dutch Minister for Internal Affairs Liesbeth Spies said in a written response.
Former PVV officials said on condition of anonymity that the money, nearly 4 million euros per year, went to the party and has not been accounted for.
Wilders, however, denies the allegation, insisting that former PVV officials were making the reports bitter and spiteful.
"These people have other motives than telling the truth," he said in an e-mailed response to Reuters.
"Our party has a sixty euro annual budget. The rumors about millions of euros in sponsoring are complete nonsense.
“A Freedom Party-related foundation receives donations from Dutch or foreign sources, but these are modest amounts of money and certainly never millions."
The new revelation shed light on the international connections of anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker.
Wilders' ideas - calling for a total halt to non-Western immigration and bans on Muslim headscarves and the construction of mosques - have struck a chord in mainstream politics beyond the Netherlands.
France banned hijab and face-veils in public places and Belgium followed suit in July of the same year by banning the face-veil.
Switzerland also barred the construction of new minarets following a referendum in 2009.
Taking his message to the US, Wilders called on American legislators to ban the construction of mosques for helping stop what he says the ‘Islamization’ of the West during a visit to Colorado last July.In May, the controversial Dutch politician brought his hard-line message to Nashville, Tennessee, warning against Islamic schools, mosques and immigrants.
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