During a press conference last week in the Netherlands, a new political alliance was announced between two of Europe’s most prominent far-right populist parties in an attempt to unite in European Parliament next year. The newly formed coalition consists of Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front party and Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom party (PVV). Both parties are known for their strict stances against immigration and anti-Muslim attitudes.
Le Pen and Wilders formed this new alliance to give a voice and uphold the viewpoints of their country’s far-right populism in the upcoming European Parliament session, claiming they want to “liberate Europe from the monster of Brussels.” Both party leaders are also committed to stopping the alleged “Islamization” of their respective countries, which they say has been brought on by the influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe. Both make similar arguments that Muslims refuse to integrate in the Netherlands and France’s secular cultures, and instead seek to impose Islamic culture on native citizens. As a result, Wilders and Le Pen have both been accused of making unjustified and vehement comments directed towards Muslims and Islam.
Wilders and his party have been known for their outspoken opposition against Muslims and Islam. Wilders regularly refers to Islam as an “ideology,” rather than a religion and says it is a threat to the Netherland’s “national identity.” He has also called for the halt of the construction of any new mosques to be built in the Netherlands and claimed they are “a symbol of an ideology of hatred, violence, and oppression.” In the past, Wilders called for a tax on women who wear a hijab and has equated the Quaran to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
It is not too much of a stretch to see why Wilders sees a partner in Le Pen. The National Front party leader has also gone on record making vicious Islamophobic remarks. She is currently facing charges for comparing Muslims worshipping in France’s streets to the Nazi occupation of France during World War Two.
Wilders has not always keen on associating with France’s National Front party and previously distanced himself from them when it was lead by Marine’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has a history of racism and anti-Semitism. While party leader, Mr. Le Pen vocally opposed France’s minority groups and blamed the influx of immigrants for the country’s high rate of crime and unemployment. He also referred to the Holocaust a “mere detail” in history. Marine took over as party leader for her father and has since tried to lighten the party’s message and focus on combating the “Islamization” of France.
Wilders has reached out to other far-right European parties to unite with him and Le Pen. He recently invited Nigel Farage, the leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP), to join the ranks of the newly formed anti-EU coalition. Fortunately, Farage declined the offer saying despite Le Pen’s attempt to distance her party from her father’s convictions, it still has a reputation of being associated with bigotry.
It remains to be seen whether Wilders and Le Pen to try to align themselves with others in the international Islamophobia movement. Wilders has a history of associating with American anti-Muslim activists, like Pamela Geller, and although they are not part of the European Union, they are still committed to halting Muslim immigration and publicly disparaging Muslim communities. In 2009, Wilders spoke at a meeting in California co-sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. In 2010, he attended Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller’s inagural 9/11 Freedom Rally in New York City. Both Geller and Spencer co-founded Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), a subsidiary of the international organization Stop Islamization of Nations (SION).
With the newly formed alliance between Le Pen and Wilders, Europe has begun to see the rise of the far-right. By joining forces, it now can be expected they will seek to influence EU legislation in favor of their right-wing and anti-immigrant agenda. This is disconcerting for Europe’s religious minorities and immigrants, who Le Pen and Wilders will most likely claim have played a role in the EU’s economic malaise and supposed loss of “national identity.”