Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders will be traveling to the United States to make an appearance at the nation’s capital in late April at the request of two Members of Congress. Following that, the far-Right politician is scheduled as the keynote speaker for an event in Texas sponsored by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. All of which will follow a speaking engagement before a notorious street movement in Germany that is comprised of neo-nazis and other political extremists.
Spreading hate in Washington, D.C.
In a brief blog post, Wilders, who heads the far-right Party for Freedom for Freedom (PVV), revealed that he will be making two appearances in Washington, D.C. on April 29th at the invitation of Reps. Steve King and Louie Gohmert.
Wilders wrote that Rep. King has invited Wilders to address lawmakers during a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Conservative Opportunity Society, a Republican group founded by Newt Gingrich.
That same day, Wilders is also scheduled to speak “at a reception offered to him” by Rep. Gohmert. The controversial Dutchman says he plans to use his speaking engagements to “warn my American colleagues of the dangers of Islamization.”
Wilders is known for his outlandish efforts to stop the so-called “Islamization” of his home country of the Netherlands. Toward this end, he uses vitriolic rhetoric against Islam and Muslims and has laid the groundwork for his party’s staunch anti-immigrant platform. Speaking on behalf of his party, Wilders regularly calls for halting immigration into the Netherlands from Muslim-majority countries and has even gone so far as to advocate that Muslims be paid leave to the country.
Given their nativist ties, it’s little surprise that King and Gohmert would decide to host Wilders. Gohmert has a history of anti-Muslim activism and connections to prominent anti-Muslim figureheads like Frank Gaffney and Brigitte Gabriel. And King, of course, is known for being one of the most anti-immigrant hardliners in Congress, complete with his own history of extremist rhetoric aimed at immigrants.
Intensifying Islamophobia in Texas
Following his activities in Washington, D.C., Wilders will travel to Garland, Texas to participate in an anti-Muslim cartoon exhibit on May 3 sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a group that is co-run by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Wilders will be the keynote speaker at AFDI’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest,” or “Draw the Prophet” event. As its name suggests, the event is a contest to which artists may submit cartoon renderings of Muhammad in the hopes of winning a grand prize of $10,000. Of course, “Draw the Prophet” is also meant to further politicize the attack on the French Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“Draw the Prophet’s” scheduled location sends another message, though. The event is a response to a previous gathering held at the same venue back in January called “Stand with the Prophet,” which at once challenged both anti-Muslim bigotry and fear-mongering and the extremism of groups like ISIS. As AFDI’s leaders turned up at “Stand with the Prophet” to spread their bigotry, their contest is a reiterating on their own hate.
Headlining anti-Muslim march in Germany
Before heading stateside, Wilders will have spoken at a demonstration in Dresden on April 13 organized by Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, an anti-Muslim street movement in Germany. After emerging last October, PEGIDA has organized dozens of rallies to protest what it deems to be the “Islamization” of Europe, making Wilders a perfect fit.
Earlier this year, PEGIDA demonstrations were attracting thousands of participants that ranged from neo-Nazis and far-Right activists to working-class Germans who were mobilized populist-driven anxieties regarding Islam and immigrants. Despite PEGIDA’s popularity among those on Germany’s far-right, its rallies have been met with fierce opposition from counter-protesters and political leaders.
However, PEGIDA’s numbers have vastly dwindled as of late. Euro News reports that last week’s Dresden rally – PEGIDA’s home-base where supporters have previously turned out its largest demonstartions – only attracted a few hundred people. Beyond Dresden, PEGIDA rallies have drawn even less and have been continually dwarfed by counter-protesters for months now.
Wilders’ scheduled appearance is thought to be an eleventh hour attempt to revive the movement.