The New York Times covered a protest rally Saturday by Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party in The Hague Parliament in the Dutch community of Spijkenisse handing out cans of pepper spray. That was a send up on the Muslim male migrant misogyny in Cologne Germany and other German and European cities by what he calls: “Islamic testosterone bombs”. As if to verify this threat the Imam in Cologne, Germany said the women who suffered sexual assaults and worse on New Year’s Eve by upwards of 1,000 Muslim males gathered at the main railway station brought upon themselves: “they were half naked and wore perfume.” Absurd! They were attired in warm clothing. Doubtless, the Imam thought they should have been immured in tip to toe niqabs. We had posted on the threats facing Dutch and other European women when Wilders and a fellow PVV Hague parliamentarian raised questions of the ruling coalition led by PM Mark Rutte were doing to protect Dutch women.
The New York Times report chronicled this latest protest rally by Wilders, “Dutch Lawmaker Wilders Gaining Support Amid Migrant Crisis:”
Wilders, surrounded by bodyguards and police, visited a market in the largely blue-collar town of Spijkenisse on Saturday to hand out the sprays, which contained red paint. Amid stalls selling vegetables, fish, flowers and bicycle parts, Wilders got a rock-star welcome from dozens of supporters, while a small group of protesters chanted and waved placards including one that read, “Refugees are welcome, racism is not.”
The publicity stunt fits into Wilders’ uncompromising anti-immigrant, anti-Islam rhetoric that has propelled him to the top of Dutch opinion polls, just over a year away from parliamentary elections.
In between shaking hands and posing for selfies with supporters, the Freedom Party leader said that, if elected, he would, “close the borders immediately and have no more asylum seekers. We just cannot afford to have more. The Dutch people in a big majority don’t want it and we cannot afford it and it makes our people and women only more unsafe.”
His message is gaining traction here amid the Europe-wide migrant surge and following attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris last year. It echoes Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States and is similar to other populist, nationalist groups in Europe like Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France.
“The tendencies across Europe are very similar,” said University of Amsterdam political science professor Wouter van der Brug. “Across Europe, right-wing populist parties are picking up support as a result of the asylum crisis that we’re facing now, and also as a result of terrorist attacks.”
Leontine Maris was one of the first women to get a spray from Wilders on Saturday.
The 53-year-old said she votes for him though she disagrees with some of his more extreme comments. She said she was afraid not just of migrants, but also Dutch men.
“The whole society is going down the drain,” she said.
As Wilders’ popularity soars on the back of such disenchantment, Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s two-party coalition is in a slump, losing ground mainly to Wilders.
“Wilders is getting support across different layers of society,” Van der Brug said.
Whether Wilders is able to parlay his current popularity into parliamentary seats next year and a tilt at power in the splintered Dutch parliament remains to be seen. He propped up Rutte’s first administration, a minority coalition of the Liberal Party and Christian Democrats, from 2010-2012, but walked out amid drawn out negotiations over austerity measures. Two days later, the government collapsed.
That decision could yet come back to haunt Wilders.
“The only logical coalition he could form would be with the same parties again and I think it’s quite unlikely they will do this again with him because of the negative experience they have in the past,” Van der Brug said. “They don’t really trust him.”
Rutte has ruled out cooperating with Wilders unless the Freedom Party leader takes back comments made in 2014 that he would see to it that there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. Those same comments also landed Wilders in trouble with Dutch prosecutors, who plan to put him on trial on charges of discrimination.
Despite the political naysayers, Dutch voters have come out in support of Wilders. There have been protests at Dutch reception centers amid reports that some migrants have left the Netherlands because they did not receive a warm welcome and had problems trying to apply for family reunification. The estimated annual cost of handling the flood of Muslim migrants in Holland fleeing conflicts from hotspots in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa is nearly 1 billion Euros. Wilders’ Kafkaesque show trial in The Hague occasioned by his “fewer Moroccans” comment at a 2015 campaign rally is scheduled for March 2016.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.