The Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad revealed in an article today the Saudi Foreign Ministry keeps a watching brief on the activities of Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) in The Hague Parliament. WikiLeaks revealed that in 2010, the Saudi Crown Prince, in conjunction with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, considered bringing legal action for his anti-Islamic stands, especially attacks on the Prophet Mohammed. You may recall Wilders’ Arabic sticker campaign launched in December 2013 emblazoned with the words, “Mohammed was a Crook” that infuriated Saudi Arabia. That led to a delayed call by Saudi Arabia in May 2014 for a trade boycott against The Netherlands because of the Wilders’ Mohammed sticker campaign. In our May 18, 2014 Iconoclast post on the provocative episode that gave rise to Saudi sanctions we wrote:
The delayed Saudi reaction to the PVV anti-Islam sticker campaign launched five months ago is all about imposing a Blasphemy code. The Wahhabist Saudi government is trying to silence criticism of Islam threatening the free speech of Wilders and the liberty of those Dutch voters who are inclined towards his message. A message the PVV propounds that Muslim mass immigration in Holland harbors the seeds of homegrown terrorism on a significant scale.
Coincident with this latest WikiLeaks revelation concerning Wilders, the Garland, Texas Mohammed cartoons were shown on Dutch TV last night. That has gone viral with over 91,000 views and counting. Watch the YouTube video of the cartoons:
The viewing on Dutch TV of the 10 Mohammed cartoons from the Garland, Texas contest provoked the Sunni Al Alzhar Islamic authorities today to condemn it. AFP reported:
The leading Sunni Muslim seat of learning, Al-Azhar, on Thursday denounced the “sick imagination” behind cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that were aired on Dutch national television.
A statement by the Cairo-based Al-Azhar also urged Muslims to “ignore this odious terrorist act”, a day after some 10 cartoons were screened by anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders during a television slot for political parties.
Before Thursday’s statement and the cartoon broadcast, Al-Azhar had said that the objective of Wilders was to “provoke the anger of Muslims” around the world.
But it had also warned that this would only benefit “terrorism which takes advantage of such incidents to spread violence and destabilize peace and security in the world”
The Freedom Party (PVV) blog had this post explaining the background and questions posed to the Dutch Foreign Minister about the Saudis closely monitoring.”The stature of the prophet of mercy and humanitarianism is greater and more noble than to be harmed by cartoons that have no respect for morals or civilized standards,” it said.
This week, Wikileaks published a number of documents from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The documents reveal that the Saudi embassy in The Hague keeps a close eye on the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV).
A document from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) also reveals that, in 2010, the Saudi authorities were planning to bring Geert Wilders to court. Permission to do so had already been obtained from the then Saudi Crown Prince.
Today, PVV parliamentarians Geert Wilders and Raymond de Roon asked Bert Koenders, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, for more information.
Below are the parliamentary questions of the PVV and the translation of an article, published today (June 25, 2015) in the Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad.
Questions by Mr Wilders and Mr De Roon (both PVV) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
(1) Have you seen of the article, “Saudis Kept a Close Eye on Wilders” in NRC-Handelsblad of 25 June?
(2) Were the Dutch authorities informed that the Saudis in 2010 (or at any other time) wanted to bring PVV leader Geert Wilders to court?
(3) Is it true that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was aware of this fact or possibly even involved in these plans?
(4) Is it true that the then Saudi Crown Prince gave permission to initiate such a court case?
(5) Is it true that Ron Strikker, the then Dutch ambassador in Riyadh, told the Saudis in April 2012 that the statements of Mr. Wilders did not represent the views of the Dutch government? What were these specific statements?
(6) Do you share our view that it is a disgrace that a dictatorship like Saudi Arabia, a country that has condemned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi to be whipped with 1,000 lashed, attempts to intimidate Dutch citizens and parliamentarians who use their right to free speech ?
(7) Do you share our view that we have to break off diplomatic relations with the Saudi dictatorship?
Last night, the controversial Muhammad cartoons of the PVV were finally shown on television. The cartoons, which early May led to commotion at a meeting in Garland (Texas) where Geert Wilders was one of the speakers, attracted a relatively large number of viewers for the broadcast of a political party. But they have not led to disturbances in the Netherlands.
Nevertheless, Dutch diplomats in the Saudi capital Riyadh can again brace themselves for difficult conversations. When, last year, Wilders distributed stickers with the Saudi flag and the text “Muhammad is a crook”, this led to a de facto trade boycott by Saudi Arabia.
Wilders regularly figures in reports of the Saudi embassy in The Hague. Sometimes, the Saudi Ministry explicitly requests reports about his actions: for example, in 2012, when the Saudis had heard that he was about launch an anti-Islamic book in the US. A report – obviously the answer to this request – describes Wilders’ opinions and actions. It also mentions that he is controversial in the Netherlands for his links with Israel and his “extremist” views.
According to a document of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in 2010, the Saudis wanted to bring Wilders to court. The document reports that, at an earlier stage, approval had been obtained from the then Saudi Crown Prince to press charges against Wilders for showing his movie Fitna in the British House of Lords. The document refers to a document from the Saudi intelligence chief, who is said to have informed “friendly Dutch intelligence services” about the Saudi view and the possible negative consequences of Wilders’ “unlawful aggression”. It is not clear what happened next.
The Dutch embassy in Riyadh always tries to limit the damage. When Dutch Ambassador Ron Strikker met a high ranking Saudi official in April 2012, he reiterated the government’s position that Wilders’ statements do not represent the government views, but that the Dutch Constitution guarantees both freedom of expression and freedom of religion.
His interlocutor rejected Strikker’s “freedom of speech” argument, because, according to him, Wilders’ statements lead to hatred and lack of understanding, and complicate the relations between religions and peoples. His country, however, is making huge efforts to promote religious dialogue and understanding. He gives the Dutch government the advice speak out in public against Wilders’ statements, “also towards Dutch Muslims who are the victims of this kind of actions.”
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Geert Wilders with “Mohammed is a Crook” sticker taken in December 2013. Source: ANP.