By Shada Islam, Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels
GEERT Wilders, the fiercely anti-Islam Dutch politician, has got what he wanted: his decision to hold a controversial cartoon competition on his party’s private premises in the Dutch Parliament in November this year means he’s back in the headlines, the centre of national and international attention.
What more could a Far Right European politician, whose star hasn’t been shining too brightly in recent months, ask for?
Not much. But in fact he is getting much more. For Wilders, who has already been found guilty of inciting hatred and lives under a round-the-clock guard following years of death threats, the competition kills many birds with one stone.
First, it gets Wilders noticed — once again — on a very crowded stage. His Freedom Party, along with France’s Front National (now the National Rally) led by Marine Le Pen, used to dominate the landscape with its regular and outrageous Islamophobic diatribes.
The two were constantly in the headlines as the Netherlands and France went to the polls last year. The national and international media showered both with an inordinate amount of attention, predicting they would capture the national vote and turn politics at home and in Europe on its head.
It did not happen. Mark Rutte’s centre-right VVD party, in part by leaning more to the right and taking up the issue of migration, came out first in the polls, with Wilders trailing behind. Cobbling together the current ruling coalition — which excludes the Freedom Party — took several months.
In France, Le Pen was unceremoniously seen off by Emmanuel Macron whose victory illustrated the power of a political narrative based on hope, not hate.
To make things worse, Wilders is no longer the only Far Right celebrity and media darling around. Yesterday, he loomed large. Today, at home, Wilders is overshadowed by the likes of the young, colourful and much slicker Thierry Baudet, who heads the alt-right Forum for Democracy and is now more often in the news.
According to one Dutch commentator, Baudet “normalises the racist and dangerous discourse which he implicitly affiliates himself with under the guise of irony and humour”. The latter two personality traits aren’t often associated with Wilders.
Also in the running to be become Europe’s toughest anti-Muslim politician is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban who uses even more colourful and offensive language in his comments on Islam and Muslims than Wilders. Orban and Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Italian Far Right Lega Nord and interior minister in the current Italian government, are crafting what they proudly proclaim will be a Europe-wide anti-immigration alliance.