Populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders is hoping to bring together the world’s anti-Islam forces. The Freedom Party (PVV) leader has set up the International Freedom Alliance, which appears at the moment to be a network of individuals.
Mr Wilders describes the IFA as an umbrella organisation for groups and individuals who “are fighting for freedom against Islam”. He stresses that it is not an international branch of his right-wing Freedom Party, a relative newcomer to Dutch domestic politics. The IFA is intended to be a network of kindred spirits from the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.
He describes it as an outlet for the ideas of people who position themselves between conservative and ultra-right racist parties. It is highly unlikely to become a collective of extreme-rightwing parties. High on its list of priorities will be protecting the state of Israel. This should, from the outset, exclude all racist parties with anti-Semitic views.
Mr Wilders is not saying who or what groups will join the IFA. Political scientist Meindert Fennema says the idea is nothing new:
“It won’t be a institutional network. I suspect it will be a collection of individuals. He’s a hero in America. Israelis see him as an attractive partner, because he has so many people behind him and is an important politician.”
On of the things Professor Fennema has in mind is the support which Mr Wilders has built up since 2005 among neo-conservative Americans who back Israel through thick and thin. One of these is Daniel Pipes, director of the conservative think-tank, Middle East Forum, and another is the fundamentalist Christian Martin Mawyer.
The leaders of Jewish settlements and extreme-right politicians in Israel form another bastion of support for Mr Wilders. Avigdor Lieberman, of the Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) party and Arieh Eldad, leader of the National Union, are both supporters. Mr Eldad wants all Palestinians to leave Israel and the Occupied Territories.
In 2008, many of these individuals met in Jerusalem and set up the Alliance of European Patriots. The group was mainly made up of Israelis and Americans. One exception was Belgian Philip Dewinter of the extreme-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party who was also interested.
However, Mr Wilders wanted nothing to do with Mr Dewinter’s anti-Semitic agenda. He also was quick to distance himself from evangelical Christians such as Mr Mawyer because of their virulent anti-gay stance. The Alliance quickly disappeared from view. The only thing that all the ‘friends’ in the Wilders network have in common is their fear of Islam. They tend to find each other either too radical or too moderate.
Wilders as leader
Does a new international network against Islam stand a chance? Professor Fennema does not rule it out:
“I get the impression that Wilders will make a very good leader of this sort of movement, actually because he is not sectarian. He accepts that everyone has their own views and he says: What holds us together is that we see a bigger danger in Islam than do most governments.”
Although the IFA does not look set to become an extreme-rightwing bloc, Susi Dennison of the European Council of Foreign Relations does envisage dangers:
“I worry that this sort of international alliance will not take into account the diverse circumstances affecting different countries. It will be international anti-Islam thought en bloc and that is an alarming prospect.”
In any event, if the IFA succeeds in attracting international attention, it will provide Mr Wilders with a major platform for his crusade against Islam.