The recent visit to Australia of controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a man who has defined himself as a fierce critic of Islam showed just why he has managed to carve out such a niche and name for himself.
Beyond his passionate rhetoric against Islam, it is necessary to examine Geert Wilders more closely. What has shaped the views that have made him the target of hundreds of death threats and dictated the need for a never ending orbit of security?
To understand Geert Wilders and what has shaped his hardline positions, it is necessary to know the circumstances of his early life and how they have made him the person that he is today.
As a young man, his greatest desire above all was to travel and see the world. The experience that would come to influence Wilders’ views most is his time spent travelling and working on the farms of Israel and beyond in the lands of the Middle-East.
While in Israel, he found it to be a country where freedom and democracy were integrated into every part of daily life. In contrast, his travels would allow him to see places in the Islamic world where daily life was repressed by autocratic rulers and the uncompromising principles of Sharia.
These experiences shaped him to the extent that he had come to exalt Israel as “the last line of defence for the West” and has compared the Quran with Mein Kampf.
His beliefs were further shaped by what was seen as the rise of religiously motivated violence in the Netherlands. It was first seen through the murder of politician Pim Fortuyn and subsequent murder of Theo Van Gough and the continuous threats against Ayaan Hirsi Ali, all strong critics of Islam.
The question remains though, what wisdom, if any, does Geert Wilders have to impart to the people and leaders of Australia?
As with the Netherlands, Australia has developed into a multi-cultural society that consists of people from all over the world, including those from the Muslim world. Yet like the Netherlands, Australia has also taken in immigrants who have at best been reluctant to assimilate or even accept Western values.
Though a harsh and potentially threatening reality for Australia, Wilders has admitted what has transpired in the Netherlands will not necessarily happen in Australia. Though his words are harsh, perhaps offensive and racist, they must be heard but not necessarily embraced.
Wilders’ ideas, though wrong and inappropriate for a modern society, offers words that are true and universal for every culture. Tolerance for the sake of tolerance is wrong and tolerance for the intolerant will inevitably lead to the suicide of a society and the principles which govern its’ civilization. Above all, questioning everything is essential for a culture to flourish.