The Liberal Alliance Party is planning to block an invitation to the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to take part in an international conference on the freedom of speech and anti-radicalisation that is to be held in Copenhagen in June.
The Danish People’s Party and the ruling junior coalition Conservative Party both want to invite Wilders.
“We don’t want to make this conference into some sort of freak show, to which we simply call in those who can create most trouble on the streets, simply to show how brave we are,” says Liberal Alliance Chairman Anders Samuelsen.
Samuelsen, who heads the smallest party in Parliament, has just sent his invitation list to Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech who is arranging the conference. The Liberal Alliance and the Danish People’s Party are co-organisers of the conference, as it formed part of the government’s budget agreement, which both parties supported.
The Danish People’s Party maintains that Wilders is an obvious participant in the conference as his life has been threatened by Muslim fundamentalists. Wilders was recently denied entry into Britain, where he had planned to be present during a showing of his controversial film ‘Fitna’ in the upper House of Lords.
For a while, ‘Fitna’ briefly opened and closed with one of the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s controversial Muhammed cartoons.
“This is just Anders Samuelsson’s five minutes of fame that he needs every so often. But here, he doesn’t have a veto,” says Danish People’s Party Chairwoman Pia Kjærsgaard.
“But we’ll figure it out. After what happened in London it wouldn’t be right not to invite Geert Wilders, and we are not alone,” says Kjærsgaard, who also wants to invite Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch MP, wrote the manuscript for the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh's controversial film 'Submission'. Van Gogh was killed in Amsterdam by a Muslim fundamentalist in 2004.
The Conservative Party agrees that Wilders should be invited.
“Wilders isn’t my cup of tea, but after Wilders was recently denied entry into Britain, he is more relevant than before at a conference on the freedom of speech,” says Naser Khader who has recently joined the Conservative Party after leaving the Liberal Alliance following a leadership struggle.
Khader says that Wilders has not said anything much different than what Ayaan Hirsi Ali has said. “I can only see the difference between the two that she is dark and beautiful and he is pale and has ugly hair,” says Khader.
Samuelsen says that Wilders represents a debate on the freedom of speech as it played out during Denmark’s crisis surrounding the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper.
“But we can’t continue the discussions at that level for the next 10 years. We should be using the conference to move the debate onto Mohammed Crisis 2.0. I can’t see that Wilders can offer anything constructive in relation to the situation we currently have in Denmark,” Samuelsen says.
“We don’t need to debate whether we support the freedom of speech. We do. And that’s it. All of us. So let us instead discuss how we can live in a way that we get less radicalization and have a more relaxed view of the freedom of speech,” he adds.
Naser Khader disagrees.
“If we all agreed on the freedom of speech, there would be no reason to hold the conference. The point is that we have a problem in that some people want to limit the freedom of speech globally. If it is not a problem for the freedom of speech that England has refused entry to a member of parliament of another EU country, then I don’t understand anything,” Khader says adding that Wilders has ‘pompous rhetoric and is provocative’ but has never encouraged violence.
The Minister for Integration Birth Rønn Hornbech has declined to comment on Wilders and whether he is to be invited to the conference.
Edited by Julian Isherwood