Wilders plans anti-Islam movement
A Dutch anti-Islam politician is forming an international alliance to spread his message across the West in a bid to ban immigration from Islamic countries.
Geert Wilders has announced plans to launch the movement late this year, initially in five countries - the U.S., Canada, Britain, France and Germany.
"The message, 'stop Islam, defend freedom', is a message that's not only important for the Netherlands but for the whole free Western world," Wilders said at the Dutch parliament.
Among the group's aims will be outlawing immigration from Islamic countries to the West and a ban on Islamic Sharia law. Starting as a grass-roots movement, he hopes it will eventually produce its own politicians or influence other legislators.
Ayhan Tonca, a prominent spokesman for Dutch Muslims, said he feared Wilders's message would fall on fertile ground in much of Europe, where anti-Islam sentiment has been swelling for years.
"So long as things are going badly with the economy, a lot of people always need a scapegoat," Tonca said. "At the moment, that is the Muslims in Western Europe."
Tonca called on "well meaning people in Europe to oppose this".
Known for his bleached-blond mop of hair, Wilders is a shrewd politician who has won awards in the Netherlands for his debating skills and regularly stands up for gay and women's rights.
But he rose to local and then international prominence with his firebrand anti-Islam rhetoric that has led to him being charged under Dutch anti-hate speech laws and banned from visiting Britain - until a court ordered that he should be allowed into the country.
He said he hopes to position the alliance between traditional conservative parties and far-right wing groups, saying that in Britain there is "an enormous gap" between the ruling Conservative Party and the far-right British National Party.