Imagine the third presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Could you conceive of the Republican candidate wearing a bulletproof vest? It just happened in the Netherlands.
It was Prime Minister Mark Rutte against Geert Wilders. The Dutch daily Telegraaf revealed that during the last televised debate with Rutte, Wilders wore a black sweater under his jacket. It was used to camouflage his bulletproof vest, which the Dutch security service asked him to wear in the TV studio. He could not exclude the possibility of meeting the fate of the Russian ambassador in Turkey, who was murdered by one of his own security guards in front of the cameras.
Wilders’ bulletproof vest is Europe’s symbol of fear. He committed what George Orwell called “thoughtcrime.” The worst thoughtcrime one can commit today in Europe is criticizing Islam. A few years ago, Wilders was the featured speaker at the Ronald Reagan Library. He said that Islam is an “ideology” and “a threat to the Europe of Bach and Michelangelo, Shakespeare and Socrates, Galileo and Voltaire,” and that Israel is a “oasis of enlightenment,” while all around it is obscurantism. No one dares to speak like him today in Europe. That is why terrorists and Islamic supremacists want him dead.
If you want to meet Wilders in the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, you have to pass one X-ray machine, two checkpoints, and guards in front of his office. The windows are bulletproof. The Dutch government had to build a special house for Wilders that looks like a prison, with bomb-proof walls, shatterproof windows and cameras everywhere. A dozen bodyguards follow him. Three-quarters of the threats that arrive each year to Dutch politicians are directed to him, Geert Wilders. Police had to open a special office to handle all the threats that come from all over the world against him, including from Iraq and Syria and Hebron.
It all began 13 years ago, when in the personal computer of the Muslim terrorist who slew filmmaker Theo van Gogh were found plans to strike Wilders. Mohammed Bouyeri had it all planned. That night, Dutch intelligence knocked at the door of Wilders’ home in Venlo to take him away. After changing a few cars, Wilders was taken to a barracks in Bergen op Zoom. In the years that followed, he and his wife have lived in different barracks, as well as in the Zeist prison.
Today, Wilders sees his wife two or three times a week. He had even to wear a disguise for a while, with wig, glasses and mustache, to avoid being recognized by his neighbors. At Pamela Geller’s Muhammad cartoon event in Texas, at which two terrorists opened fire, Wilders was protected by an armed SWAT team. He sleeps very badly. Even when he is in the Parliament, Wilders does not feel at ease.
When he goes to the European Parliament, the site suddenly becomes an area to be secured. His agents block access to elevators and corridors. His entourage is anonymous. When the warning level rises, Wilders does not know where he will spend the night. Even when Wilders is visiting his wife’s family in Budapest, “safe houses” are ready for him in case of emergency. When he goes to the theatre, the last seats are all booked for him and his guards.
Those who hope that these threats are a consequence of Wilders’ “Islamophobia” are dead wrong. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has fled to the US, and the Dutch state has refused to continue to pay for her safety. There are professors in Leiden, such as Afshin Ellian, who live under guard protection. And elsewhere in Europe there are critics of Islam who have to live as does Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.
For the first time since the Second World War, today in Europe writers, journalists and intellectuals are hunted for their own ideas and writings. Many of them have to be protected like heads of state.
The most famous is Michel Houellebecq, author of Submission, who lives under the protection of the gendarmerie since he published his novel. There is haute protection (“high protection”) for Eric Zemmour, who wrote Le Suicide Français. Charlie Hebdo’s director, “Riss,” is also protected, as is my friend Robert Redeker, a professor of philosophy who was condemned to death in 2006 by Muslim supremacists for an article he wrote in Le Figaro. The Franco-Algerian journalist Zineb Rhazouui is surrounded by six policemen. In Denmark, the headquarters of the Jyllands Posten newspaper, which published the original Mohammed cartoons, has a barbed wire fence two meters high, like a U.S. embassy in Amman and Baghdad. There is also a door with double lock, while employees can only enter one at a time by typing a code (a measure that did not protect the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo). The Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, author of the caricature of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, lives in a house-fortress, with cameras and security windows and machine gun toting guards outside. Many Danish cartoonists and journalists disappeared to avoid this hard life.
Europe’s technocrats are hoping that “populism” is a temporary threat to them. But the threats to the life of Geert Wilders, and the pledge that his bulletproof vest represents in a Europe under Islamic siege, remain, and will only get more severe.
Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author. He is the author of three books: A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism (Encounter Books); J’Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel (Mantua Books), and La fine dell’Europa, about the Christian and demographic decline in Europe. He is a columnist at Arutz Sheva and his writings have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, FrontPage, Commentary, and The Geller Report.
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