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Quran-banning advocate Geert Wilders heads to ground zero

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who advocates banning the Quran, is expected to attend an event near ground zero to commemorate September 11 and rally opposition to Islam.

By Staff writer / September 10, 2010

Dutch politician Geert Wilders gestures during an interview with The Associated Press in The Hague, Netherlands, July 15. Quran-banning advocate Wilders, head of The Netherlands 'Freedom Party,' will speak Saturday at a 'rally of remembrance.'

Cynthia Boll/AP

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Paris

As the world focuses on Florida pastor Terry Jones, a September 11 event in New York City will include a surprisingly successful European politician who has spent his career defaming Islam, and who has produced a film that features a Quran in flames.

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Geert Wilders, head of The Netherlands “Freedom Party,” will speak Saturday at a “rally of remembrance” that includes congressional candidates from New York and North Carolina, a taped message from former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, and support from radio talk host Rush Limbaugh.

Mr. Wilders is widely known in Europe for a platform to ban the Quran, along with new mosques, and Muslim immigrants – and for his incendiary speeches. He calls Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture” and likens the Quran to “Mein Kampf.”

WATCH VIDEO: Build a 'mosque' near ground zero?

In New York, along with his rally appearance, he will explore the creation of a transatlantic “Freedom Alliance” of anti-Islam fellow travelers from the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

While Mr. Jones is dismissed as a small-time extremist, analysts say, Wilders has a sophisticated message against Islam that attracts sections of the European mainstream. While Jones is a traditional right-winger, Wilders is an amalgam. He supports gay and women’s causes, argues Enlightenment values, and wants a cosmopolitan society – just one free of Islam. Wilders is part of a globalizing anti-Islamic creed that seeks to portray itself as a reasonable emerging voice, his critics say.

“Wilders plays on public fears of the erosion of Western values and the use and misuse of Islamic rhetoric by violent extremist groups,” argues Astrid Ziebarth, a program officer at the German Marshall Fund in Berlin. “He portrays himself as a fearless knight opposing an army of Muslim migrants. And he fends off criticism by also defending rights for women and gays and by being a staunch defender of the state of Israel.”

Only a few years ago Wilders was seen as something of a flamboyant crank – after trying to broadcast a virulently anti-Islamic film on Dutch public TV – a version of which showed pages of the Quran swathed in flames. (Wilders eventually backed off after warnings the film, “Fitna,” could harm Dutch troops in Afghanistan; a “Fitna” showing was banned in Britain.)

Yet this June Wilders shocked many Europeans by placing third in Dutch national elections; his party jumped from 9 to 24 seats. He spent the summer negotiating a place in the ruling coalition before backing out several days ago. His New York appearance comes courtesy of Stop Islamization in America, a group headed by the anti-Islam blogger Pamela Geller, a leading opponent of the Cordoba Initiative's propose Islamic center near ground zero.

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