THIRTY years ago, as a young man, I dreamed of Australia. I wanted to find myself a job there. Lack of sufficient funds decided otherwise and I ended up in Israel, working in a bakery in Jerusalem and on a farm near Jericho.
During the year that I lived in Israel, I travelled to Egypt. This trip made a huge impression on me. Israel and Egypt are neighbours, with the same climate, similar resources, the same potential. And yet Egypt is poor while Israel is wealthy. Even though at the time I was not interested in politics, I learned from this trip that the key to understanding the wealth of nations lies in their culture. If the latter promotes freedom, a nation will prosper.
In the 30 years since my first visit to Egypt, I have visited Indonesia, Turkey, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. I left Iran in a hurry once, fearing for my life, because, in a speech at a Tehran school for diplomats and military cadets, I had criticised the regime and spoke in defence of Israel. They had told me that I was allowed to speak freely, but it was naive to believe them.
In the Islamic world, I was always struck by two things. I was impressed by the kindness and helpfulness of many people. But there was also their fear. Islamic societies are ruled by terror. Muslims are good people, but they live under the yoke of Islamic sharia. If they leave Islam, or even just mildly criticise it, they sign their own death verdict.
I returned to The Netherlands and became a politician. I used to live in the Kanaleneiland district of Utrecht. During my years there, the district was transformed into a dangerous neighbourhood for non-Muslims. I have been robbed. On several occasions I had to run for safety. The same transformation happened in several cities in The Netherlands and other European countries where Islam settled. Europe is going through an Islamification process, which makes our continent less free and less safe.
Contrary to what many Westerners think, Islam, rather than a religion, is a totalitarian political ideology. It is an ideology because it aims for an Islamic state and wants to impose sharia on all of us. It is totalitarian because it is not voluntary: once you are in, you cannot get out. Unlike genuine religions, Islam also makes demands on non-Muslims. We, too, are marked for death if we criticise it.
For nine years I have been living under constant police protection. I live in a government safe house. I am driven every day to my office in an armoured police car. I have even lived in army barracks and prison cells just to be safe from assassins. I am threatened because I am a a critic of Islam.
I always make a distinction between Muslims and Islam, between the people and the ideology. Most Muslims are moderate, but this does not mean there is such a thing as a moderate Islam. People who reject Islam’s violent and intolerant commandments are not practising “moderate Islam” — they are not practising Islam at all.
That is the truth. And it needs to be said because freedom of speech is the only tool we have. We stand for our convictions, but we never use violence. We abhor violence. The reason we reject Islam is Islam’s violent nature. Our commitment to human dignity does not allow us to use violence nor to give in to cynicism and despair. As the ex-Muslim and Islam critic Ali Sina says: “We don’t raise a sword against darkness; we lit a light.” So it is. We lit the light of the truth. The truth that while Muslims can embrace freedom, Islam cannot.
In the normal order of things, immigration from Islamic countries weakens Islam. People prefer freedom over tyranny. Contact with Western freedoms would lead Muslims to abandon Islam. However, through the creation of a sharia-based parallel society in the West, Islam manages to continue its control over its captives.
This week, I will be speaking in Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. Politicians say I am not welcome, universities do not want to grant me access. They say I am an extremist. However, I am not. I am the leader of the third-largest party in The Netherlands, a country known for its tradition of tolerance. I have spoken earlier in the premises of the US congress, the British House of Lords, the Israeli Knesset, the Danish parliament, and at numerous conferences, where I met like-minded democratically elected politicians, none of whom belong to the far Right.
Freedom is the key to prosperity and Islam deprives people of it. Let us support Muslims who want to free themselves from the yoke of Islam. Let us stand for our own freedoms. We owe it to the past generations always to speak the truth and not to squander our liberties. And we owe it to the future generations not to sign away their freedom.
Geert Wilders is a Dutch MP and leader of the Party for Freedom.He will talk in Melbourne tomorrow, Perth on Wednesday and Sydney on Friday.Â www.qevent.org.