Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders brought his crusade against the Islamic religion to Denver last weekend, warning an audience at the Western Conservative Summit that Europe and the United States are vulnerable to an insidious takeover by what he termed a “dangerous, totalitarian ideology” masquerading as a religion.
“If we do not stop the Islamization, we will lose everything: our identity, our culture, our democratic constitutional state, our freedom, and our civilization,” Wilders told an audience of roughly 1,000 gathered in the main ballroom at the downtown Hyatt Regency Denver on Saturday. The annual summit, in its third year, is sponsored by the Lakewood-based Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute and had an estimated 1,300 attendees over three days.
While the reaction to Wilders was mixed — he received repeated standing ovations during his 45-minute talk, but perhaps a third of the audience members remained planted in their seats throughout — one Colorado lawmaker said Americans should take the Islamic threat seriously and consider prohibiting the construction of mosques in the state.
Wilders, the founder and head of the far-right Party for Freedom, now the third-largest political party in the Netherlands, has lived under constant guard since 2004 and is the author of the recently published “Marked for Death: Islam’s War Against the West and Me.”
He has been targeted “for criticizing Islam,” he told the avid crowd after describing some of the security measures required to protect him and his wife.
“My view, in a nutshell, is that Islam, rather than a religion, is predominantly a totalitarian ideology striving for world dominance,” he said. “I believe that Islam and freedom are incompatible.”
CCU president and former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong launched the summit on Friday by proclaiming it open to members of all faiths.
“Of course, those of us at CCU are followers of Jesus, but in the room tonight are men and women of not only the New Testament but the Old Testament, and of other religious and philosophical traditions as well. You’re all welcome, we’re delighted you’re here,” Armstrong said.
But by the time Wilders commanded the same stage the next afternoon, the welcome mat might have been less firmly in place for at least one religion.
Former Senate President John Andrews, who heads CCU’s Centennial Institute, didn’t mince words when he introduced Wilders and another speaker known for his opposition to Islam.
Saturday afternoon’s topic, Andrews said, would be “the existential threat to the United States of America posed by Islam.”
Pausing for a moment to let his words sink in, he continued. “I didn’t say ‘radical Islam,’ I didn’t say ‘extremism.’ After you hear from Frank Gaffney and our friend from across the Atlantic, Geert Wilders, you’ll know why I just say ‘the threat of Islam.’”
For his part, Wilders emphasized what he described as a distinction between followers of Islam and the religion itself.
“I do not have a problem with Muslims,” Wilders said during his address. “There are many moderate Muslims. I always make a distinction between the people and the ideology. There are indeed many moderate Muslims. But believe me, there is no such thing as a moderate Islam — there is only one Islam, and that is a dangerous, totalitarian ideology that is intolerant, that is violent, that should not be tolerated by us but that should be contained.”
Wilders warned against opening the door to Sharia law — based on traditional Islamic principles — in Western courtrooms but added that it was already too late to keep Islam and its influences out of the country entirely.
“Your country is facing a stealth jihad, an Islamic attempt to introduce Sharia law bit by bit by bit,” he said.
In order to keep the United States from succumbing, Wilders said, politicians have to ignore what he promised would be derision from the liberal media and other quarters and firmly deliver strong medicine. First, he said, Americans have to stop putting up with “multiculturalism,” even as free-speech proponents cry foul. In addition, he said American courtrooms must bar Sharia law and “stop the immigration from Islamic countries.”
Most critically, he said, “We should forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in the West already.”
State Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, said it’s worth paying attention to Wilders and the alarms he was raising.
“It’s warranted in this country,” Grantham told The Colorado Statesman minutes after Wilders finished his speech. “We already see the beginnings of that movement here in a smaller fashion, but it’s the same thing as it was in Europe just within the last couple decades, and we see where Europe’s at right now. So the warning is very real, and we should take heed and watch where we’re heading in this country.”
Grantham said he agreed with the distinction Wilders made between the Islamic religion and its adherents.
“If we look at the philosophical underpinnings of what is called Islam, (it’s) very fair how he treats that. Now, there’s some Muslims, obviously, like Mr. Wilders said, that we would call moderate. But the philosophical underpinnings of that system, of that culture of Islam — those are very serious problems and they are antithetical to the American way.”
Regarding Wilders’ suggestion that Western governments ban construction of new mosques, Grantham said it was worth considering.
“You know, we’d have to hear more on that, because, as he said, mosques are not churches like we would think of churches,” Grantham said. “They think of mosques more as a foothold into a society, as a foothold into a community, more in the cultural and in the nationalistic sense. Our churches — we don’t feel that way, they’re places of worship, and mosques are simply not that, and we need to take that into account when approving construction of those.”
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, who last week won the GOP nomination for the Second Congressional District seat, had a more skeptical reaction than his Senate colleague.
Wilders, he said, “showed some concern for some issues that have happened in this country, and there are some issues we need to be aware of here, but I’m not ready to endorse what he said.”
Asked whether he shared concerns raised during Wilders’ talk about a proposed mosque in Larimer County, Lundberg shook his head and quoted the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“I think immediately of ‘Congress shall make no law …’ and that sounds pretty close to that, doesn’t it?” he said.
A moment later, Lundberg elaborated on his reaction to Wilders’ proposals.
“We’re a free society, and there are risks with freedom,” Lundberg said. “In my mind, we need to give every citizen the opportunity to succeed or fail on their merits, and there are limits we have to put in place for certain public safety issues, but I am much more a stronger defender of the First Amendment than I am of immediately restricting people because of a perceived concern.”
Former Reagan administration official Frank Gaffney — something of a pariah in right-wing circles since he began accusing anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist of helping radical Muslims infiltrate the conservative movement — riled up the crowd immediately before Wilders spoke with a preview of a 10-hour video series called “The Muslim Brotherhood in America.” The series charges that a cabal of Muslims is staging a stealthy conquest of the United States by pretending to be moderate while ascending the rungs of power.
Gaffney called on conservatives at the summit to boycott the American Conservative Union’s regional Conservative Political Action Conference — known as CPAC — set to take place in Denver on Oct. 4, the day after the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, unless the organization renounces its association with individuals Gaffney claims have ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Former radio talk-show host and Denver attorney Craig Silverman introduced Wilders, but first told the crowd that he stood before them “in all humility to you conservatives for confession and forgiveness,” and admitted that he voted for Obama in 2008. Silverman said he has since seen the error of his ways.
“I thought Barack Hussein Obama was ideally situated to speak simple truths to the Islamic world,” Silverman said, adding that instead, the president “wouldn’t do it, he did not do it, and he will not do it.”
Saying he feared for America’s safety and for the very survival of Israel, Silverman declared that he has read few books in recent years that affected him as profoundly as Wilders’ memoir.
“Geert Wilders is a great man,” Silverman said. “He refuses to be intimidated. He is a profile in courage.”