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THE HAGUE — Sometimes the threats come by e-mail. Other times, warnings show up on Internet chat sites. Occasionally they are short video clips. The latest has a soundtrack of Arabic song and automatic-weapons fire, and a photograph of the intended target — a Dutch lawmaker, Geert Wilders.
“He is an enemy of Islam and he should be beheaded,” the narrator of one video clip posted on the Internet says in Arabic, against the crackle of gunfire. Behead him, “and you will earn a place in paradise.”
Wilders, 41, grimaces as he plays the video for a reporter on his office computer. “I’ve been threatened many times,” he says. “We’ve never experienced this before. It’s something that nobody wants to live with.”
Wilders is among the more provocative critics of radical Islam and immigrants in the Netherlands. He wants the preemptive arrest of suspected terrorists, whom he calls “Islamo-fascist thugs.” And he wants immigrants expelled from the country for even minor infractions.
Since the execution-style killing last November of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam, and the discovery of an Islamic extremist cell in the Netherlands with a “death list” that included Wilders, police are taking seriously the threats against him and other people whose names have appeared on the list, often for far more moderate statements.
Wilders now travels everywhere with six bodyguards. He cannot sleep in his own home, but is moved around between various undisclosed safe houses. He sees his wife twice a week, at a safe house. Visitors to his parliament office must be cleared in advance and are thoroughly searched; even ballpoint pens are carefully examined.
“It’s like being caught in a bad B movie,” Wilders said. The guards are always there: “If I go to the toilet, they are standing behind the door.” The irony, he said, is that the people who are threatening him walk the streets freely, while “the people who are threatened are more or less in prison.”
Wilders’s transgression, according to the extremists demanding his death, is his insulting of Muslims in the Netherlands, with frequent denunciations of Islam. “Islam and democracy are fully incompatible,” he said in the interview. “They will never be compatible — not today, and not in a million years.”
Another problem, Wilders concedes, is keeping his profile high for the next two years, before another election is held. He recently returned from a trip to the United States to try to gain attention, meeting with groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute and with Republican members of Congress.
(Posted on February 1, 2005)