SPIEGEL Interview with Geert Wilders 'Merkel Is Afraid'
Part 3: 'Was The Head Rag Tax Just A Bad Joke?'
SPIEGEL: You say that you are not an extremist. And yet, at the same time, you have called for an annual 1,000 "head rag tax" for women who wear headscarves?
Wilders: I was not able to win over a majority in parliament for this. I am interested in the big picture, but again and again it is this proposal that is picked out in public.
SPIEGEL: Was the whole "head rag tax" business a bad joke?
Wilders: No, not a joke, just one proposal among others. Don't forget, we support a minority government which would not be in power without us. And this means that there will soon be a ban in Holland on wearing the burqa and an enormous reduction in immigration. We are very successful.
SPIEGEL: What will happen to the Dutch Muslims? Those who refuse to adapt will be sent back in the future?
Wilders: No, not sent back -- unless they are criminals.
SPIEGEL: The new Dutch minister for immigration, Christian Democrat Gerd Leers, fairly recently referred to you as the "embodiment of common Internet muckrakers." Have you confronted him about this?
Wilders: If I did not speak with people who call me names, I could not engage in politics. I had a good conversation with him. I am interested in the results that this coalition government can achieve with our support -- I see this from a purely business perspective. If the government keeps its promises, that's good. If not, the government will have a problem.
SPIEGEL: Aren't you sometimes ashamed of the hatred that you sow?
Wilders: I don't sow hatred. I only use the democratic options in parliament.
SPIEGEL: That's what the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) claimed when they joined a coalition government in Vienna 10 years ago. EU sanctions were the result. Nothing comparable has happened in Sweden, Denmark or the Netherlands. It seems as if right-wing populism has become socially acceptable in Europe.
Wilders: The EU would do well to get used to the idea. My party will not be the last to emerge here. The Danish People's Party has supported a minority government for the past nine years, and no one in Europe is complaining about it.
SPIEGEL: You have vehemently spoken out against Turkey joining the EU. How does the Dutch government view the pre-accession process leading to EU membership for the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which both have large Muslim populations?
Wilders: This is dealt with in the coalition agreement. But my party rejects any form of EU expansion. We will vote against all additional candidates, including Croatia. In this case, the government will have to seek its majority elsewhere. Above all, we will vote against accepting Turkey -- a neighbor, yes; a member of the family, no. If it were not for the army, the Islamists would rule with no counterbalance thanks to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party. And some day we would have a Trojan Islamic horse in the EU -- and an external border with criminal states like Syria and Iran.
SPIEGEL: That is something that never existed before Geert Wilders arrived: a one-man party that has a say in the fortunes of an EU member state. You are the only member, the party chairman, parliamentary floor leader, chief ideologist and treasurer of the Freedom Party (PVV), which you founded. Will things stay that way?
Wilders: We will soon discuss within the parliamentary faction whether we should accept additional party members. The idea is to keep the wrong people from holding our party hostage.
SPIEGEL: Isn't it really the case that your party is fighting the wrong battle -- in the name of a Western civilization that is noticeably suffering from an aging population, demographic decline and disaffection with political parties?
Wilders: The demographic development is in fact negative. I read the other day that in England last year the most commonly chosen first name for a boy was Mohammed. I have nothing against Muslim babies. But if Mohammed is now the new favorite name of the English, we have a problem. Europe has to rise up and, with united forces, tell the Islamic world: Enough is enough, we will defend ourselves with democratic means.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Wilders, we thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Walter Mayr and René Pfister. Translated from the German by Paul Cohen.
- Part 1: 'Merkel Is Afraid'
- Part 2: 'What We Have Witnessed Here Is Now Occurring in Your Country'
- Part 3: 'Was The Head Rag Tax Just A Bad Joke?'