How an anti-Islam speech in Austria is causing Geert Wilders legal grief

Dutch investigators are probing firebrand MP Geert Wilders over alleged inflammatory remarks about Islam made in a speech in Austria two years ago, prosecutors said on Friday.

How an anti-Islam speech in Austria is causing Geert Wilders legal grief
Geert Wilders pictured during the installation of the new Chamber members after the parliamentary elections in March 2017. Photo: ANP/AFP

The investigation into the anti-Islam Wilders follows a request for judicial assistance from Vienna, after a March 2015 address by Wilders at a gathering of Austria's far right Freedom Party (FPÖ).

Wilders is said to have told an audience that “Islam is an ideology of war and hatred” and “Islam calls on people to become terrorists — the Koran leaves no doubt about it”, Dutch daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad said.

READ ALSO: Strache defends inviting Wilders to Hofburg

The speech spurred an Austrian-based Muslim organisation to lay a complaint of incitement against Wilders — which is punishable by a jail sentence.

“We have received the request from the Austrian authorities and are studying it,” Dutch public prosecution service spokesman Vincent Veenman told AFP.

He said it was too early to say whether Dutch officials would decide to prosecute the platinum-haired politician.

Austrian prosecutors told the AD they decided to hand the case over to their Dutch counterparts.

“We decided not to prosecute him here but to hand over the case to our Dutch colleagues due to practical considerations,” Nina Bussek, spokeswoman for the Austrian prosecutor's office told the newspaper.

Wilders responded to the announcement through a tweet, saying: “Unbelievable. Let them catch bandits and terrorists instead of prosecuting a politician for speaking the truth about Islam.”

A local Dutch court convicted him in December of discrimination, but acquitted him on a charge of hate speech over comments he made about Moroccans living in the Netherlands during a 2014 campaign rally.

That trial in particular focused on a comment made when Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands”.

When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” a smiling Wilders answered: “We're going to organise that.”

He has previously compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler's “Mein Kampf” which he wants banned and his Freedom Party (PVV) has vowed to close all mosques and Islamic schools in the Netherlands.

In March elections this year, while the PVV did not live up to early predictions that it would top the polls, it still managed to come in second, increasing its number of MPs to 20 from 12 in the outgoing parliament.

READ ALSO: Austrian investigates Wilders for hate speech


Austrian government comes under fire over ‘Islam map’

The Austrian government came under fire on Thursday for a new "Islam map" showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatise Austria's Muslim population.

Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an internet website earlier called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.

However, the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Centre of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling centre-right ÖVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.

Map demonstrates ‘intent to stigmatise all Muslims’

The IGGÖ Muslim representative council said in a statement that it “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatise all Muslims as a potential danger”.

The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it.

“The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”

Map not meant to ‘place Muslims in general under suspicion’

Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion”.

The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticised what he calls “political Islam”.

“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa Baghajati, the head of another Muslim organisation, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.

He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practising Muslims and most of them had no links with such organisations. “It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.

Rise reported in attacks against Muslims

Since a jihadist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country. IGGÖ complained that “racism against Muslims is growing”.