A far-right Dutch politician was denied entry to the UK yesterday, sparking a diplomatic row.
Geert Wilders, an outspoken anti-Islamist, was scheduled to visit London on Thursday for a screening of his controversial film Fitna, at the invitation of Lord Pearson, the Ukip peer.
The Home Office’s decision to refuse him entry because of his extreme views provoked Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch Foreign Secretary, to call David Miliband, his UK counterpart to protest at the decision.
“The fact that a Dutch parliamentarian is refused entry to another EU country is highly regrettable”, Mr Verhagen said. He revealed his conversation with Mr Miliband via a posting on his Twitter page.
It is understood that Mr Wilders was denied entry under EU law, which allows a member state to bar individuals if they constitute a threat to public policy, security or health.
The Home Office refused to comment on the case but a spokesperson said: “The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. It will stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country and that was the driving force behind tighter rules on exclusions for unacceptable behaviour that the Home Secretary announced in October last year.”
Mr Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, has been under 24-hour police protection in the Netherlands since 2004. He faces prosecution for incitement to hatred and discrimination based on the content of Fitna (an Arabic term meaning “disagreement and division among people”) and his calls for the Koran to be banned under a Dutch law which bans Mein Kampf. His film features verses from the Koran alongside images of terrorist attacks in New York, London and Madrid and calls on Muslims to remove “hate-preaching” verses from the Koran. It sparked violent protests in Indonesia and Pakistan and, after its release online last year, al-Qaeda issued a fatwa calling for Mr Wilders’s murder.
Fitna was originally to be screened in the House of Lords in January but was delayed after opposition from Muslim groups.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, vowed to press ahead with his visit to the UK on Thursday despite being banned from entering Britain by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, on Tuesday night.
Critics said the decision to ban Mr Wilders contrasted with the Home Secretary’s decision to allow Ibrahim Mousawi, chief spokesman for Lebanese group Hizbollah, to enter Britain last May.
Mr Wilders, 45, had been invited by Lord Pearson of Rannoch to show his anti-Islam film ‘Fitna’ and hold a question and answer session in Parliament on Thursday.
The 17-minute film, which likens Islam to Nazism and links it to terror attacks, has been described as “offensively anti-Islamic” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
The decision was welling up into a major diplomatic incident last night, with Mr Wilders insisting that he was set on boarding a flight to London.
Maxime Verhagen, the Dutch Foreign Minister, said he had called Mr Milliband to say that Holland was “deeply upset and disappointed” by Britain’s refusal to allow entry to a Dutch Parliamentarian “from a fellow EC Country”.
Mr Wilders told the Daily Telegraph he was “surprised and deeply disappointed by the British Government’s stance.
“I hoped my political friends in Britain were closer to Churchill’s policies against threats to the country rather than Chamberlain’s appeasement policies.
“If they want to put me in handcuffs, a Dutch parliamentarian and party leader and send me back to The Netherlands, so be it.
“This might wake some people up to the threat of the influence of extremist bullies who will have won a battle but not the war”.
Miss Smith’s decision was backed by Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who had been lobbying Parliamentary authorities not to allow Mr Wilders to broadcast the film in the Lords.
He said: “There was a real danger that his presence could lead to an incitement of racial hatred and violence in some communities. It could have provoked violence.”
But Lord Pearson, along with Baroness Cox, questioned whether Mr Wilders would have been banned from Britain if he had said “Ban the Bible”, rather than the Koran.
They said in statement: “Our western society, and indeed the majority of peaceful Muslims, are being intimidated far too much by violent Islamists.
“On this occasion, the British government is guilty of appeasement. We do not agree with Geert Wilders that the Koran should be banned.
“We don’t want it banned but discussed. We are therefore promoting freedom of speech.
“We intend to show and discuss the film with members of the British Parliament and the press as previously indicated, with or without Mr Wilders.”
Mr Mousawi was allowed by Miss Smith to address meetings in the UK organised by the Stop the War Coalition despite being banned from entering France and Ireland.