Muslim preacher in hiding over death wish remark

AMSTERDAM — A Muslim preacher has provoked a storm of protest by admitting on Dutch television he wants parliamentarian Geert Wilders to die.

Wilders, an independent Conservative MP, plans to set up a party “to tackle Islamic extremism” in the Netherlands.

Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven, 25, told the media on Wednesday afternoon he had gone into hiding as a result of the outcry about his remark.

In a statement to define his position, Van de Ven claimed he did not want to incite anyone to murder Wilders, nor did he wish Wilders to contract a fatal illness.

“I don’t wish that on him with either my tongue or my pen. But I would not mourn [his death], just as the great majority of the Dutch public would not mourn if Osama bin Laden was found dead tomorrow.”

Van de Ven said he wanted to meet with senior politicians who had criticised his comments to explain his position in person.

The preacher was a guest on programme Het Elfde Uur on the evangelical broadcaster EO on Tuesday evening.

Asked by presenter Andries Kneuvel if he wanted Wilders to die within the next two years, Van de Ven said yes, preferrably due to illness. Wilders has received death threats for criticising Islam.

Van de Ven said he hoped Wilders was not murdered by a Muslim and that murder in general was wrong.

He did admit however that he felt “some joy” on hearing of the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh on 2 November. Van Gogh was apparently killed because he made a short film featuring semi-naked women talking about domestic violence in Islamic society.

A Muslim, 26 who holds Moroccan and Dutch nationality has been arrested for the killing.

Prosecutors say the murder suspect Mohammed B. was part of a group of extremist young Muslims. Several other people have been arrested as part of the investigation into Van Gogh’s assassination.

Preacher Van de Ven used the television programme on Tuesday night to once again deny media accusations that his sermons in mosques have helped radicalise some of the suspects and drive them to violence.

Van de Ven made the distinction between a “wish and the act”. He said one could wish in one’s thoughts and prayers that a person might die, but not approve of murder.

Presenter Knevel told the media later he was very unhappy with the preacher’s comments.

The programme received hundreds of reactions following the interview with Van de Ven. Some listeners were angry the programme had given Van de Ven a platform to express his views.

Immigration and Integration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Radio 1 news she was shocked at the views expressed by the preacher. “How can we in the Netherlands have sunk so low. I am really concerned about this,” she said.

Verdonk was one of the politicians in the Netherlands who defended the principle of freedom of speech in the days after Van Gogh’s murder.

Apart from the film Submission, Van Gogh had angered Muslims by referring to them in derogatory terms in articles and during interviews. On more than one occasion he referred to Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands as a “fifth column” and “goat fuckers”.

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