Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Geert Wilders in the US

US lawmaker hosts anti-Islamic Dutch lawmaker
By Associated Press
February 23, 2009

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl is hosting a film screening at the Capitol building on Thursday for a far-right Dutch lawmaker who claims that Islam inspires terrorism.

Kyl is sponsoring the event for Geert Wilders, who was denied entry to London earlier this month because British authorities said he posed a threat to public order.

Wilders’ 15-minute film juxtaposes verses from the Quran with images of violence by Muslims. Wilders has called the Quran a "fascist book" and said it should be banned.

Kyl agreed to facilitate the event because "all too often, people who have the courage to point out the dangers of militant Islamists find themselves vilified and endangered," said spokesman Ryan Patmintra.

Thursday’s event was being sponsored by the International Free Press Society, headed by Danish activist Lars Hedegaard, and the Center for Security Policy, a think tank in Washington led by Republican Frank Gaffney.

The event is closed to the public and press, but the film is being shown to members of Congress and their staff in the ornate "LBJ room," a Senate office once used by Lyndon B. Johnson as majority leader and later vice president.

Wilders’ film has sparked protests around the world, as well as inspired a debate on the freedom of speech. The lawmaker had been invited to Britain by a member of Parliament’s upper house, the House of Lords, to show his film. But the British government refused Wilders entry into the country, saying he posed a threat to "community harmony."

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Wilders was guilty of "extreme anti-Muslim hate." He said "there is no freedom to stir up racial and religious hatred."

Hedegaard, who helped sponsor Wilders’ visit to the U.S., said Europe’s hate speech and blasphemy laws do not make any sense.

"The way to deal with controversial, offensive or even hateful statements — unless they are directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action — is to expose them to public debate and criticism," Hedegaard said in a statement advertising Thursday’s event.

While it is unusual for U.S. lawmakers to grant Capitol access to such a controversial figure, it was unlikely Wilders’ appearance would produce the same outcry as it did in Britain.

Several leading senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, declined to comment.

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