Is Wilders partly to blame for Norway attacks?

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Discussion has started in the Netherlands about the influence Geert Wilders had on the Norwegian bomber Anders Behring Breivik, since he praises the Dutch anti-Islam politician 30 times in his manifesto. Whether it's fear of polarisation or political correctness, Dutch political parties seem to be inclined to protect Wilders.

Democrat MP Boris van der Ham called it an "idiotic reflex" to link Mr Wilders with the massacre, while Socialist Party leader Emile Roemer said it was unwise to point the finger at Mr Wilders. "If a murderer quotes me tomorrow does that make me responsible too?" he asked.

Historian Dirk-Jan van Baar has an answer to that:
"I would say Wilders is not legally guilty. But as a politician he must be perfectly aware that there is such a thing as political responsibility. And he would undoubtedly have pointed that out if the killer had been a Muslim."

Arab Party
Freedom Party leader Wilders can hardly be said to have kept a low profile in recent years when it comes to, say, hate-preaching imams and their effect on Muslim terrorists. He has also had harsh words to say about the Norwegian Labour Party, which was the target of the attacks.

In a speech he gave in Rome in March this year, Mr Wilders accused left-wing multiculturalists of cheering at every new sharia court or mosque. He claimed Europe would fall if it was stupid enough to believe that all cultures were equally valid and there was no reason to fight for its own culture.

On 1 May - Labour Day - he sent a tweet directed at Dutch Labour Party leader Job Cohen:
"Congratulations, Job, on the 65th anniversary of the Arab Party. You gave the Netherlands mass immigration and imported countless no-hopers and criminals."

Influence
On Tuesday Geert Wilders announced that he was "repulsed" by Breivik and that the violent actions of a psychopath were "a slap in the face for the worldwide anti-Islam movement" Job Cohen welcomed Mr Wilders' statement but also had a comment:

"Wilders has now distanced himself, but I think it's good to realise that your words do have an effect - and that goes for all politicians including Wilders. They can influence people and play a role in all kinds of ways. There is no way Wilders can be held responsible for this in any sense, but he [Breivik] uses the same rhetoric as Wilders does."

It seems Cohen has fired the first salvo in political debate, with the message "watch your language" but Boris van der Ham claims a debate at this point would have a polarising effect.

Debate
Dirk-Jan van Baar is not surprised at the reticence of Dutch politicians:
"It's typically Dutch and perhaps typically politically correct. Political correctness works as a kind of protection for the Freedom Party, which is one of the ironies of the situation. We know what kind of echoes these dramatic events can have over time - you only have to look at the debates that followed the murders of populist politician Pim Fortuyn and film-maker Theo van Gogh to know that we haven't seen the end of this."

Geert Wilders rejects all attempts to link his ideology and that of Breivik. He claims the left is trying to make political capital out of the tragedy. However, speaking in parliament, he has himself linked remarks by his political opponents with potential terrorist attacks.

Green Left MP Tofik Dibi has now requested a parliamentary debate with Prime Minister Mark Rutte about xenophobia in the Netherlands. He believes the Freedom Party is largely responsible for channelling resentments in the Netherlands and he wants to discuss the similarities between Breivik's ideas and attitudes which are prevalent in the Netherlands, for instance in Freedom Party circles.

(imm/tt)