EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece appears in the April 25, 2005, issue of National Review.
Holland was once known for its freedom, not its fanatics. It was seen as a kindly oasis in an unkind world, famous as a fair, broadminded country, a tolerant land where anyone could speak his mind without fear of retribution or the midnight knock on the door. Not now. Not after the assassination in 2002 of Pim Fortuyn, an outspoken opponent of Holland’s ruling multicultural orthodoxy. That wild, extravagant aristocrat was demonized by the political establishment, denied (some say) proper police protection, and, finally, gunned down in the street. Tolerant? Not after the slaughter in Amsterdam last November of another heretic, Theo van Gogh, filmmaker, gadfly, and controversialist, shot, stabbed, and butchered like a sacrificial animal for daring to attack Muslim fundamentalism. Free? No, not really. Not anymore.
In the days after van Gogh’s murder, the Dutch government at last began to act. To lose one public figure might have been unlucky; to have lost another looked like carelessness. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Geert Wilders, two members of parliament loathed by Holland’s Islamic extremists, were whisked off to heavily guarded safe houses. In February, the Somalian-born Hirsi Ali emerged to complain that the authorities appeared incapable of making permanent arrangements for Wilders’s and her security. It turned out that she had been camped out in a naval base. As for Wilders, a fortysomething MP from the southeast of the country, well, he had been housed in a location that could only have been picked by someone with no sense of irony or, perhaps, with too much. He’s been living in a prison: to be precise, the jail within a jail where the Lockerbie bombers once awaited their trial. Those who threaten him remain outside, free to do their worst.
Stoic Dutchman that he is, Wilders doesn’t like to grumble. “I have to make the best of it,” he told me in a recent interview. “I have a kind of living room, which is quite okay. On either side, there are the cells where the two Libyans were held. In one cell I have my clothing . . . In the other cell there is my bed.” The prison is, “of course, a terrible place,” but his hosts have done what they can. “They put some lamps in and a TV,” small consolation, I suspect, for a life under siege . . .
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