On Monday, Charles Krauthammer had this, in part, to say about Geert Wilders:
What he says is extreme, radical, and wrong. He basically is arguing that Islam is the same as Islamism. Islamism is an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].
The untruth of that is obvious. If you look at the United States, the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. are not Islamists. So, it’s simply incorrect. Now, in Europe, there is probably a slightly larger minority but, nonetheless, the overwhelming majority are not.
The words “radical” and “extreme” connote the relationship between Wilders’ view and mainstream thinking (in this they differ from the word “fascist,” which connotes a specific ideology). In the politically correct West of today, I believe it is fair to characterize Wilders as radical and extreme.
But is Wilders wrong? Krauthammer says he is because the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the U.S. and Europe are not Islamists. Wilders does not deny this. As he said last week in London:
The majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens and want to live a peaceful life as you and I do. I know that. That is why I always make a clear distinction between the people, the Muslims, and the ideology, between Islam and Muslims. There are many moderate Muslims, but there is no such thing as a moderate Islam.
Wilders is making a theological point here — his contention is that Islam, as set forth in the teachings of the Koran, “commands Muslims to exercise jihad. . .to establish shariah law [and]. . .to impose Islam on the entire world.” I’m no scholar of Islam, but I believe Wilders is correct. To show otherwise, one would have to explain away portions of the Koran. It is not enough just to call Wilders’ interpretation of that book “narrow.”
But the bottom line issues for me are neither the theological question in the abstract nor the precise theology embraced by most Muslims in Europe. The core issues are: (1) whether (or to what extent) the massive growth of the Islamic population in countries like the Netherlands poses a threat to democracy, free speech, and other fundamental values and institutions and (2) if so, what to do about it. Wilders makes a strong case that the demographic trend poses such a threat, and a substantial one.
Some of his proposed solutions — such as banning Islamic immigration — are radical and extreme (as defined above), but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Indeed, it’s plausible to believe they are reasonable solutions. But without living in the Netherlands or having studied it carefully, it’s impossible for me to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to some of Wilders’ more controversial specific proposals.