Dutch lawmaker: UK trip is a victory for free speech

Dutch lawmaker UK trip

Geert Wilders 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
Geert Wilders 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
Anti-Islamic Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders returned to Britain on Friday - eight months after being turned away by authorities at Heathrow Airport. British authorities had warned Wilders in February he would not be welcome in the country, but he boarded a plane to London anyway and was sent back by British immigration officials under a blaze of publicity. On Friday, Wilders returned after successfully suing the British government to overturn the ban on his visiting. "I hope the UK will never again send someone back just because they don't agree with what they have to say," Wilders said, touting his return as a victory for free speech. Officials in Britain, home to some 2 million Muslims, had feared that allowing Wilders in could spark violence. The country has struggled to calm tensions since suicide bombers killed 52 rush-hour commuters on July 7, 2005. Wilders has outraged Muslims by comparing their holy book, the Quran, to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and calling for an end to Muslim immigration. His 15-minute film, "Fitna," which suggests that Islam justifies violence and terror, prompted angry protests when it was released online last year. He had tried to come to Britain in February to present the film in the Houses of Parliament. Mohammed Shafiq, who runs a Muslim youth group called the Ramadhan Foundation, said he had supported the government's original decision to keep Wilders out, but changed his mind when he saw that the debate over his expulsion seemed to be giving him a "moral victory." Ishtiaq Hussain with the Quilliam Foundation - an anti-extremism think tank - said his group had opposed barring Wilders from Britain all along. "No one should be banned unless they're inciting violence," Hussain said. Wilders' plans to address media outside Parliament on Friday had to be scrapped when about 20 bearded Islamists showed up carrying papers printed with the words: "Islam will conquer Europe" and "Sharia for the Netherlands."