Entering the office of Geert Wilders, the anti-Muslim radical who suddenly has a passable chance of becoming the next Dutch prime minister, the first thing that strikes me is the art on the walls.
This is not the horse-bound naturalism of an arch-conservative revanchist or the vacant abstractions of a technocratic modernizer. No, this is hippie art. It's in the style of Peter Max, with pert-breasted naked girls transmogrifying into pianos, rainbow-hued phantasms of cosmic love.
This is the disarming thing about Mr. Wilders, the thing that allows many otherwise moderate Dutch voters, including some gay-rights leaders and leftists, as well as a surprising number of otherwise sane foreigners, to give him a chance: He comes to his politics from a position of "anything goes, let it all hang out" liberalism.
"Whatever colour or sexual preference, whatever people have, it doesn't matter as they're all welcome in our party and we don't discriminate in any way," he tells me.
Perhaps for that reason, his virtually one-man Party for Freedom (PVV) scored major gains in Wednesday's municipal elections - in the two races it ran, it won the largest share of the vote in the city of Almere and finished second in The Hague. The PVV has nine of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament and, last year, won the second-largest number of Dutch seats (four out of 25) in the European Parliament elections. Polls show that the PVV is poised to win as many as 27 seats in June's national election, giving Mr. Wilders a chance at a strong position in a coalition government, possibly even the leadership.
So it's time we take a look at what Geert Wilders really represents. He is best known for a 2008 short film, Fitna, that juxtaposes Koranic verses and extremist Islamic teachings with scenes of terrorist violence and Islamist oppression. (He presented the film in London yesterday, in the House of Lords.) In isolation, it can be viewed a number of ways. It could be warning everyone about the dangers of Islam, or Muslims about the political manipulation of their faith, or everyone about the deadly consequences of literalist religious belief.
Those last two ideas find a lot of sympathy in liberal-minded people. I try them out on Mr. Wilders: Would you consider making a second Fitna about the dangers of politicized Christianity or Judaism, and the violence that's emerged from both?
He bristles at the idea. "I see many differences between Islam and other religions. In fact, I see Islam not so much as a religion as much as an ideology. As I see it, the aim of the Islamic ideology is to dominate and to submit the Western societies to their belief, and this is unlike the other religions. I say that Islam is not another branch on the tree of religions - it has to be put in the corner of totalitarian ideologies. That's why I compare it with communism and fascism - I see the comparisons between the Koran and Mein Kampf."
He then talks about a concept he calls al-Hijra, "the Islamic doctrine of migration," a Trojan-horse doctrine that commands Muslim believers to move to a non-Muslim country, have as many children as possible, then seize power. This "concept" seems to have come from a speech by Libya's Moammar Gadhafi but is absent from any existing practice of Islam.
It doesn't help that most Muslims in Europe are not religious. And Muslim Turks in the Netherlands average 1.6 children per family, fewer than Dutch-born citizens of similar income levels. Never mind that. Mr. Wilders strongly believes that Islamic ideas are a sort of colonizing ideology - as he says, a Mein Kampf. It is not the Muslim people he opposes but the ideas and, to stop them, we must ban the people who carry these ideas.
I wonder whether he's really read Mein Kampf. Perhaps we've forgotten, perhaps he doesn't realize it himself, but his words and the message of Fitna are exactly - to specific phrases, to the tone of louche brotherliness - what was said about the Jews.
It wasn't the people but the "the code of Jewish ethics," the well-documented desire of Jewish believers to take over countries and industries and societies. Judaism wasn't another religion but an ideology, closely linked to communism ("Judeo-Bolshevism" was your grandfather's "Islamo-fascism"). And it was the terrorism and violence that Judaic beliefs always seemed to bring to societies. Don't forget that Kristallnacht, the concerted violence by the Nazis against Jews and their property in 1938, was provoked by an act of Jewish terrorism, the assassination of a German diplomat in Paris. The connection between the Torah and the violence was evident to many decent and otherwise liberal-minded people.
This is not to say Geert Wilders is a Hitler or his followers are all racists. But we shouldn't pretend that his core ideas are in any way reasonable, rational, freedom-loving or tolerant.