NEW YORK – Dutch right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders warned of the growing threat of Islamization to America in an address before a low-key audience at Columbia University.
Wilders, who has outraged Muslims by comparing the Koran to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and calling for an end to Muslim immigration to the Netherlands, spoke Wednesday to around 150 students and invited guests at a campus event sponsored by the Columbia College Republicans. He decried the spread of Islam throughout Europe and warned that "it's already rearing its head in America."
The event did not draw expected protesters such as those who met Wilders at Temple University in Philadelphia on Tuesday. There, the question-and-answer session had to be cut short when some in the crowd began shouting jeers.
The Columbia audience was mostly respectful, although one audience member called Wilders a "clown" and another an "idiot."
"There are radicals within our community that we need to deal with, but the solution he's presenting is not the way to go," said Berk Koca, 21, a Turkish-American student and practicing Muslim.
"It's completely wrong to characterize a religion by its violent fundamentalists," said 19-year-old student Hannah Loymon.
In the 15-minute film, "Fitna," Wilders suggests that Islam justifies violence and terrorism. The film sparked angry protests after its release online last year.
British officials had banned Wilders from visiting that country in February, fearing it would spark violence. He sued the government and visited Britain last Friday, after a court ruled the government's ban was unjust. Wilders called the court ruling "a victory for the freedom of speech."
"Wilders has a long history of anti-Muslim bigotry," said Saiza Ali, Community Affairs Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New York City. "He speaks on a platform of freedom of speech, yet has called for the banning of the Koran and taxing Muslim women who don the headscarf," she said.