Dutch anti-Islam speech in Ottawa angers Muslims

A scheduled Tuesday speech at the National Arts Centre by controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a prominent critic of Islam, has offended Canadian Muslims, who have accused the government of hypocricy in invitating him.
Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is due to speak Tuesday night at Ottawa's National Arts Centre. He is on trial in the Netherlands for hate speech, after comparing Islam to fascism and calling for a ban on the Qur'an. (Koen van Weel/Associated Press)

Members of Canada's Muslim community say the government is guilty of hypocrisy in allowing a prominent critic of Islam to enter Canada on a speaking tour.

Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a prominent critic of Islam, is scheduled to speak at the National Arts centre in Ottawa on Tuesday.

Wilders, who heads the Netherlands' third-biggest political party, is being prosecuted in Holland for hate speech, after he compared the Qur'an, Islam's holiest text, to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

His party platform also calls for the banning of the Qur'an from the Netherlands, under the same hate-speech laws being used against him.

Wilders has also written books and made films arguing that Islam justifies violence and oppression against non-Muslims, women, gays and other groups.

But Wilder's opponents in Canada said his entry to the country reveals a double standard from the government.

Palestine supporter barred in 2009

Imad al-Sukkari, of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations, argues the government is being one-sided in selecting who it allows into Canada for speaking tours.

He questioned why Wilders should be given a warm welcome when outspoken former British MP George Galloway, who is supportive of Palestine, was denied entry to Canada in 2009.

"Our freedom of speech laws are applicable in some cases and not in others," al-Sukkari said. "And there has to be an even playing field."

A federal court judge ruled last year that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's reasons for barring Galloway were motivated by "antipathy to his political views,"  and that allegations that Galloway supported Hamas was "a flawed and overreaching interpretation" because he had donated aid for Gaza relief.

Free speech

Speaking on Sun TV this week, Wilders said his prosecution in Holland highlighted how free speech was being eroded across the West in order to protect Muslim sensibilities.

"And if we are not able to speak the truth about anything, let alone about the Islamization of our societies, free speech will die and we can never accept that," he told the news station.

Voices from Ottawa's left have also successfully campaigned to stop speaking tours in the past.

Last year, some of those who bitterly protested the banning of Galloway managed to prevent U.S. conservative commentator Ann Coulter from addressing a crowd at the University of Ottawa, accusing her of hate speech.

Coulter's speech was cancelled due to security concerns after more than 2,000 demonstrators showed up outside the speaking venue.

With files from CBC's Evan Dyer