Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison and Indiana Democratic Rep. Andre Carson penned a joint letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson last Thursday. Foreign Policy reported it on Tuesday.
“We write to raise our deep concern regarding the visit of Mr. Geert Wilders, a Dutch lawmaker known for perpetuating Islamophobia,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote, citing a 1998 law, the International Religious Freedom Act. The law allows the State Department to deny foreign leaders guilty of “severe violations of religious freedom” from entering the U.S.
The law has only been enforced once before, in 2005, to ban Narendra Modi, India’s current prime minister. He was accused of failing to protect Muslims during riots in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people died.
Wilders, the leader of the Party for Freedom, is slated to appear at several events during his trip to the U.S. On Wednesday, he will appear at two events in Washington D.C. at the invitation of Iowa U.S. Rep. Steve King. One is hosted by the Conservative Opportunity Society. Texas U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert has also helped facilitate Wilders’ appearences.
“I feel deeply honored by the invitations. In my speeches I will warn my American colleagues of the dangers of Islamization,” Wilders stated on his personal website earlier this month.
On Sunday, Wilders travels to Garland, Tex. where he will give a speech at the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an event hosted by Pamela Geller. That group will hold its inaugural “Muhammad Art Exhibit” and will award a $10,000 prize for the best cartoon depiction of Muhammad. The contest was created in response to the Islamist massacre at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo earlier this year.
But Ellison and Carson believe that Wilders’ past criticism of Islam — and he has indeed been critical — is hate speech and that it warrants him being kept out of the U.S.
“We respectfully request that the U.S. government deny Mr. Wilders’s entry due to his participation in inciting anti-Muslim aggression and violence,” wrote Ellison and Carson, the first and second Muslims to be elected to national public office, respectively. “Mr. Wilders’s policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures.”
The lawmakers point out that in 2010 and 2011 Wilders was brought up on formal charges of inciting hatred and discrimination. He is also currently facing charges because of a recent speech in which he called for fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, they point out.
“Mr. Wilders’ policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures,” the joint letter states, citing Wilders’ comment that “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology, the ideology of a retarded culture.”
“We should not be importing hate speech.”
While noting that freedom of speech is “a bedrock principle” that distinguishes free societies from oppressive regimes, “free speech…is not absolute,” the letter reads.
Geller called Ellison’s and Carson’s evidence of “sharia,” or Islamic law.
“It is revealing that these Muslim congressmen would show themselves to be enemies of free speech and free discourse,” Geller told The Daily Caller. “They cannot refute Wilders and don’t dare debate him. All these little authoritarians can do is try to prevent people from hearing his message.”
This article has been updated.