Geert Wilders addressed an audience of around 150 students at Columbia University denouncing the spread of Islam. The event was sponsored by Columbia College Republicans in defense of free speech.
“I think it is important that we can hear what he has to say,” Wijnie de Groot, a Dutch lecturer at Columbia, said of Wilders. “Banning him or preventing him from speaking does not serve any purpose. On the contrary, we need to hear what a politician such as Wilders has to say so that we can voice an opinion and reaction to it.”
“CUCR invited Geert Wilders not because of his views, which the club does not in any way endorse, but rather because he is one of the more prominent victims of free speech limitation in Europe and in other parts of the world,” the campus Republicans wrote. “As anyone who has studied the history of free speech knows, its defense lies not where mainstream views are voiced but rather among those who hold unpopular, offensive, or extreme views.”
While Wilders was invited to discuss free speech, he interjected his views on Islam into his address, remarking that “The Quran is an evil book, full of violence, murder, terrorism, war,” “Muhammad was not a perfect man—he was a mass murderer and a pedophile,” and “Europe is in the process of becoming ‘Eurabia.’” He maintained that he did not hate Muslims, distinguishing between the Muslim people and the “ideology” of Islam.
“We didn’t invite him to talk about his views on Islam,” the Republicans wrote in a statement released on Thursday. “We find the fact that he spent so much of his speech talking about those views regrettable, but he did explain that those views play a part in his concern for free speech.”