The Hague: Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, who goes on trial on Monday on hate speech charges, believes he is on a mission to stop an "Islamic invasion" of the West.
Reviled and supported in equal measure for his anti-Islam rhetoric, the 53-year-old firebrand has become a divisive figure in the Netherlands, which prides itself on its long but fading tradition of consensus politics and multi-cultural tolerance.
“We are not xenophobes, but we are against the influx of a culture that is against everything we stand for," Wilders recently told AFP.
Now the platinum-haired politician is facing charges of inciting racial hatred after pledging in local elections in 2014 he will ensure there will be "fewer Moroccans" in the country.
The creator of the anti-Islam film "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic) has previously said his popularity in the Netherlands is due to the fact that "we dare to talk about sensitive subjects like Islamisation and we use plain and simple words that the (Dutch) voter can understand."
The 17-minute film, featuring shocking images of attacks in New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004 combined with quotes from the Koran drew outrage in several Muslim countries when it was screened in 2008.
In 2011 Wilders was acquitted on five hate speech and discrimination charges because of "Fitna" -- as well as other anti-Islamic remarks made on websites, Internet forums and Dutch newspapers.
Local prosecutors at the time were reluctant to press charges against Wilders, saying his comments criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people.
‘Voice of millions'
Wilders says it is "nonsense" that he is branded as "far-right", but has no hesitation branding the Koran a "fascist" book.
He wants to halt Muslim immigration, close mosques and ban the Koran -- which he has infamously compared to Hitler's "Mein Kampf" -- should he win next year's elections.
But Wilders cares little for the opinion of what he terms "the political elites", or the media. He prefers to tweet his thoughts in snappy short sentences.
"Prosecuted for voicing the opinion of millions," Wilders tweeted two weeks ago after judges ruled his trial should go ahead, adding the hashtag "#pleurop," a vulgar Dutch way of telling someone to "go away."
Wilders created his Freedom Party (PVV) in 2006, when he won nine out of 150 parliamentary seats on a ticket to "limit the growth of Muslim numbers".
The party last year was riding high in the polls on a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, but has slipped from first to second place in recent weeks. But it is still predicted to rake in between 25 to 29 seats in March elections.
Wilders' outspoken views have seen him given round-the-clock protection and he is often described as the "best guarded man in the Netherlands" especially after the 2004 murder of outspoken Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a radical Islamist.
His lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops recently told judges his client was "on hit lists drawn up by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State" group.
Wilders does not talk about his private life -- his second wife is Hungarian -- and has remained mum on speculation that his bloodline is part Indonesian and that he dyes his hair to hide his roots.
He has also worked hard to build his profile abroad and often travels to the United States and Australia to speak to conservative audiences.
"I want to defend freedom, which I think will disappear into thin air the moment the Islamic ideology gains a stronger foothold in (The Netherlands)," Wilders has told AFP.