Peace, Justice and Security Foundation gala, The Hague, 5 September 2016

Dear Friends,

I wish to address this short statement to Mr. Geert Wilders, his acolytes, indeed to all those like him – the populists, demagogues and political fantasists.

To them, I must be a sort of nightmare. I am the global voice on human rights, universal rights; elected by all governments, and now critic of almost all governments. I defend and promote the human rights of each individual, everywhere: the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and immigrants; the rights of the LGBTi community; the rights of women and children in all countries; minorities; indigenous persons; people with disabilities, and any and all who are discriminated against, disadvantaged, persecuted or tortured – whether by governments, political movements or by terrorists.

I am a Muslim, who is, confusingly to racists, also white-skinned; whose mother is European and father, Arab. And I am angry, too. Because of Mr. Wilder’s lies and half-truths, manipulations and peddling of fear. You see, twenty years ago I served in the UN peacekeeping force during the Balkan wars – wars so cruel, so devastating, which flowed from this same factory of deceit, bigotry and ethnic nationalism.

Geert Wilders released his grotesque eleven-point manifesto only days ago, and a month ago he spoke along similar lines in Cleveland, in the United States. I will not repeat what he has said, but there are many who will, and his party is expected to do well in the elections in March.

And yet what Mr. Wilders shares in common with Mr. Trump, Mr. Orban, Mr. Zeman, Mr. Hofer, Mr. Fico, Madame Le Pen, Mr. Farage, he also shares with Da’esh.

All seek in varying degrees to recover a past, halcyon and so pure in form, where sunlit fields are settled by peoples united by ethnicity or religion – living peacefully in isolation, pilots of their fate, free of crime, foreign influence and war. A past that most certainly, in reality, did not exist anywhere, ever. Europe’s past, as we all know, was for centuries anything but that.

The proposition of recovering a supposedly perfect past is fiction; its merchants are cheats. Clever cheats.