Geert Wilder, a far-right conservative politician from the Netherlands, has been the head of an anti-immigration shift in the political climate in Europe.
Although Wilder lost the election in mid-March for Prime Minister, the anti-Islamist Party for Freedom’s candidate was a serious threat to the incumbent, Mark Rutte.
The Netherlands is a historically liberal country that has been welcoming to immigrants and refugees for years. Rutte is a member of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, which promotes policies such as universal health care, same-sex marriage and sustainable development.
Wilder’s Party for Freedom has different policies, including banning the Quran and ending the carbon tax.
Wilder has made his way into the international media lately because of his similarities with Donald Trump both in appearance and political policy.
Taylor Toseff, senior Spanish and pre-nursing major, has lived in Spain and plans to return after graduating.
Toseff said she is “extremely disgusted” by Wilder’s policies and popularity. “It’s scary that people are behind that, it’s like what’s happening in our country.”
Deemed the “Dutch Trump,” Wilder posed a serious threat to the current prime minister in a social and political climate that is spreading fear of Muslims and Islam throughout Europe and the U.S.
Wilder had based his campaign on a promise for a Brexit-like referendum called “Nexit.” If elected, Wilder would have followed in the footsteps of The United Kingdom in leaving the European Union.
The outcome of this election was said to be highly influential in how the far-right would fare in other European elections this year.
“I would think leaving the EU would hurt their economy, losing that trading system and ease of travel for tourists,” Toseff said.
The anti-immigration sentiment is not exclusive to Europe, as Trump’s campaign was largely based on building the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump has also tried and failed to ban travelers from Muslim-majority countries twice since taking office.
“How does someone like that even come close to being elected in a country like the Netherlands that is so welcoming to immigrants and liberal anyway?” said Toseff.
According to Toseff, social profiling of Muslims doesn’t help anyone and only creates more of a problem.
Countries other than the U.S. have suffered from terror attacks, France being the center of attention the last couple of years. Since 2015, there have been 11 terror attacks ranging from stabbings to mass shootings, yet France has upheld a welcoming, peaceful stance toward Muslims.
While on a more local scale in the U.S., leaders have been focusing on bringing people together and propagating unity within communities.
This year, both candidates running for president of Student Government Association at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point based their messages on unity and togetherness. Administrative leaders have also sent out numerous messages to the student body asking for cooperation among students.
On a more local level, when constituents know one another personally, it is more challenging to sell the idea of shipping immigrants away.