By CHRISTINE OLLEY
Philadelphia Daily News
[email protected] 215-854-5184
Amid a firestorm of contention, several hundred people heard Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch parliamentarian, speak last night at Temple University.
During his approximately 30-minute speech, Wilders called the Quran "an evil book" and said that the United States was facing Islamization.
A question-and-answer session was cut short, and Wilders was escorted out of the lecture hall after some students began shouting insults at him.
Before the speech, held in Anderson Hall, more than 50 protesters had denounced the appearance of Wilders at the school.
Members of All Sides, an organization that seeks to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians, held pink pom-poms and shouted, "Hey Hey, HO, HO, this racist bull----'s got to go."
Standing next to them with signs decrying Wilders' views were members of the Student Senate, Democratic Socialists and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.
"Wilders speaks out about free speech while at the same time banning the Quran," said Megan Chialastri, vice president of All Sides.
"Banned books are not free speech and there is no way around that," Chialastri said.
"This is hate speech at its core," said Monira Gamal-Eldin, president of the Muslim Students Association.
Inside the auditorium, after going through rigorous security checks, students assembled to hear the Dutch politician speak.
Brittany Walsh, president of the student group Purpose, which had invited Wilders, introduced his 17-minute short film, Fitna - Arabic for disagreement and division among people - in which passages from the Quran are juxtaposed with newspaper clippings and video showing or describing violent acts by Muslims.
Wilders, 46, emerged after the film, flanked by a security detail which he said made him feel as if he was not free but which has been necessary because of numerous threats on his life.
Before he was escorted out, the last student allowed to address Wilders said: "Clearly fascism wasn't defeated, because if it was, a genocide-loving racist clown like you still wouldn't have anything to say."
As the audience filed out of the auditorium, two Temple students offered their reactions to Wild-ers' visit.
"I'm proud," said Jonas Skovdal. "I think it's a big win for humanity that people stood up to him in there."
"It was a good experience," said Brian Wisnieski. "What he said was definitely negative, but it was a good experience that he came."
The event was funded by the California-based David Horowitz Freedom Center, a foundation that promotes conservative scholarship.