Geert Wilders
Geert WildersReuters

In the country where Spinoza became a prophet of atheism, Karl Marx investigated the roots of capitalism, the Founding Fathers started their journey, Descartes, Rousseau and Sade published their writings and Locke put his hand to the "Letter on Tolerance", there is a man transformed into a ghost for criticizing Islam: he is the most protected in Europe.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, received hundreds of serious death threats last year, "like all other Dutch politicians combined". Of 1,125 death threats - a new record and double the previous year - against 240 MPs, 600 threats were directed against Wilders alone, the conservative who criticizes Islam, defends "Judaeo-Christian civilization" and who as a young man spent six months on an Israeli kibbutz. Former Pakistani cricketer Khalid Latif has just been charged by the Dutch public prosecutor's office with placing a bounty on Wilders' head. There are also calls from Australia to behead him.

That is why the threats against academics, journalists and intellectuals about Islam are to be taken very seriously. After the Rushdie attack, Pakistani politicians demanded Wilders’ head.

Even at the televised debates, Wilders is strangely overdressed. Under his jacket she wears a black sweater. He serves to camouflage the bulletproof vest that the security service also makes him wear in TV studios. Someone could make an attempt on his life, a spectator in the audience, a lighting technician or a guard posted to secure him. That happened to the Russian ambassador in Ankara. A member of Wilders' security was even arrested. And Wilders had to cancel the election campaign.

The government had to build him a special house that looks like a prison, with bomb-proof walls, shatterproof windows and cameras. A dozen bodyguards follow him everywhere. The police had to open a special office to handle all the threats coming from everywhere, from Iraq to Syria.

The New Statesman recounts: “Wilders lives in one or more government safe houses with bulletproof windows and panic rooms that are 'safer than the national bank.' He drives to work in an armored police vehicle. His steel-doored office is at the end of a labyrinthine corridor on the third floor of an isolated wing of the Binnenhof, the complex of ancient buildings in The Hague that houses Parliament. It is protected by multiple layers of security and access is severely restricted. 'He lives in a safe,' Ronald Sørensen, a former PVV senator, told me. He adds that even taking photographs showing the inside of the office is prohibited, lest they reveal his whereabouts."

Wilders is protected every day by an army unit as we only see in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Because we are in the country where the Blossom Books publishing house has just removed Mohammed from Dante's Inferno, from which Ayaan Hirsi Ali has left to live in the United States where she is still under protection. This is where the Iranian artist Sooreh Hera had to exhibit in a museum in The Hague masks of Mohammed and Ali and was promised to "burn her alive" (thus canceling the exhibition) and where the cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot, who published under a pseudonym, announced that he would no longer make irreverent drawings on Islam, too dangerous…

It all began twenty years ago, when the detailed plans to kill Wilders were found on the computer of the Islamist who slaughtered Theo van Gogh. Mohammed Bouyeri had it all planned out. That night intelligence came knocking on Wilders' door in Venlo to take him away. He would never return. After changing cars a couple of times, Wilders was taken to a barracks in Bergen op Zoom.

Wilders recounts in his autobiography, Marked for Death:

“One Sunday morning in December we had been taken to an army barracks. Suddenly the siren went off. The guards grabbed their machine guns and ran to their positions. One of the guards ran out of the shower, grabbed his pistol and he fell, naked and soaking wet, to take up a position on the roof. It was freezing cold. Other guards positioned themselves in front of our door, yelling at us to stay inside. It was a scary experience, but a false alarm.

"During this time, I and my wife were not allowed to have visitors: neither family, nor friends, nor colleagues. When the cleaners came, we had to leave so they would not see us. I also lived in a small wooden house near the runway of the base military of Soesterberg.From there we were taken to a prison in Hamp Zeist, having been informed that a prison was one of the safest places for us. The guards took me to Parliament every morning and we returned every evening. Every morning at 7:00, including weekends, the lights would automatically turn on in our cell. This is where, in 1999-2001, two Libyans went on trial for blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988, killing 270 people. When will we be able to resume a normal life without the fear of a murderer showing up at our door?”.

Wilders sees his wife two, three times a week. He even had to disguise himself so as not to be recognized by the neighbors. He wig, glasses and mustache. "I remember well that it was very itchy, because then I went to the House and I had to remove my mustache and then you could still see those red spots during the debates from the acetone with which I cleaned the glue".

When I met him in The Hague, Wilders had his office at the highest point of Parliament. He hadn't been chosen at random. It can be reached from only one direction, making it easier for the escort to intervene. Anyone who wants to meet Wilders in Parliament must go through an X-ray machine, two checkpoints and bodyguards in front of the office. The window is bullet proof. Parliament also had to relocate it inside the chamber in a point not visible to the public, to better protect it. Even his feathers are being searched for ordnance. The Dutch airline KLM refused to put him on a flight to Moscow due to security threats.

Even at the cartoon rally in Texas, where two ISIS terrorists opened fire, Wilders had a heavily armed Swat team with him. If he goes to the European Parliament, the site becomes a "sterilized zone", like the airport gates. The agents protecting him block accesses to elevators and corridors to let him pass. His entourage is anonymous: too dangerous. When the alert level goes up, Wilders doesn't know where he's going to spend the night, they just take him away. Even when he is visiting his Hungarian wife's family in Budapest, Krisztina Marfai, "safe houses" are ready for him in case of an emergency.

Jihadist sites offer lavish rewards for those who will manage to kill him, including 72 virgins and rivers of milk and honey.

When Wilders appears in public, his escort must "clear" the area before he can enter. When he goes to the movies, the back rows are all booked for him and the guards. Wilders arrives after the movie has started and leaves before it ends. The cost of protecting the PVV leader has never been revealed, but tens of millions of euros are thought to have been spent over twenty years. And there seems to be no end in sight for the most protected man in the world after the president of the United States and the premier of Israel.

This is freedom today in Europe to the test of Islam. Many have died. Many just "disappeared". Many gave up out of fear and trials (Michel Houellebecq last). Others were hit thirty years after the first threats. And anyone who stammers otherwise is in bad faith, an accomplice or very dense.

Giulio Meotti is an Italian journalist with Il Foglio and writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author, in English, of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books, in addition to books in Italian. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Gatestone, Frontpage and Commentary.