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College hosts anti-Islamic Dutch lawmaker

Image: Geert Wilders
Controversial Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, shown in a 2008 photo, is schedule to speak at Temple University on Tuesday and Columbia University on Wednesday.Ronen Zvulun / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A European lawmaker whose anti-Islamic views once led British officials to ban him from visiting that country will address Temple University students on Tuesday, despite protests from campus organizations.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders has outraged Muslims by comparing their holy book, the Quran, to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" and for his calls to end Muslim immigration to the Netherlands.

Muslim students at Temple, a public university serving about 34,000 students, and their supporters plan to protest the evening event, which was organized by a student group called Purpose and is being funded by the California-based David Horowitz Freedom Center.

'Attacked, threatened'
"The Muslim population at Temple feels attacked, threatened, and ultimately unsafe that Mr. Wilders has been invited to voice his hate-driven opinions," the Muslim Students Association wrote in a letter to university officials.

Brittany Walsh, the president of Purpose, didn't immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press. She told the Philadelphia Daily News that her group does not share Wilders' opinions, but intends the event as a forum for students to "hash out unconventional views."

"I respect their opposition to it," she said of the Muslim students. The goal is to "promote freedom of speech and give students an education opportunity of a lifetime to raise concerns and issues with a prominent international figure."

Free expression cited
Temple officials issued a statement saying the university "is a community of scholars in which freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression are valued."

"We respect the right of our student organizations to invite people who express a wide variety of views and ideas," the school said in a statement.

British officials once banned Wilders from visiting for fear it would spark violence. He successfully sued the government and visited Friday.

Wilders is scheduled to speak at Columbia University in New York on Wednesday.