Anti-Islam leader "prefers" Utrecht mosque to burn down; Won't apologize for radio remarks

Ulu Mosque in Utrecht
The Ulu Mosque, under construction in the Lombok neighborhood of Utrecht. October 17, 2013.. (photo: İhsan Deniz Kılıçoğlu / Wikimedia Commons)

The leader of the Utrecht faction of anti-Islam party PVV surprised many by suggesting he hoped that a prominent mosque in the city would go up in flames. The comments brought immediate condemnation from politicians of several parties in the area.

Henk van Deún represented the PVV during a political talk radio show on a local channel. He was joined by the leader of Turkish and multicultural party Denk, Mahmut Sungur, who commented that he wanted to see the city's Ulu Mosque be recognized as a proud local landmark.

"We prefer that it burn down, so to speak," Van Deún responded, according to AD. "We are really against mosques in this country. We do not recognize Islam as a religion," he continued.

"It is an ideology, just like Nazism."

"What a disgusting remark; Unworthy of Utrecht and way over the line," said VVD Utrecht politician Dimitri Gilissen.

"This is the reason why D66 Utrect refuses a cooperation with the PVV!" said Klaas Verschuure, who will top the D66 ballot in Utrecht's election this spring. "There is no place for discrimination in Utrecht."

When given a chance to roll back his statement during the radio broadcast, Van Deún refused, saying he has "nothing against Muslims," but doesn't want to be confronted with aspects of Islam, like headscarves.

He later said his choice of words was "awkward" in a Tweet. "We are against mosques, but people should not have the idea that we will set fire to mosques," he told AD. "But if the mosque should disappear, I won't let that bother me."

"Violence can not and should never be used," Van Deún said on Twitter.