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Political Games & Muslims in Netherlands (Part Two)



Interviewed By  Euro-Muslims Editorial Desk

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What is your estimation to the status of Muslims in The Netherlands?



In the first part, Mr. Bertus Hendriks gave a brief summary of the historical background of Muslimsí existence in Europe. He highlighted the major elements affecting Muslimsí integration there, giving real examples from life to second his viewpoint. Mr. Hendriks assured that the current status of immigrants is not born today; rather it is an accumulative one. Some big internal and external differences stand as obstacles to the full acceptance of those ďnew comersĒ in the European society. In this part, he continues raising some of the major Muslim-related issues mainly in The Netherlands, pointing out the political games that have great influence on their lives.

The Game of Politics

Pim Fortuyn, late candidate in the Dutch Parliament, tried to change the multi-cultural nature of the Dutch society by assuming that it has created economic problems in the state. But at that time such racist ideas were totally rejected and so was he. The main reason behind this reaction was that the Dutch were proud of being a multi-cultural society. Consequently, Fortuyn did not get much support.

A Word Affecting All

But problems kept growing. And there were people sensitive to Fortuyn's radical message, who also believed that Muslims have many restrictions in their religion especially about women and homosexuality. All this has led to an uncomforted state for the country's citizens. This idea was stressed when an imam said that all homosexuals must be thrown from the top of a big tower, this kind of statement created a storm. Since people are ignorant of Islam, they associate everything extreme to Islam.

Female Circumcision


In fact, there are many traditional-related views that are always attributed to Islam leading finally to antagonistic attitudes. A famous example of this is the tradition of female circumcision. It is true that this is a very old African habit, but many people donít know that especially because many Muslim women wrongly practice it on Islamic basis. Yet Islam has nothing to do with it. As a result, most of the European countries see Islam as backward.

Internal & External Incidents

After a while, Pim Fortuyn's ideas gained grounds and he finally got votes in the municipal's election. In this gloomy atmosphere came September the 11th, that was really a watershed. This was accompanied by the Palestinian struggle, the suicidal bombs, Osama bin Laden, who portrays himself as the leader of Muslims. Moreover, there were the combination of the Jihad's activities, the bombings in Madrid and London, the threats in The Netherlands, and the assassination of Theo van Gogh (Dutch Film director, Film producer, Columnist, Author, and Actor), known for his criticism against Islam, by Mohammed Bouyeri. All these incidents have created a completely anti-Islamic atmosphere.

Politicians knew then that raising hatred towards Islam is the best way to win votes.

Views of Ex-Muslims

What do you think of Mr. Bertus Hendriks' views? What is your estimation to the status of Muslims in The Netherlands? How can they improve it? What is the role of Muslims in the world to support each other?

All those incidents paved the way for fear which "is a bad councilor". This atmosphere was stressed by the views of ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Dutch feminist, writer and politician, who said that the problem lies in Islam. She is a very successful immigrant, that's why her views are very influential, including those about Islam. She has a prestigious position in the Dutch society; none can deny that this has contributed to the general atmosphere of fear of Islam.  

Dutch Parliament

The parliament election system in Holland provides equal chances for every party which is the system of proportional representation, so we have one single district, namely Holland, 150 seats in the parliament. So the process goes as follows: parties count the votes, on national level, divide them on 150, then the result is the number of the strikes. This means that even the small parties have a chance through the votes in the parliament, but it also means that you have to make collations, so you never get a very strong party.

Convince and Win

If the party is able to convince the public in the election campaign, through media, that it has a solution, and it has got many votes, this means that this party will become a big one. That happened with Pim Fortuyn, before he was killed, he was heavily favored by the public as he was a good speaker, and was pointing to some real problems. Fortuyn used to say, "the big Dutch parties donít want to admit that we have problems; they stick to the concept of multi-cultural community, accusing the poor that they are backward and racist for they accuse the foreigners with the economic crisis in the country."

New strategy

After the success that Pim Fortuyn had, big parties no longer ignored the claims of the public. So the new strategy was to agree that the Muslim minority might represent a problem, but that there are other right solutions far from rejecting them.

In fact, those parties' fear increased with the rise of the new inclination by Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party, as he was dominating the stage. Those parties were really afraid that attacking Wilders' views would give him more popularity. In addition, they have some weak points represented in the lack of direct visible solutions.

Geert Wilders

On the other hand, Wilders has a simple clear message: all the blame goes to those Muslims who refuse to integrate, refuse to learn Dutch, and they go to Islamic schools (less modern sciences, maths, and science, much studying of the Qura'n which the Dutch think is full of backward ideas).

Wilders argument against Muslims is based on the fact that the main source for Muslims is the Holy Qura'n which gives them instructions for their life and religion. He assumes that Muslims cannot be integrated, they take their book literally. He provokes people by saying that the Dutch should not want Muslims to integrate "because we donít want to compromise our own values."

Moreover, there are some Muslims who say, "had Prophet Mohamed, (PBUH), lived in a different era; the Qura'n would have been different. Those assume that it is all about the message to be received. The message should not be taken literally; you have to see the text in its context.

After Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh were killed, not only the poor people but also the intellectuals started to move towards Wilders's direction,. This added greatly to his growing political influence.

I'm very worried about this trend because it is getting bigger.

Fitna Movie

When Fitna movie was released, it didnít get much attention or consideration from the public, and the government did a good job declaring that it does was not share the views of Wilders. Though the government was unable to stopping that movie from getting more spread, it advised Muslims to go to the court, and they did.

Dutch Muslims' Civilized Reaction

First, Muslims lost in court, for the judge said that the freedom of expression is the quintessence of freedom of religion. He added that as the Muslims can practice their faith without any interference from the government, everybody is also free to criticize, and we cannot forbid this. Then Muslims went into an appeal, in which the judge said that the prosecution shall proceed. Though this does not mean that Wilders will be condemned, but at least a higher court shall decide in the matter. Having reached that stage, Wilders's supporters shut up.

What to Do?

In fact, there is no easy solution to this kind of Islamic dilemma, but at the same time I see it as a temporary phenomenon, I think we will witness the emergence of a European Islam.
Now we can witness a kind of a reactive identity. Previously people thought that any veiled woman must be backward and oppressed. But now Muslim women in Holland recognize their veil as a kind of identity. Muslim women are proud of their identity; those are very outspoken women, who speak with fantastic accents.

Muslims, the Jews!!

All this gives me an impression that things are going very well. Yet we have to admit that this stage represents a painful transition. I can strongly compare the state of Muslims in the European countries to the state of the Jews in Amsterdam. The Jews were the second largest group after the Christians, they didnít speak Dutch, and they had rabbis, with different traditions, different culture. Then they strongly demanded to have full rights just as the Dutch citizens.

If we just replace some words with others like the word Rabbis with Imams, Jews with Muslims, then we can reach the same conclusion that we can see now in Holland towards the Jew community that enjoys full citizenship. I think that most of the ongoing conflicts nowadays are part of that difficult transition we said before. I can assure that later on we can see many Aboutalebs; Ahmed Aboutaleb was the first Moroccan to be appointed as a mayor of Rotterdam.

Finally, we have to say that adaptation now passes through a very difficult phase, yet the rise of the new version of European Muslims will soon follow.


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