Who Will Be The People’s Champion Now?

{We ask who is waiting in the wings to take up the populist banner for the general election in November now that Leefbaar Nederland and the LPF are on the way out.} It looked as if the traditional political parties in the Netherlands were in trouble in the early part of the decade. After eight years of the consensus driven ‘Purple’ coalition between Labour (PvdA), Liberals (VVD) and Democrat D66, ordinary people in the street felt locked out from the corridors of power in The Hague – and they were ready to force themselves back in. The Trojan horse was to be a new kind of party, Leefbaar Nederland (Liveable Netherlands – LN). Founded in 1999 by Jan Nagel and Henk Westbroek of the successful Leefbaar parties in Hilversum and Utrecht, LN wasn’t going to be fettered by either left or right-wing philosophies. The main elements of its programme for the general election in May 2002 were: more of a say for ordinary people (at the expense of the traditional parties); less bureaucracy; and a more balanced (selective) asylum policy. Having the outspoken ‘professor’ and writer Pim Fortuyn at the helm significantly increased the party’s appeal. Early predictions were that LN could win up to 20 seats. Pim factor But everything went wrong three months before the election when the party executive sacked Fortuyn after he called for an end to immigration and for the removal of the anti-discrimination clause from the Constitution. Prosecutor Fred Teeven replaced Fortuyn as leader. LN won two seats while Fortuyn’s new political party, Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), won 28 of the 150 seats in parliament. Although Fortuyn was assassinated nine days before the election, his party joined a centre-right coalition in triumph. The celebrations were short-lived. The government collapsed ignominiously 87 days later due to LPF infighting. The LPF managed to hang on to eight seats in the subsequent election in January 2003. Leefbaar Nederland lost both its seats. Opinion polls have consistently suggested the LPF, which has been reduced to six seats by further wrangling, will join LN on the political scrap heap after the election next November. Hit by a serious debt problem, LN has decided to dissolve; the LPF has chosen to fight on and appoint a “big name” to lead its election campaign. Yet it faces competition from a host of other groups and personalities who hope to capture the ‘people’s vote’. Here’s a rundown of the main contenders: – Geert Wilders – his hair has a life of its own A Conservative with an striking coiffure, Wilders (42) from the south-eastern city of Venlo presents himself as the natural successor to Pim Fortuyn – the new voice of the common man and woman of the Netherlands. Wilders is probably the second best known Dutch politician internationally after Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Both are former members of the Liberal Party (VVD), both are critics of fundamentalist Islam, both are against immigration from Muslim countries, and both had to go into hiding after Muslim Mohammed Bouyeri murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh in November 2004. Two months before the killing, Wilders split with the Liberals over the party support for EU-accession talks with Turkey. He recently set up the Partij van de Vrijheid (Party of the Freedom) to contest the election in November. As has occurred frequently since Leefbaar Nederland rocked political certainties in the Netherlands, opinion polls were wildly enthusiast about the latest political contender. Wilders was tipped to win anything up to 30 seats. More recent surveys suggest he may get eight seats – still impressive for a new party. – Marco Pastors – ‘Pim’ stripe suits are his trademarl Given to wearing pinstripe suits in imitation of Fortuyn, Marco Pastors, 40, is a man with a mission – to bring the ‘Rotterdam approach’ – law & order, and compulsory integration for immigrants to the rest of the country. Pastors took over the leadership of Leefbaar Rotterdam after Fortuyn was murdered. The Fortuyn revolution began in the local elections two months before the national poll. Although Leefbaar Rotterdam was the largest group on the city council, Pastors never stopped seeing conspiracies and imagining the established parties were out for revenge. One sign of this, as far as he is concerned, was when he was forced off the city’s executive council for speaking his mind about Muslim immigrants, despite an agreement not to. A second sign was the local election in March this year when the Labour Party beat Leefbaar Rotterdam into second place. Pastors effectively abandoned any responsibility for the future government of the city. He has set his mind to continue the Fortuyn revolution on the national stage with a new political party. He is known to have approached several like minded Fortuynists, including the LPF’s Joost Eerdmans and former immigration minister Hilbrand Nawijn (ex-LPF). But his attempts to lure Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk away from the Liberals have failed so far. Details about the new party remain sketchy. – Hilbrand Nawijn – often pleased with himself The head of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) from 1988 to 1996, Nawijn became the LPF’s immigration minister in the short-lived 2002 coalition government. He introduced the uncompromising approach to immigration and asylum that Verdonk now follows. Consequently, Nawijn took great pleasure in calling on Verdonk to strip Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali of her Dutch nationality for lying about her name. When not scowling about things he objects to, like lying asylum seekers, Nawijn is usually seen sporting a self-satisfied smirk. Elected to parliament with a huge personal vote in 2003, despite being on the bottom of the LPF list of candidates, he left the LPF in January 2005 in a row about his close ties with Filip Dewinter, leader of the far-right Vlaams Belang party in Belgium. His new party, Groep Nawijn, won five seats on Zoetermeer city council in March. However, it emerged in late July that Nawijn was one of the candidates being considered as the election leader for the LPF. Nawijn confirmed he was interested. LPF survivors Gerard van As – rebranded LPF will survive Most commentators – and opinion polls – suggest the LPF is washed up. The countless internal rows, frequent leadership changes and occasional mad-cap antics of its MPs have destroyed its credibility. That is the majority view. There is a minority opinion, held by a handful of LPFers, that the 2006 election can be a new beginning. Current leader Gerard van As has said the party will soon come with a new name and exciting new leader who will thrill the electorate. According to reports the ‘new’ name for the Lijst Pim Fortuyn is likely to include the name Fortuyn. And one of the three candidates for the leadership position is Nawijn, who left the LPF because his colleagues didn’t like him hanging around with the leader of the right-wing Vlaams Belang. Van As may be confident the LPF will survive; some of the other MPs are not. – Justice spokesman Joost Eerdmans is being courted by more than one suitor. – Matt Herben, twice called upon to lead the LPF and twice ditched for being ineffective, has faded into the background. – MP Max Hermans is also being wooed by other parties, and his personal LPF website no longer works. – MP Margot Kraneveldt resigned her seat in early July and rejoined the Labour Party. Her replacement, Gonny van Oudenallen, was expelled by the LPF over questions about her financial dealings while a councillor in Amsterdam. Van Oudenallen is now sitting as an independent, unconcerned by the prospect of losing her seat in November. A snap-shot of the main contenders for Fortuyn’s crown. The Dutch public will have to decide which, if any, are worthy to wear it.

Sarkozy: All Clandestine Muslim Prayer Rooms At Orly And Roissy Have Been Closed

By Xavier Ternisien PARIS – According to the French Minister of the Interior, all clandestine rooms of Muslim prayer at Orly and Roissy airports have been closed. At the beginning of July there were still eight of them left at Orly, and one at Roissy. Hazem El-Shaffei, the Muslim chaplain for these airports, is pleased with the announcement: “I can only agree. For obvious reasons of security, it is necessary to control these places of prayer”, he said. There are three official prayer rooms at Roissy, one at Orly Ouest, and another at Orly Sud. {(continued below in French)} PARIS – Selon un _tat des lieux _tabli le 24 juillet par le minist_re de l’int_rieur, toutes les salles de pri_re musulmane clandestines des a_roports d’Orly et de Roissy ont _t_ ferm_es. D_but juillet, il restait encore un local de ce type _ Roissy et huit _ Orly. “Depuis lors, l’action de la direction centrale de la police aux fronti_res (DCPAF) s’est poursuivie afin de convaincre les responsables des soci_t_s dans lesquelles _taient implant_s ces lieux de les fermer le plus rapidement possible, affirme le minist_re de l’int_rieur. Sur la plate-forme d’Orly, la situation apparaissait plus d_licate, en raison des r_ticences de certains dirigeants _ agir, par crainte de possibles conflits sociaux.” A la date du 17 juillet, 5 salles de pri_re clandestines restaient ouvertes _ Orly : deux au sein de la soci_t_ SAP/Servisair, une dans la soci_t_ Alyzia Handling, une chez ISS Abilis et une chez Eliance. Les d_marches entreprises par la DCPAF ont permis de convaincre les responsables de ces entreprises. Les dirigeants des soci_t_s concern_es ont accept_ de faire cesser la pratique religieuse dans ces salles et ont fait enlever tout objet et signe religieux, en concertation, pour certains, avec les responsables syndicaux. L’aum_nier musulman des a_roports d’Orly et de Roissy, Hazem El-Shaffei, se f_licite de la d_cision du minist_re de l’int_rieur : “Je ne peux qu’_tre d’accord. Pour des raisons de s_curit_ _vidente, il faut contr_ler ces lieux de pri_re”, d_clare-t-il. Il existe trois salles de pri_re officielles _ Roissy, une _ Orly Ouest et une _ Orly Sud. Une autre salle, plus grande, est en cours d’am_nagement dans cette derni_re a_rogare. En th_orie, ces salles con_ues pour accueillir les passagers musulmans peuvent recevoir _galement les personnels qui travaillent dans les a_roports. Sauf _ Roissy-terminal 1, o_ la salle de pri_re se trouve sous douane. Cependant, un doute subsiste sur l’efficacit_ de ce “nettoyage”. M. El-Shaffei admet que l’action du minist_re de l’int_rieur n’emp_chera pas le d_veloppement de ce qu’il appelle des “salles de pri_re spontan_es” : “Prenez cinq personnes qui travaillent ensemble sur un site. Elles s’arr_tent de travailler quand c’est l’heure et d_cident de faire la pri_re sur place. Cela peut _tre dans un couloir, un bout de jardin ou sur un trottoir… C’est quelque chose d’in_vitable. En islam, il n’est pas n_cessaire de prier dans un lieu consacr_.” M. El-Shaffei admet qu’il serait pr_f_rable que le personnel musulman regroupe ses pri_res, comme cela est permis, et les accomplisse chez lui _ la fin de la journ_e. Pour sa part, le minist_re de l’int_rieur affirme que la police aux fronti_res assurera un suivi r_gulier et veillera _ l’application effective des directives pr_fectorales.

It’s Business As Usual At The ‘Terrorists’ Breeding Ground’

By Bernard Hare LEEDS – I’ve always liked the Beeston area of Leeds. I was brought up in neighbouring East End Park in the 60s. My first memories are of me and my mum travelling to Beeston early in the morning on the 61 bus. My auntie, who lived there, looked after me while mum went to work. My auntie had guard geese in the garden. I’ll always remember those aggressive, squabbling birds – but it never occurred to me to ask why they needed guard geese in Beeston when we didn’t need them in East End Park. Beeston was always kind of rough. I’m sitting at the Formica tables outside Cafe Mack’s trying to understand how outside perceptions of Beeston (typically, a “breeding ground for terrorists”) differs from the reality of living here. Mick Mac, the co-proprietor, seems to know everyone. “Hey up, Jimmy, have you had them whippets castrated yet? Manjit, where’s them flowers you were bringing round?” I wonder aloud: “And the terrorists?” “There’s a lot of rubbish written about Beeston,” Mac tells me. “People here really do work hard to try to get on.” One popular misconception is that Beeston is primarily an Asian area. Let me quote from an article by “undercover” reporter Ali Hussain published in the Times earlier this month. “Voices babbled in Urdu and Sylheti … Thick-bearded men in robes strolled the streets … This could almost be an Asian city, I thought, rather than Beeston, the suburb of Leeds where two of the July 7 bombers had lived.” True, thick-bearded men in robes do stroll the streets, but so do red-faced men with tattoos and no shirts, hoop-earringed chav girls, introverted Somalis and outgoing Poles. In fact, only 18% of the population of Beeston Hill and Holbeck are of Asian origin (according to the 2001 census). In Beeston, numerous communities live side by side. There are asylum seekers and refugees from all corners of the world, as well as many people of a mixed-race or mixed-heritage background, but the largest part of the population remains the white working class. Disaffected youth, limited opportunities, a sense of social exclusion, maybe even a feeling of betrayal is common across all ethnic groups in Beeston, because Beeston is a poor area on the wrong side of the tracks. Some disaffected Asian youths turn to their Muslim heritage in search of identity. Some disaffected white kids express their lack of identity through self-destructive behaviour and crime. In the late 80s, I worked at the YMCA youth centre on Beeston Hill. We did some innovative anti-racist work with local kids. It closed, along with most of the other local youth provision, in 1990 after a round of Tory cuts. Looking back, it seems a short-sighted social policy. Walking around, I find it hard to get people to talk. The community has closed ranks. Everyone is media-weary and media-wary. “The media flooded into the area after the London bombings and many people felt they were misrepresented,” says Ed Carlisle, as we sit in his terrace-end garden in the heart of the “terrorist breeding ground”. The terrorist threat seems far away. “This street is great,” he says. “There are eight or nine different ethnic groups, including refugees, migrant workers, local working class and even me from down south. People just hang out, swap gardening tips and share ice pops or the odd beer.” Carlisle works for Together For Peace, which makes partnerships to foster understanding between people from different backgrounds. Hamara, Asha, and dozens of other community groups are doing great work in the area, he says, and the festival mela this year was a big success. Thousands came from all backgrounds without a hint of trouble. “Something good might come of this yet. Hopefully, 7/7 should have shaken us all out of our complacency – in Leeds and everywhere. Certainly in Beeston, a lot of people are living and working all the harder to make this place a better and more deeply peaceful place to live.” I like Carlisle’s style and I give him my every support, but somewhere in the back of my mind I can’t help thinking about those guard geese. Bernard Hare is a writer based in Leeds. His memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew is published by Sceptre. This is the first in a series of occasional columns.

From the Court to the Imam: Praise for a New Policing Idea

Politicians endorsed an initiative of co-operation with mosques in the fight against juvenile delinquency. A good idea is born, now we must see to it that it’s implemented. This was the reaction yesterday from Berlin’s Senator of the Interior and from the Youth and Justice Senators to the proposal that the police and mosque associations unite in dealing with juvenile delinquency.

Denmark: Planned Graveyard Desecrated

An uncertain future looms for a Muslim cemetery which has been dogged by vandalism. The first Muslim cemetery in Denmark has already been struck by several incidents of vandalism – before it has even been opened. The cemetery plot in Br_ndby, southwest of Copenhagen, has had swastikas painted on it. Similar vandalism has also taken place at the Islamic religious community centre in Copenhagen. The planned cemetery has already had its first test grave dug and the Islamic Burial Foundation is searching for a gardener to care for the property. ‘This is a very, very bad start,’ said Kasem Ahmad, chairman of the foundation, to daily newspaper Politiken. ‘I am losing faith that this project will ever be realised.’ Ahmed said a car has also been seen on several occasions driving recklessly across the field and that rumours have been circulating that it is being used to race on. The vandalism has cast an uncertain future over the cemetery, according to Ahmet Deniz, deputy chairman of the foundation. He said the cemetery would not be put into use until the foundation could be certain that the vandalism would be stopped. ‘It must be very intolerant people who can’t accommodate anyone other than themselves. They aren’t thinking about the fact that they are ruining their own land and the opportunity to live in a country with different types of people,’ said Deniz. The Islamic Burial Foundation has only contacted the police on one occasion. Members of the foundation are now trying to find the funds to hire a security crew to monitor the location. Bertel Haarder, minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs approved the request to establish the cemetery in April 2006.

Allah In The Church

Jan A.B. Jongeneel, the notable Utrecht theologian and missiologist, regards Muslims praying aloud in Protestant churches as a vexing and confusing arrangement, which deconstructs rather than reinforces the embodied practices of syncretism and toleration. {(continued below in Dutch)} De Utrechtse hoogleraar missiologie Jongeneel noemt het in het tijdschrift Kerk en Theologie kwetsend en verwarrend wanneer tijdens een kerkdienst moslims een gebed tot Allah opzenden. Dat is een vorm van syncretisme die zich niet verdraagt met de proclamatie van Christus als de enige Weg tot de zaligheid. Voor orthodoxe protestanten is de stelling van de zendingswetenschapper niet meer dan het intrappen van een open deur. Maar sommige open deuren kunnen niet vaak genoeg ingetrapt worden. Zeker als te constateren valt dat er continu pogingen worden gedaan het gat te dichten. Mede onder invloed van de toestroom van moslims naar West-Europa en als gevolg van de aanhoudende dreiging van moslimterrorisme doen overheden en maatschappelijke organisaties en kerken voortdurend pogingen om het gesprek met aanhangers van de islam op gang te krijgen en gaande te houden. Bekend uitgangspunt daarbij is dat er meer is dat bindt dan dat scheidt. Dat blijkt inderdaad vaak een doeltreffend middel om de gespannen verhoudingen te normaliseren. Punt is wel of het kwantitatieve meer ook kwalitatief het meeste is. Veel moslims zoeken net als veel niet-moslims naar een manier om vreedzaam met andere burgers te leven. Orthodoxe islamieten wijzen een samenleving waar alles kan en mag af. Dat op zich delen ze met veel orthodoxe christenen, al is de invulling van bepaalde regels soms gans anders. Maar daarmee is de gapende kloof tussen christendom en islam zeker niet gedicht. Die blijft even wijd. De God van het christendom heeft niets van doen met de god van de islam. Moslims aanvaarden niet dat Jezus Christus de Zoon van God is en dat Hij de enige Weg tot zaligheid is. Dat is een peilloos diep verschil van opvatting. Voorstanders van de dialoog tussen moslims en christenen beklemtonen nogal eens dat moslims veel waarde hechten aan het Oude Testament en erkennen dat Jezus een groot profeet was. Dat moge zo zijn. Dat is wellicht ook een startpunt voor een evangelisatiegesprek. Maar het mag geen reden zijn voor een discussie op basis van gelijkwaardigheid om al pratend bij het midden uit te komen. Want dat midden heeft geen grond; daar gaapt de kloof. Ooit begon de oecumenische beweging als een streven dat de eenheid onder christenen wilde bereiken. Daar waren al grote vragen bij te stellen. Maar met alle dogmatische diversiteit hadden de deelnemers nog wel gemeen dat ze Christus als Heere erkenden. De moderne oecumene gaat veel verder. Daar is de persoon van Christus niet langer uniek. Jongeneel wijst terecht het gebed van een moslim in een kerkdienst af. Op de plaats waar de Naam van Christus wordt verkondigd, is geen ruimte voor het aanroepen van de naam van hen die geen god zijn. Zij die een dergelijk gebed toestaan, plegen verraad aan die ene Weg tot zaligheid. Dat fundamentele verschil is het meest wezenlijke dat moslims en christenen scheidt. Verschillen van opvatting over het al dan niet gebruiken van geweld, culturele verschillen, zij zijn ondergeschikt aan het antwoord op die ene vraag: Wie is Christus voor u?

In the Name of the Prophet

MUNICH/NUREMBERG – Stefanie Nur Alhayari used to be confident: her studies nearly completed, teaching internship almost certain, the rectors of local secondary schools were already fiddling with the timetable for the coming year. “I thought I had already opened the door”, says the 23-year-old, who converted to Islam in 2002. Then came the consultation with her professor, and the disillusionment: “There is no suitable secondary school that would take me.” Stefanie is the first Islamic teacher in Bavaria.

The Caged Virgin (Reviewed): The Sins Of Islam

{Media review: Carlin Romano’s article about Hirsi Ali’s new book, The Caged Virgin, is doing the rounds in the syndicated American press.} By Carlin Romano (Philadelphia Inquirer) “I do not despise Islam,” writes Somali-Dutch activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the outset of her first book, “The Caged Virgin,” a best seller in Europe that consolidated her reputation as that continent’s sternest critic of Islam. “I am thoroughly conscious of the noble values that the religion promotes, such as charity, hospitality and compassion for the weak and poor.” Sounds reasonable and moderate. Why, then, must Hirsi Ali live under 24/7 guard from Dutch security after years of death threats? Why did a Moroccan-Dutch jihadist murder the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who helped Hirsi Ali make a TV documentary about Muslim abuse of women, then vow that Hirsi Ali would be next? The answer, “The Caged Virgin” makes clear, is that Hirsi Ali refuses to accept what she considers immoral aspects of the religion in which she was raised just because many Muslims are good people. Within Islam, this thinking is often deemed heresy, and in the view of some, Hirsi Ali is very heretical indeed. In her view, the chief sin of Islam is how it treats women. “In the name of Islam,” she writes, “women are subjected to cruel and horrible practices, including female genital mutilation and disownment.” A Koranic verse “gives men the right to beat their wives.” Muslim tradition allows fathers to marry off a daughter by fiat, a practice Hirsi Ali describes as “an arranged rape approved of by her whole family.” Muslim women are virtually excluded from public life, and legislation “puts women at a severe disadvantage.” The cause is what Hirsi Ali calls “tribal morality,” Islam’s obsession with a woman’s virginity. She writes, “a woman who withdraws from the virgins’ cage is branded a whore” and the “essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen.” Yet Hirsi Ali brings more to bear against these beliefs and practices than mere anger. She draws on Western champions of critical reason with stinging force: “I’d like to invite all people like me who had an Islamic upbringing” to “contrast J.S. Mill’s essay, ‘On the Subjection of Women’ (1869) with what the Prophet Muhammad has to say.” This is not pretty to watch. Muhammad, she notes, “fell in love with Aisha, his best friend’s 9-year-old daughter. Her father said, ‘Please wait until she has reached adulthood.’ But Muhammad did not want to wait.” Muhammad married Aisha when she was 9. “By our Western standards,” Hirsi Ali writes, Muhammad is “perverse” and “a despicable individual.” To Muslims who reject Western mores in judging Muhammad, she retorts, “the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture.” “The Caged Virgin” interweaves this critique with reporting on the plight of Muslim women and the author’s own history as a woman subjected to genital mutilation, beaten in her youth by a Koranic teacher who fractured her skull and bequeathed in marriage by her father to a man she’d never met — the final straw that led her to seek asylum in the West. At certain moments in cultural history, a particular book or pamphlet catches fire by taking a spark already burning in people’s hearts and minds and setting it ablaze on the printed page. “The Caged Virgin” is such a book. We live in such a moment.