Prominent Dutch academic critiques minister’s plans to ban “sharia parties”

A majority of parties in the Dutch House of Representatives have agreed on the desirability of a ban for political parties based on the Islamic sharia law. A bill that suggested so was put forward by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and supported by the two parties currently in the government, the Labour Party (PvdA) and the Peoples Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). It was also supported by the Christian Union (CU) and the Political Reformed Party (SGP). The Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher has expressed his willingness to investigate possibilities within Dutch law that would support such a ban.

The bill has been criticized by emeritus professor of integration and migration studies Han Entzinger. He posed that it is unclear what Muslims mean by sharia and that many diverse interpretations of it exist. He suggested that some interpretations of sharia might contain aspects that are in conflict with democracy. Alluding to the ban on extreme right parties such as the Centre Party ‘ 86 (CP ’86) in the nineties he suggested that it might in fact be possible to ban parties with an undemocratic character.

Entzinger suggested however that it remains questionable if such a threat is really at hand. He maintains that the majority of Dutch Muslims are not proponents of the implementation of Islamic sharia law in the Netherlands. He fears that the current discussion on a ban will unnecessarily enhance the already existing polarization in Dutch society, thus enhancing stigmatization of Muslims and xenophobia amongst Dutch natives. Entzinger also suggested that since such political parties are currently not in existence in the Netherlands the whole discussion could be seen as an example of “symboolpolitiek” (politics based on symbolism) as a prelude to the Dutch elections.