Pro Patria, a Dutch extreme right group, announced to yet again take to the streets to demonstrate for the freedom of speech and against fundamentalistic Muslims. The organization will hold a “March for Freedom” on Saturday 28 February. The extreme right group says it wants to call upon Dutch political figures to “defend our freedoms.” “Looking away is no longer an option,” Pro Patria writes on her Facebook page.
In August 2014 Pro Patria organized a similar demonstration in the multicultural neighborhood Schilderswijk in The Hague. This resulted in a confrontation with (Islamic) youth. Shortly after the incident the Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen announced a temporary ban on demonstrations in residential areas of The Hague. The leadership of Pro Patria is thought to consist of members of various extreme right groups that are active in the Netherlands or have been in the past.
Dutch Muslims have initiated a Facebook project to reclaim what they perceive as true Islam in the aftermath of the recent attacks in France. The project is called “#nietmijnislam”, which means “not my Islam”. The initiators of the project encourage Muslims to post videos in which they explain why the attacks in Paris do not represent their Islam. The page was liked by almost 30.000 people.
In a statement on the page the initiators write (among other things): “Enough is enough. We have gotten enough of those who have hijacked our religion of peace. Of those who mutilate our religion of harmony with their extreme ideas and interpretations. Those who threaten and hurt us, Muslims and non-Muslims, because we refuse to live like them. These persons and groups claim that their violent deeds are justified by Islam. That dangerous and erroneous interpretation of Islam expresses itself in intolerance, force, and violence.”
“We speak out against the ideas and deeds of extremists who commit these act in name of our Islam. We do this because it is our responsibility to protect our religion agains those who misuse and violate Islam. We refuse to be associated with the murderers who claim that their horrifying deeds must be done in name of Islam. To them we cry out: ‘This is not my Islam.’”
Similar images have been shown in exhibitions across Europe and America without prompting outrage, much less protests or a violent response. Made by Muslim artists for fellow Muslims, they come from a long but often overlooked tradition.
There was not a single complaint when another contemporary Iranian image of Muhammad was included in a 2013 exhibition in the Tropen museum in Amsterdam, hung next to a Christian icon, as part of an exhibition on cross-cultural encounters.
“We knew it might be controversial, but decided to take the risk because the story is important to tell,” said Mirjam Shatanawi, an Islamic art specialist and the Tropen museum’s curator for the Middle East and North Africa. “These images are a real eye-opener, a powerful example of Islam being different and more diverse than many imagine.
“If Muslims feel offended by images made by other Muslims out of reverence for the prophet, I’m not sure if the museum should decide not to show them. It seems like choosing one interpretation of Islam over the other. These images are not made to disrespect but – on the contrary – to honour the prophet.”
Lady Warsi has delivered a blistering critique of the government’s approach towards Britain’s Muslims, warning that failure to engage properly with communities across the UK has created a climate of suspicion and undermined the fight against extremism.
In her first major intervention on the relationship between Muslims and the rest of society since she resigned from the cabinet five months ago, Warsi says the coalition’s policy of non-engagement has caused deep unease and resentment towards the government.
In a series of stinging judgments, Warsi, a former chairwoman of the Tory party and the first Muslim to serve in the cabinet, claims that:
■ The government in which she served has come “to view ever-increasing numbers of Muslim organisations or individual Muslim activists with suspicion”.
■ David Cameron rejected requests for other faiths, including Muslims, to be given an equivalent to the annual meeting he has with the Jewish leadership – a meeting of Jewish groups and figures that the prime minister hosts.
■ Former colleagues in government have failed to show proper concern for the “worries and fear” felt by Britain’s 3 million-strong Muslim community in the current febrile atmosphere.
The government’s response to the dangers of extremists was reduced, she writes, to a “dangerously narrow engagement… a dozen people for a community of over 3 million”.
Warsi decided to speak out after communities secretary Eric Pickles wrote last Monday to more than 1,000 Islamic leaders calling on British Muslims to “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”.
Pickles also said that he was proud of the way British Muslims had responded to the Paris terror attacks, but the letter was condemned by sections of the Muslim community. Pickles was accused of treating Muslims as in some way “apart” from the rest of British society. Warsi says this reaction graphically illustrated the gulf that has grown between the coalition government and Muslims.
She says: “The reality is if you haven’t cultivated a friendship, if you haven’t fostered trust, then a letter out of the blue to a mosque… with whom government has refused to engage creates a climate where even the most benign of correspondence can become toxic.”
Warsi says: “We will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are all in the same team.”
Last Tuesday about a hundred people joined to reflect on the attacks in Paris. Lody van de Kamp, member of the initiative Salaam-Shalom arranged the meeting. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan held a speech, during which people all held up the peace-sign with their fingers. The Mayor said: “We fight too, but with words. And even though we may be divided, in the first place we’re all inhabitants of Amsterdam.”
Via a Skype connection a rabbi and a member from a mosque in Paris joined the meeting and could see how Muslims and Jews in Amsterdam are in solidarity with the French people. The Rabbi hopes to see more of these initiatives in European cities.
According to deputy prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher the meeting is a sign from people who refuse to see each other as enemies. He further stated that the Netherlands remains a country where people are allowed to believe what they want, were they can wear signs of their religion such as a headscarf. And democracy is not to be defended with weapons, but with words and courage. Youth should be protected against those who try to seduce them to participate in a jihad.
In Rotterdam there was a similar meeting between Muslims, Jews and Humanists.
According to the Arab-American Anti-Defamation League, reports of anti-Muslim sentiments have tripled following the release of the film American Sniper. The organization has responded to a number of reports of threats against its membership. Additionally, the group is currently monitoring Twitter for reactions to the film. As of January 24th, the group had collected over 100 anti-Arab, anti-Muslim Tweets like this one: “Nice to see a movie where the Arabs are portrayed for who they really are – vermin scum intent on destroying us.”
The organization is calling on the film’s director, Clint Eastwood, and its star, Bradley Cooper, to condemn these sentiments and to work to bolster a more productive, thoughtful dialogue around the issues in the film. The organization’s president, Samer Khalaf, “With all these threats coming in, we wanted to be proactive. When we are not proactive, people end up getting hurt. … We don’t know if somebody’s serious or if somebody’s joking around, so we take all these threats seriously, especially when they’re talking about shooting bullets into someone’s head.” The organization has not received any response from either Eastwood or Cooper.
Dutch Vice-Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher and Minister of Security and Justice Ivo Opstelten conducted a meeting on 9 January with representatives from various Muslim communities. The Contact Organization for Muslims and State (CMO), the Council of Dutch Moroccan Mosques (RMMN), the Co-determination Organization of Turks (IOT), and the Dutch Corporation for Refugees (VON) have attended the meeting. The immediate cause of the meeting was the posed threat to Dutch mosques, which has become even more urgent due to current developments.
The attack in France led to feelings of abhorrence and dismay. This was widely expressed during the meeting. There was mutual appreciation of the warm responses and expressions of solidarity from society. However at the same time concern was expressed over the rising tensions caused by the Paris assault, the incidents in Sweden and the anti-Islam demonstrations in surrounding countries.
Due to the increase of incidents against mosques in the Netherlands an appeal was made for an increased attention for Muslim hatred. Concrete agreements were made to improve the registration of acts of Muslim hatred. The Dutch cabinet has expressed their commitment to vigilantly observe the security conditions and, of necessary, take additional protection measures.
Spanish authorities arrested four suspected members of a terror cell Saturday morning in that country’s North African territory of Ceuta, a quartet that Spain’s Interior Minister claimed were well-trained and well-prepared to attack.
What is especially noteworthy with the breakup of this cell are the many parallels with the attacks in Paris recently carried out against the Charlie Hebdo magazine,” Fernandez said, referring to the January 7 massacre that ended with 12 dead.
The suspects, who are Spanish citizens and are of Moroccan origin, are “strongly radicalized” and had psychological and physical training, as well as training in the use of weapons, said the minister while addressing reporters at an event of his ruling conservative party.
“(They were) willing to carry out an attack,” Fernandez said. “And, according to the police, to blow themselves up.”
Cambridge Professor and British Muslim theologian, Abdul Hakim Murad (Timothy Winters), argues that the Paris attacks were the acts of criminals with troubled pasts and little religious knowledge, and have been condemned by a rare show of unity among Muslim leaders in France and worldwide. Globally, Muslims admit that such lawlessness is an increasing worry. No significant Muslim scholar supports the radicals in Iraq and Syria, but some young people simply pay no heed. In an age of individualism, angry minds tend to ignore established religious leaders.
But, he states, there is more at stake here. Charlie Hebdo, like the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten several years ago, did not simply publish images of the Prophet. That, on its own, would probably have occasioned little comment. The difficulty lay in the evident intention to mock, deride and wound. To portray the Prophet naked, or with a bomb in his turban, was not the simple manufacturing of a graven image. It was received, and rightly so, as a deliberate insult to an already maligned and vulnerable community. Mosque burnings and a raft of legal disadvantages are increasingly a fact of life for Muslims in Europe.
The English legal tradition recognises not only the right to free speech, but the right to protection from agonising insult, slander and abuse. In the case of vulnerable minorities that legal concern seems particularly appropriate. It is also in line with the tolerant and courteous national character.
[This is a full translation of the interview with Islam critic and political leader of the Dutch Freedom Party that appeared in the Dutch news paper Het Parool on 9 January 2015. For the Dutch version see the link below.]
“The attack in Paris is a key moment”, says Geert Wilders (Islam critic and political leader of the Dutch Freedom Party). According to him now more than ever it became clear that freedom and Islam don’t go hand in hand. Citizens will not accept it anymore: “The revolution will come.”
Nine pictures are shown on the death roll that appeared in the online magazine of Al Qaida. Left of the middle shows the picture of Wilders. Located right of him is a picture of Stéphane Charbonnier, the killed editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo.
“On the internet I saw that the list is now also circulating with a red cross through his head,” says the Freedom Party leader, “with texts such as: ‘and now the rest.’ That’s not something to be happy about.”
This morning he woke up at 4.00 AM and afterwards could not sleep. “I knew this would happen at some point. But off course I was shocked anyway because I’m on the same list. I would lie if I said I am not afraid. Off course it has consequences…” He looks at the security guard who just checked the room in which the interview is being held.
“It’s war,” he already declared a few hours after the attacks. Directly after this statement he demanded a debate with the Dutch Prime Minister [Mark Rutte]. “Because if this attack makes one thing clear its that jihadis should be dealt with in a much firmer manner,” he said. “Isn’t it crazy that tens of them walk freely in this country? Who goes to Syria should never be able to come back. And the ones who have returned should be send to prison immediately. By way of an emergency law, not by way of the judge. The security of all is more important that the basic rights of some. If we do nothing the same will soon happen here. It’s a matter of time.”
And you think you can stop this?
“If we would close the borders for immigrants from Muslim countries and would deport everyone who has bad intentions it would already be a huge step. If we have achieved this we should extract ourselves from the Schengen Agreement and start to guard our own borders again. And we need the army. Isn’t it baffling that our soldiers are in Mali while our own security is under threat? Our soldiers should be here guarding stations and shopping malls. The jihadis are walking there now freely. They have declared war on us and we do nothing. They are laughing at us!”
What about the reactions of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other political rivals?
“They express their aversion and then continue to busy themselves with the usual daily business. But they do not mention the cause. Islam is the cause. They don’t say it but people see it. Our voters are no xenophobes, they are people who feel that something is not right. That the Islam doesn’t belong in their country and that everything that happens is leading back to that. I do not want to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists but what is happening does have something to do with it.”
Do you not think that a lot of Muslims also reject this attack?
“I don’t know that. I don’t hear that much. I have seen a declaration from some mosques I believe and [Mayor of Rotterdam] Ahmed Aboutaleb said good things. Besides that it remains quiet. I don’t see large demonstration in which Muslims distance themselves from it.”
“I’m not at war against all those people. I also believe that their mosques should be safe spaces. Someone who gets it into his head to set a mosque on fire should remain behind bars according to me. So I do not say all those Muslims are at fault but they bring with them a culture that is not ours.”
A part of our culture is also the freedom of religion. You want to close mosques.
“But I do not believe Islam is a religion. It has the symptoms of a religion – a holy book, an imam, and what not – but it is not. It is a totalitarian ideology. A dangerous, frightening, violent, and wrong ideology.”
“It will lead to a revolution because citizens will not have it anymore,” Wilders says. “Not the British – mark my words, Ukip [the UK Independence Party] will have extraordinary electoral results! In Germany the Pegida, in France Le Pen. The revolution will come, let that be my single most important message. There will be no stopping this. Even if [Prime Minister] Mark Rutte will demonstrate on the Dam every evening.”