DENK politician Sylvana Simons receives security after threats

Dutch-Surinam politician Sylvana Simons of the new party DENK will receive security by the Dutch security service. This is the outcome of a vast array of threats based on racist motives and a recent video that featured the politician.

In the video Simons is displayed in various racist scenes, among which as a naked African aboriginal, Black Pete, and an African-American victim a lynch by the Ku Klux Klan, as was common at the end of the nineteenth century. Vice Prime-Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher has called the video “abhorrent” and “completely unacceptable”.

DENK leader Tunahan Kuzu mentioned that “visible and invisible” security measures are being taken to protect Simons, after a conversation with the Dutch National Coordinator Counter Terrorism, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and members of the DENK party.

New Dutch party DENK presents political program

The new Dutch party DENK has presented its political program for the upcoming elections in 2017. The party was established by two former Labour Party (PvdA) MP’s from Turkish descent. It was soon joined by the Dutch-Surinam Sylvanna Simons and Dutch-Moroccan Farid Azarkan, and focusses on putting on the political agenda minority issues, Islamophobia, and racism in the Netherlands.

According to DENK leader, Tunahan Kuzu, the established parties and media strengthen fear and hatred against foreigners, saying he is not surprised at the existence of fear and xenophobia amongst the Dutch public. Kuzu thinks the established parties go along with the wave of xenophobia triggered by the rhetoric of Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV).

Aside from issues pertaining to Muslims and Islamophobia DENK also wants more regard for Dutch colonial history in places such as Surinam and Indonesia. DENK in particular demands independent research on the Dutch presence in Indonesia between 1945-1949, and an official apology for the Dutch obstruction of the Moluccan wish for independence.

Dutch Parliament approves law on banning burqa

The Dutch Parliament has approved a law prohibiting women from wearing the Burqa and niqabs in public places, namely in education, public transport, hospitals, and government buildings. If women do cover their faces with the burqa or niqab they risk a fine of a maximum of 400 Euro’s. The ban is not applied on wearing them in the streets.

A majority of Dutch political parties supported the law drift of Minister Ronals Plasterk of Internal Affairs (Labour Party), with the exception of the Green Party (Groenlinks), the Social Liberal Party (D66), and the new party DENK, which enjoys support of Muslims and other Dutch minorities.

Judge: case against Wilders’ anti-immigrant remarks will proceed

The Dutch public prosecutor started a case against the Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilder (PVV) in December 2014 on the suspicion of insulting a group of people on the basis of race and for inciting discrimination and hate. The initiative was caused by Wilders’ remarks about Moroccans during a political rally in which he had a crowd of followers chant for “less, less, less” Moroccans. 6400 complains were received, and eventually 61 parties remained, 56 persons and 5 organizations.

Wilders’ lawyer had argued that the case would be political in nature, because the court would give a political judgement about the PVV, her political program, and her voters. This would be a dangerous development, he argued. The court did not agree. While the case has “some political aspects” the court argues that it is eventually the judge who judges where the limits are. This judgement does not entail a judgement about “the sort of democracy the Netherlands should have”, but only about the discriminatory remarks.

The court also disagrees that by proceeding with the case the court would give a judgement about the policy of the PVV or would be limiting the political freedom of Wilders. So the case will proceed and start in two weeks at the heavily guarded court near Schiphol.

One in five Dutch people for closing mosques

22 % of the Dutch people would like all mosques in the Netherlands to close down, as the Dutch anti-Islam party PVV has proposed in the political program for the coming Dutch election. A small majority of 55 % is against the closing of mosques. One in ten of the Dutch people is for the unequal treatment of Muslims.

This came to light in a national poll conducted by I&O Research in corporation with the Dutch news paper Volkskrant and was held amongst 1.456 Dutch people from 18 years of age and older.

A link to the digital version of the research mentioned in this article can be found here:

http://www.ioresearch.nl/Portals/0/I%26O%20Research%20politieke%20peiling%20september%202016%20v3.pdf

Dutch anti-Islam party presents political program

The Party for Freedom (PVV), under the political leadership of Geert Wilders, the Netherlands’ most well-known anti-Islam politician, has presented a one-page political program for the upcoming elections. It is highly unusual for Dutch parties to present their particular programs in such a short and limited format. It seems the program has established somewhat of a record in this regard.

The PVV program contains controversial, but not new, political goals, including the closing of all mosques and Islamic schools, forbidding the Quran and headscarves, closing all refugees centers and canceling all the residence permits given to refugees. It also re-states the wish of the PVV for the Netherlands to become “independent again”, meaning to “get out if the EU”.

The program rejects the government policies of the Rutte II cabinet on all fronts and aims to undo some of the large retrenchments as well as to lower several taxes. The finances to take these measures the PVV want to cover by completely eliminating public broadcasting services and the funding for developmental aid, wind mills, art, innovation, and the like, stating that “in stead of financing the whole world and the people we don’t want to have here, will spend the money on the common Dutch people”.

Judge: Dutch news paper violated Muslim right to privacy

“De Volkskrant”, one of the main news papers in the Netherlands, has to pay a fine of 1.500 euro to Mohammed Rashid. Rashid’s picture featured in an article of the news paper on security at Schiphol Airport. According to the judge his right to privacy has been violated because of this act. But the judge did not conclude an official rectification was necessary.

The article called “Is Schiphol still safe?” featured a photo of Rashid that was taken without his consent as a visitor of the airport going through a stringent safety control by car. He did not accept what he perceived as a case of negative framing of Muslims and demanded a fine and rectification, demanding an expression of regret towards him, his family, and “the Islamic community of the Netherlands”.

The link below contains a video interviewing Mohammed Rashid and his lawyer for Dutch television about the court decision:

http://www.republiekallochtonie.nl/rechter-volkskrant-schond-met-foto-privacy-mohammed-rashid

Why Zac Goldsmith’s “extremism” attacks on Sadiq Khan were wrong

As the dust settles on Sadiq Khan’s victory in London’s mayoral election, attentions are turning to Zac Goldsmith’s campaign and his aggressive focus on his rival’s past encounters with Muslim hardliners. A Guardian op-ed under the headline “Forgive and forget Zac Goldsmith’s racist campaign? No chance” has been shared some 25,000 times. In the Spectator, Toby Young argued: “Zac Goldsmith has nothing to be ashamed of”. Both pieces make some good and some bad points. But I sympathise more with the first. Here is why.

To begin, some concessions. Elections are a rough-and-tumble business. Candidates should expect their characters and suitability for office to be challenged; their weaknesses to be daubed in primary colours on 10-meter high billboards. And within reason, that is good. It flushes out bad ideas and unsuitable candidates for the benefit of an electorate that has better things to do than worry about the nuances of their every policy.

The themes on which Mr Goldsmith so contentiously challenged Mr Khan are hardly irrelevant. In the past year Islamist terror attacks have hit the two European capitals closest to London. Labour clearly has ingrained problems of anti-Semitism and has form when it comes to tolerating conservative practices (like gender-segregated civic events) among its British Muslim supporters. And it is true that Mr Khan has links to certain reactionary Muslims, some of whom have expressed extremist views. His new role gives him influence over London’s schools, the front-line of the government’s anti-radicalisation “Prevent” strategy. It also gives him oversight of the Met police, as well as powers of patronage and discretionary spending which Ken Livingstone, his Labour predecessor, deployed in part to the benefit of conservative Muslims.

Yet to be valid and responsible, Tory “questions” about Mr Khan’s connections needed to do three things. Given the tensions surrounding the subject, each had to kill any suggestion that Labour’s candidate sympathised with extremism. Each needed to specify in clear and concrete terms how his past encounters affected his suitability to be mayor. And each needed an appropriate degree of prominence in a Conservative campaign that had, itself, big questions to answer about its man’s plans for transport, housing and policing.

Mr Goldsmith failed each one of these tests. First, he played up ambiguities as to what, precisely, his rival had done wrong. When pushed, he insisted that he was not trying to portray Britain’s most prominent Muslim politician as an extremist. Yet his campaign seemed to imply as much. By routinely calling Mr Khan a “radical” it blurred the Labour candidate’s support for Jeremy Corbyn, his party’s far-left leader, with his links in British Islam. A spoof Tory leaflet published in the Private Eye, a satirical magazine, captured the “I’m not racist, but…” character of these insinuations: “Think about it. Funny name, Khan, isn’t it?” The Conservative candidate was surely too worldly not to have realised how reckless this was, at a time when political outfits from the Trump campaign to the AfD in Germany were questioning Muslims’ basic compatibility with Western democracies and societies.

Second, the Goldsmith campaign failed to pin down what this had to do with Mr Khan’s suitability to be mayor. The claims it raised publicly (and the more lurid ones it quietly briefed to journalists) fall into three categories. Some had to do with his background as a civil liberties lawyer; like his links to Suliman Gani, a radical imam, his “association” with whom included angry clashes over gay marriage and Mr Khan’s involvement in a bid to boot Mr Gani out of his mosque. Other crimes like having a sibling-in-law who had flirted with conservative Islam—a transgression of which Tony Blair is also guilty—pointed to Mr Khan’s Muslim family background. The third category involved his characteristic blend, hardly unique among politicians, of naiveté and electoral opportunism. Into this final basket can be counted his role on the not-impeccable Muslim Council of Britain, his defence of Recep Ergodan’s Turkey and even those unproven suggestions that he played up his Liberal Democrat opponent’s Ahmadi (a persecuted minority within Sunni Islam) identity when fighting to keep his south-London parliamentary seat in 2010. Instead of differentiating between examples, or offering their own additional categories, Mr Goldsmith’s campaigners ground them together into a rough paste of “unanswered questions” and “extremist associations” that that they smeared all over Mr Khan.

Third, Mr Goldsmith gave such observations an undue prominence in his campaign, especially towards the end. London house-prices are on track to hit £1m by 2030 and are wrecking the capital’s social mix. On this, the Tory candidate had nothing substantive to say. On transport and policing his offer was almost as inadequate. But he seemed obsessed with Mr Khan’s relationship with his co-religionists; devoting his giant op-ed in the last Mail on Sunday before the election not to any of the bread-and-butter problems affecting Londoners but to a garbled mess of an argument that smudged together Mr Corbyn’s economic leftism, Labour’s anti-Semitism problem (of which the party’s candidate for the London mayoralty had been perhaps the foremost critic) and Mr Khan’s background, faith and personal traits.

There is a broader point here. Politicians are human and thus possess hinterlands, blind spots and inconsistencies. By definition they have an overdeveloped appetite for approval that prompts them to feign sympathy, delve into parts of society where they would not otherwise venture and humour certain audiences when they ought to avoid or upbraid them. How many Conservative or Labour candidates, confronted on the doorstep by an elderly voter ranting about “the coloureds”, would call him what he is—a racist—to his face? Moreover, no politician can exist in a hermetically sealed vacuum. Britons broadly accept that in their rulers. Some politicians have wealthy backgrounds that might inhibit their understanding of material insecurity, or religious backgrounds that make them intolerant of alternative lifestyles. Many are closer than is politic—or at least reflective of the median voter’s experiences—to bankers, strikers, bible-bashers, imams, die-hard environmentalists or other representatives of esoteric social segments.

Yet as a rule we tolerate, indeed often welcome, such florae in Britain’s civic life because their tendrils extend deep into its society. Mr Goldsmith, who has links to plenty of people unsuited to setting the agenda in City Hall, exemplifies this. His father was a hardline Eurosceptic accused of being corporate raider. His former brother-in-law, Imran Khan, has all sorts of links to Islamism through his political career in Pakistan. The magazine Mr Goldsmith edited, the Ecologist, carries articles opposing economic growth, cheering on activists who break the law and looking approvingly on third-world insurrectionists. Such connections are among the factors cited when journalists describe him, approvingly, as an “independent minded” MP.

None of this compares directly to Mr Khan’s links to Muslim radicals. But while that subject is more troubling than, say, ecological extremism, should it be treated so differently? I venture (as I did in a column in January) that the very problems of British Islam make it all the more pressing to draw its representatives into the country’s politics. Can Britain combat the self-exclusion of some of its Muslims, the anti-Semitism that infects their politics and the radicalisation of the most naive among them without prominent Muslims in public life who have first-hand experience of these problems and their causes? Can the establishment support a new generation of moderates—including the liberal, telegenic imams to whose rise Jonathan Arkush, the president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, drew my attention only last week—while dismissing Mr Khan?

It is hard to imagine a successful, liberal Muslim politician who, as she advanced from her neighbourhood to the national stage, never crossed paths with the sort of reactionary that so dominated Mr Goldsmith’s criticisms of Mr Khan. And who, given British politicians’ inclination to indulge their audiences, publicly challenged every last Islamic conservative that she encountered. Which poses the question: if London’s new mayor is the “wrong” sort of Muslim to hold a major public office, what does the “right” one look like?

Unease with Islam on rise in France, new poll finds (Report)

April 30, 2016

The study found that 47 percent of French people and 43 percent of Germans felt that the Muslim community poses a “threat” to national identity.

Almost two-thirds of the poll’s respondents in France also said that Islam had become too “influential and visible”, whereas just under half of participants said the same in Germany.

The same study in 2010 found that 43 percent of French people viewed Islam as a threat, while 55 percent said that it was too visible.

A sample of around 1,000 people were surveyed in each country as part of the latest study.

The findings in France, which suggest growing unease with the Muslim religion, come after a year of tragedy during which a total of 147 people were killed in a series of attacks in the Paris area by Islamist gunmen in January and November 2015.

“This poll reinforces the sense that the image of Islam represents a major challenge for French Muslims,” Anouar Kbibech, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, or CFCM), told Le Figaro in response to the survey. “Considering the tragic events we’ve lived through, the risk of conflating [Islam and terrorism] is real. Unfortunately, this survey confirms that.”

But according to the director of Ifop’s opinion department, Jérôme Fourquet, the recent bloodshed in the French capital isn’t the only factor at play. “The deterioration of Islam’s image in France wasn’t triggered by the attacks, even if those events contributed to it. What we’re seeing is more of a growing resistance within French society to Islam. It was already the case among voters for the [far-right] National Front and part of the right, but it has now expanded to the Socialist Party,” he told Le Figaro.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared his support for banning headscarves in universities as part of the country’s strict secular rules, which separate state and religious institutions. Muslim veils are already banned in state-run schools, along with all other “visible religious signs”.

Although Valls’s comments sparked an immediate backlash from some within his party, they also reflected changing attitudes towards Islam within segments of the left.

“There are some on the left who feel that the Republic has been too lax with Islam and want it to stop,” Fourquet said. “Manuel Valls’s strong rhetoric is a sign of this. The left is divided on the issue. In the end, it’s a combative form of secularism that’s awakening. It’s looking to repel the influence of a religion it considers too dominant.”

The analyst also pointed to the study’s findings in Germany as evidence that the problem is not only a French one. As in France, the number of Germans who said they viewed Islam as a threat to national identity has also risen since the 2010 survey, although by only three percentage points.

The Ifop poll found that over two-thirds of respondents in both countries thought that Muslims had failed to integrate into society, a situation that 67 percent of French people and 60 percent of Germans blamed on a refusal to adapt to local values and customs.

“Although these two countries have a very different history of immigration, this alignment [between French and German opinion] shows that these important questions are posing challenges in a similar way throughout Western society,” Fourquet said. While France has the largest percentage of Muslims in the European Union (estimated at 7.5% of the total population), Germany has the largest number of Muslims with 4.8 million people in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center’s most recent estimates.

Full Report: IFOP Figaro

Muslim girl sent home from school in France over long skirt

May 6, 2016

A teenage Catholic girl who converted to Islam has been banned from attending a school in the eastern Paris suburbs because her skirt is too long. The principal of the school in Montereau-Fault-Yonne told the 16-year-old that the length of her skirt meant that it was an “ostentatious religious symbol” – something forbidden in state schools in France since 2004.

A meeting will be held at the school with the pupil’s parents to try to resolve the dispute, following a rash of similar incidents in other French schools last year.

Long skirts if worn as a fashion statement are allowed in French schools. Long skirts worn as sign of allegiance to Islam – or any other religion – may fall foul of the 2004 law which, enforces the principle that state schools are secular.

The council of state, the final arbiter of the meaning of French laws, has been asked to rule on the “long skirt” issue but has not yet done so.

The girl has been named only as K De Sousa, French of Portuguese origin. She converted to Islam, with the blessing of her family, a year ago. The French education system investigated whether she was part of a radical Islamic movement and decided she was not.

Her mother Marie-Christine de Sousa told L’Obs: “My daughter respects the law. I respect her religion. Until now, the school has made no comment on the way she dresses.

“Apart from chattering in class, she has no problems and doesn’t say much about her conversion. People shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

K De Sousa wears a headscarf in public but takes it off when she reaches school, as the 2004 law demands. The law was enacted after a series of rows in French schools about the wearing of headscarves. It was broadened to ban all “ostentatious religious symbols” to avoid seeming to stigmatize Islam.

A handful of schools in France have begun to interpret long skirts won by Muslim girls as a religious symbol. Most do not. The education board covering K De Sousa’s school admitted that dialogue between the school and her family had “not gone entirely serenely”.

“Talks will resume on Monday,” a spokesman said. “It is in everyone’s interest that this young woman should pursue her schooling normally. A long dress or skirt is not, in itself, a motive for excluding a pupil.”