In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, Dutch author Ian Buruma discusses the run-up to the release of Gert Wilders’ anti-Islam film, populist trends in the Netherlands and the environment that the led to polemics against Muslims like “Fitna.” Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders released on Thursday his video comparing the threat of Islam in Europe to the fascism that triggered World War II. The film calls for Europeans to put a stop to what he alleges is the Islamization of Western Europe caused by mass immigration from Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East. It’s a kind of rhetoric that would have been impossible in the Netherlands little more than a decade ago — a country long known abroad as a kind of overgrown Berkeley, a bastion of 1960s idealism. Cops looked the other way as coffee shops sold soft drugs, it became one of the first countries to adopt same-sex marriages and the peaceful co-existence of Dutch society with its immigrants, many of the Muslim, seemed exemplary.
This year’s non-fiction prize shortlist features two books related to U.S. military intervention in Iraq and one study of an Islamist extremist murder in Holland Ian Buruma’s Murder in Amsterdam is about the killing of the provocative columnist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh by the son of Moroccan immigrants who was angry because he had collaborated with an anti-Islamic politician. These books edged out other promising biographies-presumably they were favored given the political nature of these times.
The conflict between Western society and Muslim extremism has called into question the reality of multiculturalism in the Netherlands. In a guest article for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, writer Ian Buruma, born in the Hague in 1951, sees this as a result of the complacency that Netherlanders have had about the functioning of their multicultural system.