The General Elections on 15 March 2017 will witness to many firsts from different perspectives. A new party such as DENK must have public support from 20 constituent areas and 580 signatures. DENK received three times this amount. A new party must also comply with financial aptitude, meaning that it can only qualify when the party can present financial guarantees.
Political observers point out that DENK is a necessity in the Netherlands, especially in the ever-extreme right-wing politics and in the atmosphere of increasing xenophobia. Moreover, DENK’s participation in the first elections, with such a serious support from the constituents, is a strong message to the political arena. DENK will also be able to benefit from the broadcast that is given to major political parties in national television, as it competes in the whole electoral regions.
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”.
“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:
Rachid Nekkaz, a wealthy Algerian entrepreneur and human rights activist, has stepped up to the plate to pay the penalty for any Muslim woman who is fined in France for wearing the burkini, a full-length swimsuit that covers the whole body except for the face, hands and feet.
“I decided to pay for all the fines of women who wear the burkini in order to guarantee their freedom of wearing these clothes, and most of all, to neutralize the application on the ground of this oppressive and unfair law,” Nekkaz said.
The burkini ban at some French beaches is the most recent move by Parisian politicians to prohibit religious attire in public.
After the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks, Nekkaz said a few politicians took advantage of the fear of Islam, which spread within the population, to try to reduce the number of freedoms in France, which he called an “unacceptable, inadmissible and intolerable move.”
Across Europe, similar bans are taking form, as the tide shifts toward more regulations in favor of restricting the traditional Islamic attire.
“And I don’t accept that these great countries such as France, Belgium, Switzerland or the Netherlands and now Germany, take advantage of this fear of Islam to reduce the number of personal freedoms,” Nekkaz said.
The Dutch Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker wants to revive the professional education for imams and mental caregivers in the Netherlands. The few educational programs that were present in the Netherlands closed down three years ago. At the behest of Bussemaker the vocational schools Inholland and Windesheim and VU University Amsterdam (VU) have initiated serious conversations about a possible restart of the educational programs.
The goal is once again to create an educational program that forms Islamic clerics in line with Dutch culture, just as the program at Inholland did three years ago. This program was terminated because it was too expensive and was hardly effective. Of the 105 candidate-clerics that started the program only a few graduated. Just one of them found work as an imam.
From the community the demand for a good educational program still exists, Bussemaker says. A ‘Dutch imam new style’ does not always have to be a theologian according to her. “Outside of the mosque people with knowledge of Islamic theology are also necessary. One could think of I minor or a major, of several trajectories. Then one could study pedagogy and follow an imam-trajectory within that program. Or the other way around: Islamic theology and within that program a minor in another field.”
The first day of the Dutch annual General Political Assembly (Dutch: ‘Algemene Politieke Beschouwingen’) in the Dutch Lower House for a large part was dominated by the increased influx of refugees. All party chairmen gave attention to the issue. According to the Dutch anti-Islam party chairman Geert Wilders (Party for Freedom) the Netherlands is in danger of becoming one big refugee centre.
The Party for Freedom (PVV) leader once again brought dismay upon himself from other parties by warning for the massive inflow of Muslims. Dutch tax-money is the Netherlands’ biggest export product, according to Wilders. ‘The cabinet rather spends money on foreign countries and foreigners than on the Netherlands and the Dutch people’, the PVV-leader argued.
Wilders read from a, according to him secret, list of Dutch locations were refugee centers are still going to be opened. ‘Almost half of the municipalities in the Netherlands are in danger of accommodating a refugee center’, he said. Green-Left (GroenLinks) party-leader Jesse Klaver said he was unable to detect ‘a shred of humanity’ in Wilders.
The Labour Party-leader (PvdA) Diederik Samson stated that the consequences of the refugee crisis are worse that the bank crisis of 2008. ‘At that time banks collapsed but now people drown’, he said.
Islamic banking is on the rise in the Netherlands. The Turkish bank KuveytTürk opened its first halal-bank in Germany last week. Now the bank is looking towards the Netherlands for further options.
This was said by Kemal Ozan, the general manager of the German branch of the bank. “After the opening in Frankfurt we would like to expand to the Dutch market.” He points to the large Muslim community in the Netherlands which consists of almost a million people. “There is a lot of potential for Islamic banking in the Netherlands.”
In 2008 The Dutch Bank and the Authority for Financial Markets identified a “substantial latent need” for Islamic banking products. However this never materialized. The Rabobank did experiment with interest-free banking products but without result. “We did have a look at it then but at the time it was not commercially interesting enough,” a spokesperson of the bank said.
The impediments are abundant: the quantity of Muslims is hard to establish and not all Muslims are orthodox practitioners of their faith. The Central Bureau for Statistics does forecast a considerable growth of the amount of Muslims in the Netherlands. Similarly, the average gross income of that group is increasing.
The most important impediment of the Dutch consumer market is the deduction of interest for mortgages. As a rule, conventional mortgages are cheaper because buyers of houses can deduce those mortgage’s interest from their taxes. Islamic mortgages would be easier to implement if a comparable settlement would be set up.
When the first Dutch Islamic bank will open in the Netherlands is not sure yet according to Ozan: “If our expansion is stabilized we will focus our attention on the Dutch market.”
The young Dutch filmmaker Paul Voors (21) travelled together with three other young filmmakers to the North of Iraq to film victims of the Islamic State (IS). “Once you return home and try to sleep you finally realize what you have actually seen.”
The documentary “Long road ahead” by Felix Govers (20), Pauls Voors (21), Laurens van de Geer (20), and Stephan Valkenier (27) tells the story of four IS victims in Iraq. Poignant was especially the 15 years old Yezidi girl that was kidnapped, beaten, and raped by IS. “The girl wanted to commit suicide,” Voors tells. “She changed her mind when she heard men from the IS laugh about yezidis who did. She did not want to grant them the pleasure.”
Paul’s mother worked at the charity organization Dorcas and would travel frequently to Iraq. The stories he heard from his mother were so terrible that it motivated him to do something about the situation. The four filmmakers were guided in Northern Iraq by Dorcas. “It was safer to travel under their protection but we made the film independently.”
“One of the things I found most striking was to see how the yezidis live there,” Voors tells. “The environment stinks and their living spaces are demarcated by canvas.” A refugee had showed Voors a tape they brought with them when they ran. “It showed a wedding party of several months earlier. Everyone looked gorgeous. Now they were like drifters. The women looked much older and their gaze was exhausted and hopeless.”
The men hope their documentary will attract attention to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Voors: “The past couple of months the amount of Iraqis that are in need has risen to more then eight million people. I hope that people realize that we have much riches in the Netherlands. It doesn’t hurt to share some of that.”
According to research by Jonkers-Verwey Institute and Anne Frank Foundation 12% of young Muslims in the Netherlands hold negative views on Jews. However, according to political corresponden Joost de Vries, some critique on the methods of the researchers seems legitimate.
It was for the respondents for example not possible to bring in some nuances in their answers. To the question what they think of Jews, they could only answer ‘positive’, ‘neural’ and ‘not so positive’. Apparently 12% chose the last answer. But ‘not so positive’ says in itself nothing about what the respondents really think and to claim that they hold discriminatory or even anti-semitic views seems premature.