Dutch Social Affairs Minister Comments in Support of Freedom of Religion

July 12 2013

 

Dutch Social Affairs Minister Lodewijk Asscher has commented on the right to religious freedom in the Netherlands, stating that “The increasing visibility of Islam in our society, the different traditions and views, and the association with violence and radicalization have led to part of the people seeing Islam as a threat. This is a worrying development because this threatens the cohesion and stability in society”.

 

Asscher’s comments are in response to questions from Geert Wilders regarding a recent poll showing that a majority of Dutch support stopping further immigration from Islamic countries. The poll was commissioned by Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) and conducted by Maurice de Hond. Canvassing 1900 respondents on their feelings about Islam and immigration from Islamic countries, the poll suggests that 68% of respondents believe that there is “now enough” Islam in the Netherlands. Respondents also suggested that the population would support a halt in building new mosques. Asscher rejects both proposals, and notes that the cabinet is not planning to block immigrants from Islamic countries.

 

Poll results also show that attitudes towards Islam and immigration in the country are predominantly negative, though a large discrepancy exists among demographics: the elderly population is much more negative than younger voters, and those with a relatively high education much less negative than those with a low education.

 

Newspaper Identifies “Sharia Triangle” in the Hague

20 May 2013

Claim by newspaper Trouw that part of The Hague’s Schilderswijk district is so dominated by orthodox Muslims that they are dictating what people should wear and how they should behave, have been denied by both police and local politicians.

Under the headline ‘Hague district is orthodox Muslim territory’, Trouw said ‘short skirts and dresses are not accepted on the street’. The paper said the area, with a population of some 5,000, is known by locals as ‘The Sharia Triangle’. ‘Very slowly, the rules in the area are beginning to change,’ the article said. ‘The norms of the majority are beginning to take over.’

But locals were quick to describe the article as exaggerated. ‘We know the area is dominated by Muslims, yes,’ said local Christian Democrat leader Gert-Jan Bakker. ‘But we have never noticed that they are in control.’ Local police chief Michel de Roos told broadcaster Omroep West claims by Trouw that the police allow locals to solve their own problems is not true. The police presence in the area has been strengthened and local beat officers have a strong local network, he said.

Social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher and MP and anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders both paid visits to the district. Wilders spent 15 minutes walking through the area and did not speak to any locals, RTL news reported. ‘This is a part of the Netherlands where our norms and standards apply,’ Wilders told reporters during his stroll.

Dutch Politician Cancels Speech in Australia

19 February 2013

 

Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his anti-Islam platform, has cancelled a speech planned during his visit to Australia. Wilders’ speech was cancelled when no venue in Perth was willing to host the event. During a press conference Wilders reiterated his view that Islam cannot be integrated into western societies. Although some 40 people appeared to protest Wilders’ speech in Melbourne last week, none were present at the press conference. Muslim and other organizations had encouraged individuals not to protest the event but rather to ignore Wilders’ presence.

Doug Saunders, “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”

Myth of the muslim tideIn his book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide”, Doug Saunders puts theories from critics of immigration under the microscope. He talked to Aygül Cizmecioglu about extremism, xenophobia and successful integration

Mr. Saunders, prominent public figures such as Thilo Sarrazin in Germany and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands believe that the West is being overrun with Muslims – at least demographically. Is that true?

Doug Saunders: No, I think the facts clearly contradict that. I’ve spent a lot of time in the largest Muslim countries, in Iran, in Bangladesh, in Pakistan, doing various forms of journalism and research into migration and urbanization. And I hired a research team, people who are not partisans and weren’t activists, but who are good scholars, who know demographics, who know radicalism, who know the history of integration. And first of all, what we found out was that these countries have the fastest falling reproduction rates in the world. Bangladesh now has a population growth rate falling very quickly toward a European level. The situation in Turkey is very similar.

Moreover, in Europe and North America, Muslims are not the largest group of immigrants at all. And what we’re seeing is the pattern that poor religious minorities always – after some time – follow the trend of the majority society. The second generation of immigrants has considerably fewer children than the first generation, and by the third generation they have almost completely adapted to their environment, in terms of the birth rate.

Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the image of violent Muslims with extremist tendencies is ingrained in many people’s psyches…

Saunders: I didn’t use any data that was supported by only one organization. I’m talking about universities, government bodies, United Nations bodies, intelligence agencies. And the big surveys of extremism done by the CIA and MI5 were extremely useful for this book. Those surveys found that almost all Islamic extremists and terrorists do not come from tightly clustered immigrant neighbourhoods. Extremists don’t usually come from communities of strong belief.

First of all, the most religious groups of people do not produce extremism and terrorism. And second of all, if you survey all people who have become extremists and terrorists, religious faith is almost never a big cause. They use the language of religion as part of their extremism.

The New York police department just wasted something like six years investigating tens of thousands of ordinary Muslims in New York who had strong Islamic believes in the hope of finding some evidence of terrorism. And they had to admit that they had not found after this enormous spying program one piece of useful evidence for extremism.

But where do these fears come from?

Saunders: I passed through that set of views myself. I had deep fears, certainly when extremism and terrorism hit my own neighbourhood – when my local mosque was taken over by one of the most extreme al Qaida supporters around, when one of my neighbours had both of her legs blown off in the July 7, 2005 London transport bombings. Of course I wondered, of course I thought, is the western liberal world threatened by Islam?

What factors make it difficult for us to overcome these prejudices?

Saunders: I would not say that Muslims are an average. Now, you’re talking about very different people. There’s no generalizing about Muslims. You’re talking about extremely moderate practices like Alevi next to very ascetic, and rigid practices like Wahhabis and Salafists. And we can also show that immigrants from the same place of different religions have the same problems and difficulties. So religion is not a major causal factor.

Are areas populated mainly by Arabs or Turks, such as those in Berlin, parallel societies?

Saunders: Most of the successful immigrant groups in western history who have become very well integrated into the society around them have been clustered into ethically concentrated neighbourhoods. For instance, the Lower East Side of New York has seen about five different ethnic groups pass through it: eastern-European Jews, Irish, southern-European Catholics, Latin Americans, Greeks. All of whom have passed through and formed these densely clustered neighbourhoods, and their neighbourhoods were widely seen as being criminal.

 

Anti-Islam Politician to Step Up International Campaign

27 December 2013

 

In an interview with NOS television anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders announced that he will step up his campaign on an international level in 2013. The PVV leader claims he will “fight” Islam “from Australia to America, from Switzerland to wherever.”

 

Update: Dutch MP to Receive Australian Visa

2 October 2012

 

Following speculation that anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders would not be permitted to visit Australia, immigration minister Chris Bouwen has announced that a visa will be issued. Bouwen told ABC radio that the visa procedure had taken an extended time period because “we had to find a balance between our freedom of expression and his rather extreme views.”

Dutch Politicians React to Innocence of Muslims Controversies

20 September 2012

 

Media coverage of ongoing international controversies surrounding the movie Innocence of Muslims tracks the responses of Dutch politicians, particularly to statements from the European parliament speaker Martin Schulz. Dutch Euro-parliamentarian Hans van Baalen announced that Schulz should be standing up for freedom of expression, while Geert Wilders, via Twitter, called Schulz a “coward” who has “sentenced freedom to death”. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Abu Taleb condemned the movie and advised Muslims to ignore the film.

Wilders to Speak in Australia, Visa Pending

20 September 2012

 

An anti-Islam group in Australia has invited Dutch politician Geert Wilders to speak next month, however authorities have not yet approved his visa application. The Q Society is suggesting that Australia is attempting to prevent Wilders from speaking in the country, while Australian immigration minister Chris Bouwen defends the time taken to process the application. While one member of the Australian Green Party is quoted as saying Wilders is not welcome in the country, he adds that denying the politician a visa would simply bring more attention to Wilders.

American Anti-Islam Groups Fund Dutch Politician

11 September 2012

 

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), has received funding from anti-Islam groups in the United States, Reuters reports. Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia based think tank The Middle East Forum, admitted to funding Wilders’ legal defense against charges of inciting racial hatred. Pipes declined to reveal the quantity of his contributions. David Horowitz also reported paying Wilders “a good fee” for two speeches, as well as to covering a security fee to the Philadelphia police department incurred for protests surrounding Wilders’ public appearance. Both Pipes and Horowitz denied funding Wilders’ political activities in the Netherlands, and Wilders responded that he never requests a fee for speaking engagements, though travel and accommodation expenses may be paid. Legislation is currently in process in the Dutch parliament to force parties to reveal their donation sources.

Wilders’ Supporters Do Not Agree With Anti-Islam Stance

17 August 2012

 

New research by Chris Aalberts of Erasmus University in Rotterdam shows that the majority of Dutch residents supporting Geert Wilders and his PVV party are not in agreement with the politiican’s anti-Islam stance. According to Aalbert’s research, conducted through in depth interviews with supporters, only a small minority of supporters see Islam as a serious threat; rather, Wilders draws support from those “concerned about the more humdrum irritations of daily life” who identify anti-Islam rhetoric as a way of bringing their issues to the table, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports. Aalbert’s research and the media coverage comes with the commencement of national campaigns for a September parliamentary election.