A bittersweet week for Muslims in the Netherlands
Opinion: In the Netherlands and throughout Northern Europe, Islamophobia is no longer seen as an ignorant minority ideology, but has become a more acceptable part of the mainstream debate, writes Malia Bouattia.
The Supreme Court of the Netherlands upheld a guilty verdict against PVV leader Geert Wilders on July 6, 2021 for inciting racial hatred. [Getty]
It was a bittersweet week for Muslims in the Netherlands. The announcement of the far right The conviction of Geert Wilders for incitement to hatred was well received, but this news was followed by another attack on a mosque in Amsterdam.
After all, the two events are linked and say a lot about the depressing state of racism against Muslims in the Netherlands. However, Wilders’ conviction gives some hope of overcoming it.
The attack on the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Amsterdam, which saw the windows smashed with a bottle of beer, is the second time the building has been targeted this year. Considering the country’s political trajectory, this seems perfectly in tune with the way the Muslim population is treated by the growing far right, but also by the political “center” and the media.
Muslim communities found themselves in the eye of the storm during the national elections held just a few months ago.
“Inciting the expulsion of Muslims is no longer an extreme point of view that can be dismissed simply as a request by a minority of street thugs. These thugs lead the opposition in the Dutch parliament. “
Islamophobia, far-right views and xenophobia defined the entire period and, unfortunately, the election results. Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) won the third highest number of seats in the Dutch parliament, which clearly indicated how deeply rooted racist and anti-migrant views are in the Netherlands.
Urging Muslims to be deported – as Wilders did – is no longer seen as an extreme point of view that can be dismissed simply as a demand by a minority of street thugs. These thugs lead the opposition in the Dutch parliament and their views are institutionalized by certain laws and practices within the country’s most powerful establishment.
Perhaps even more shocking is the deafening silence of the rest of the political establishment in the face of Wilders’ policies. His proposal creating a ministry of de-Islamization and deportation did not arouse general indignation. He continued to be a guest on television and was debated as if he was a perfectly respectable politician.
Indeed, when the education union refused to have a representative of its party during their election campaigns, they canceled election campaigns to avoid accusations of unfair treatment. These accusations were thrown at them again in the national media. It is considered worse, it seems, to distort fascism than to encourage it.
Fortunately, there are still ways to impose some liability. Earlier this week, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict against Wilders for inciting hatred and discrimination. In 2014, he asked a crowded cafe in The Hague if they wanted “more or less Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands”, to which the crowd replied “less! Less! Less!” , he then added: “We ‘you will take care of it”.
The tribunal declared that his comments were “unnecessarily damaging” and that “even a politician must adhere to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and must not incite intolerance”.
Wilders described the whole affair as an attack on free speech, echoing the far right line, used from the US to the UK, which claims they are fighting to protect our civil rights instead. than trying to bring them down.
“It is considered worse, it seems, to distort fascism than to encourage it”
And, of course, he adds the anti-establishment sentiments that Trump also so infamously peddled, as both politicians held official representative positions within the establishment. Wilders is, in fact, the longest-serving MP in the Netherlands – hardly a brave outsider. For his part, Wilders complaints he is the political target of those who run the Ministry of Justice and Security.
This victory is important, especially for those who empathize with oppressed Muslims. However, there are limits to the justice that can be achieved through the courts alone.
For example, Wilders has already been acquitted. The same year as the coffee incident, during a campaign rally in The Hague, he declared that it becomes a “city with fewer problems and, if possible, also fewer Moroccans”. This, it seems, was seen as acceptable political discourse by the same legal system that is now targeting Wilders.
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The question of time and political balance is also crucial. Not only has Wilders been allowed to continue making similar – if not worse – statements for the past seven years, but he’s also grown in popularity. The far right of 2021 is larger, not smaller, than the far right of 2013. The three largest far-right parties have more seats in parliament than the center-left and left-wing parties combined.
As we approach the second anniversary of the burqa ban in the Netherlands, we are reminded that we must not let our guard down when it comes to Islamophobia. The ban has made it very clear how far incitement to hatred can go – in this case, it is literally enshrined in law.
During a recent Event organized by Hamja Ahsan at the Maastricht Jan Van Eyck Institute, activists and artists gathered to discuss Islamophobia and the “war on terror” in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was as if each country was reading the same manual.
State Islamophobia, restriction of civil liberties, and suppression of dissent are normalized by every government, as are the same justifications: Muslims are a violent and irrational problem.
No wonder the far right thrives at all levels when states amplify and institutionalize their politics.
While there is a lot of cause for concern, and even for fear, this situation has also provided guidance for resistance. He highlighted how the state benefits from the continued anti-Muslim racism that it has normalized and how Islamophobia operates in all corners of our society.
Malia Bouattia is an activist, former president of the National Union of Students and co-founder of the Students not Suspects / Educators not Informants network.
Follow her on Twitter: @MaliaBouattia
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