The New York Times on the Netherlands:
Immigration and Islam Raise Questions of Dutch Identity – NYTimes.com
Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who admitted to mass killings last month, was obsessed with Islam and had high praise for the Netherlands, an important test case in the resurgence of the anti-immigrant right in northern Europe.
In this article the author, Steven Erlanger, reviews the situation in the Netherlands where the ‘aggressive anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim’ politician Geert Wilders and its Freedom Party keep the government in power and whose ideas clearly inspired the ideas of Anders Behring Breivik. Erlanger went to the Amsterdam Slotervaart neighbourhood with a majority of first and second generation migrants (mainly from Turkey and Morocco) in order to find out how and if Wilders’ views have some basis on a grassroots level.
While many Dutch recoil at his language, he touches on real fears. “Sometimes I’m afraid of Islam,” Ms. Kuhlman said. “They’re taking over the neighborhood and they’re very strong. I don’t love Wilders. He’s a pig, but he says what many people think.”
Ms. Kuhlman no longer feels ‘at home’ in her neighbourhood where she lived for 36 years where she cannot sunbath topless anymore and the neighbour doesn’t even greet and who doesn’t work.
Also Muslims clearly experience anxiety and have concerns according to the article for which the author has interviewed several migrant politicians who also appear to perceive some sort of identity crisis in partiuclar among youth. A Dutch researcher, Rob Riemen, sees Wilders as representing a new fascism; I’m not sure about that. He is certainly not a fascist in the classical sense but he does have some features of what Seymour Martin Lipsit called ‘extremism of the center:On Post-Fascism
As one of the greatest and most level-headed masters of twentieth-century political sociology, Seymour Martin Lipset, has noted, fascism is the extremism of the center.Fascism had very little to do with passéiste feudal, aristocratic, monarchist ideas, was on the whole anti-clerical, opposed communism and socialist revolution, and–like the liberals whose electorate it had inherited–hated big business, trade unions, and the social welfare state. Lipset had classically shown that extremisms of the left and right were by no means exclusive: some petty bourgeois attitudes suspecting big business and big government could be, and were, prolonged into an extremism that proved lethal. Right-wing and center extremisms were combined in Hungarian, Austrian, Croatian, Slovak para-fascism (I have borrowed this term from Roger Griffin) of a pseudo-Christian, clericalist, royalist coloring, but extremism of the center does and did exist, proved by Lipset also through continuities in electoral geography.
Riemen’s analogy is criticized but the critique does not hold for the idea of ‘extremism of the center‘ I think. According to Seymour Martin Lipset fascism is highly correlated to the center and middle class and opposes big business, trade unions, socialism, religion and wants to restore the old (in this case white, native) middle class (the hard working man) to power (against leftist elites).
Immigration and Islam Raise Questions of Dutch Identity – NYTimes.com
But others argue that analogies to fascism overstate the weakness of Dutch society and the appeal of the far right. Paul Nieuwenburg of Leiden University says that many issues are jumbled together in the growing revulsion against immigration: fear of “Islam,” as if it were monolithic; of terrorism; of globalization; of joblessness; of the growing influence of European Union bureaucrats in Brussels; of austerity; of the perils to the euro and the Dutch budget of Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish and now Italian debt; of juvenile criminality, especially among youth from Morocco and the Antilles.
“There is a growing protest vote,” Mr. Nieuwenburg said. “People feel let down by the traditional parties.” And the traditional parties, reacting to the rise of Wilders, have all fled from the language of multiculturalism. “The taboos are gone, and now you’re suspect if you say anything positive about multiculturalism,” said Henk Overbeek, a political scientist at VU University.
This ‘extremism of the center’ has certainly hit the migrants:
Shopping in the city center, Raihsa Sahinoer, 24, born here of Surinamese immigrants, was not surprised. “Wilders says we all have to go back even if we were born here,” she said. “It’s not only about Muslims, it’s about colored people, too.”
She lives as the Dutch do, she said. “But they tell us if you’re colored, you’re not Dutch.” Does she feel Dutch? “No,” she said, then paused, then asked: “What is Dutch?”
By the way, there are some things in the article that are not very precise (to say the least). Wilders has never said that all migrants (or all Muslims) have to go back. The author claims that Wilders wants all migrants and children to be ‘deported’; which is not true and the word deported is highly controversial here because it refers to the holocaust when Jews were deported to the death camps. (See the correction in the NYT on this.) In an interview with Danish television he did however say this:
Mr Wilders stressed that he believed that Muslims who abide by the law and conform to what he described as “our values” should be welcome to stay. However, he said he had a “clear message” to people who did not choose to return to their countries of origin on a “voluntary basis”:
“If you commit a crime, if you start thinking about jihad or sharia, then it’s very clear, we will send you away, we will send you packing, we will strip you of the Dutch or Danish nationality. Abide by the rules, you are welcome to stay, and if you don’t we will send you away the same day.”
The next interview on BBC’s Hard Talk is also very revealing:
Also in an interview Wilders has stated that, although he realizes the impossibility, his utopia is a Netherlands without migrants (he did not state how far back in history we should go then). Furthermore he stated that Islam is a ‘violent ideology like communism and fascism and we should deal with it that way. If we don’t, at the end of the day, Islam will eat us‘. See also his 10 points plan. And of course here is where the link with Breivik comes to the surface (of course, not only Wilders has been an inspiration, others such as Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen aka Fjordman have been as well and where the killer of Theo van Gogh used the work of Christian fundamentalists in his own particular Jihadi ideology, Breivik also referred to Al Qaeda).
What Wilders uses in his somewhat post-colonial rhetoric that can be seen as, following my colleague Sindre Bangstad, ‘Fighting Words’:
Fighting words that are not fought « The Immanent Frame
It is hard to see that when Islam is compared to Nazism, and ordinary Muslims to Nazis, it constitutes a mere “critique of religion” rather than hate speech. The last racially motivated murder in Norway took place in 2008, when a Norwegian-Somali Muslim father of six, Mahmed Jamal Shirwac, was killed. There is solid evidence from Germany to India and from Rwanda to Bosnia that fighting actions are usually preceded by fighting words. Even though history does not repeat itself, in the current circumstances, it would be prudent to uphold a modest defense of European restrictions on hate speech.
Breivik went from non-violent counter-jihadism to violent counter-jihadism. Also other distinguished Norwegian colleagues Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Jostein Gaarder argue that acts of violence A Blogosphere of Bigots – NYTimes.com
rarely occur independent of their social and cultural surroundings.
The Norwegian Islamophobes do not have a manifesto according to them, but according to Eriksen and Gaarder they share three views that can be found in Wilders’ ideology as well (in my words):
- The nation is in the hands of a politically correct elite that has sold out to demographic contamination by Muslims thereby allowing those Muslims to destroy the pure culture of the nation;
- Muslims will and can (because of Islam) never be truly integrated and when they pretend to be they are lying (taqiyyah – which makes Wilders’ view of abiding by our laws – which he makes themselves of course among other politicians – somewhat ehm vague…);
- There is a conspiracy (summarized in the term ‘Eurabia’) by Muslims to gain political dominance across Europe.
What the article in the NYT shows is that some or all of these are prevalent among the Dutch population, something that I have showed here earlier as well (although in a myriad of ways and certainly not uncontested as have tried to show HERE and HERE). This makes the act of relegating Breivik to the realm of the lone wolfs and/or mental patients a highly political one. According to, again, my colleague Bangstad:
- The Hatred in Our Own Eyes: A Norwegian Anthropologist Writes « Stalin’s Moustache
32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik’s intense hatred against multicultural Norway in itself would not have been an obstacle to significant parts of the Norwegian population defining him as ‘one of us’.
Norwegian opinion polls show, after all, that an overwhelming majority of respondents from a representative sample of the population do not want more immigration to Norway at all, and that nearly half of those surveyed have no hesitation in banning Muslims from wearing the hijab in public places – all in the name of state-sponsored feminism.
However, through his acts of terrorism, Anders Behring Breivik has become ‘one of them’ – a human being we are free to hate. It is easier that way. For peaceful Norway and the peace-loving Norwegians represent themselves as the embodiment of universal goodness. So it will always be.
No matter how many bombing raids Norwegian pilots conduct in Muslim countries, no matter how many innocent civilians are killed by Norwegian soldiers in the same countries, and regardless of how much the public debate about Muslims and Islam in Norway has been wallowing in the gutter, one thing is clear: We will not face the hatred in our own eyes.
In the NYT article Kathleen Ferrier, a Christian-Democrat politician born in Surinam states that no one objects to the ideas of Wilders. This is not at all true since their are many opinion leaders and politicians who do but her stating this is somewhat telling. She clearly opposes Wilders but is also part of the Christian-Democrat party that is part of the Dutch government with the conservative liberals; a coalition supported by Wilders’ Freedom Party. Apparently Wilders’ views (and her objections) are not that strong enough for her and her party to oppose to this construction. Same can be said for many others. Many oppose Wilders’ words and terms but do agree with his analysis to a large extent in the sense that they too are convinced that multiculturalism has failed (it never existed), that Islam is a problem by definition (in a secularist society) and that Muslims are still outsiders that need to be integrated. There is no real opposition to those basic (and to a large extent false) ideas. The mainstreaming of Wilders’ ideas has among other things resulted in the Netherlands not so much in anti-islam measures (with the exception of the counter-radicalization policy that is almost solely aimed against Salafi Muslims, the ban on ritual slaughter and the proposed burqa ban) but to a lack of attention to feelings of insecurity among Muslims.
The enthusiasm by which ‘hate speech’ imams were verbally attacked after and (among others) held accountable for the murder of Theo van Gogh only equals to carefullness by which other politicians now take a stand about Wilders’ views. Bangstad is right of course. Seeing Breivik as a lone wolf can be taken as an excuse not to reflect on how particular cultural and social circumstances and ideologies incite and legitimize violence (even when the original intent maybe different). It has taken some time and a political murder for Muslims in the Netherlands to realize that some of the hard-hitting sermons may inspire people to go the extreme. This realization, apart from the pressure of media, politicians and security services, has led to some moderation in certain Muslim (Salafi inspired or not) circles. Let’s hope the terrorist attack will bring a similar reflection among anti-islam politicians and opinion leaders as well. Maybe then, instead of having a month of little civil war as happened after the murder of Theo van Gogh, the Dutch can think of a month of solidarity as well as the Norwegians did after the terrorist attack by Breivik.