This is actually a post you might want to skip. I dont say this often, because everything you read here is of value, interesting or even fascinating. But this isn’t really one of those. I just wanted to share with you that the year has only started a week ago and we have already our first headscarf-affair. Always a good way to start the year right, to make sure some things will not change.
This time it is about the Dutch Queen Beatrix, visiting the United Arab Emirates. On Sunday morning she visited the Sheikh Zayed mosque. The official state visit to the UAE and Oman had been scheduled earlier but was then called off because of the ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations and the violent crackdown in Oman fearing that a state visit would be seen as an endorsement of the regime. Queen Beatrix, few weeks ago mentioned on Al Jazeera’s Woman of Power, wore a headscarf over her hat and donned an abaya during this visit and crown princess Maxima was also veiled.
As soon as the news got out and the pictures were published Geert Wilders’ anti-islam party PVV complained calling the queen with a veil a ‘sad appearance which should have been avoided’. The PVV published questions in parliament. In these questions they ask the minister if he agrees with the PVV that the headscarf is a ‘symbol of Islamization, oppression and discrimination of women’ and that Beatrix wearing it ‘legitimizes the oppression’ of women. In a reaction Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs stated that the Queen also adjusts the way she dresses when she visits synagogues and cathedrals. As does Geert Wilders by the way who is used to wear a yarmulke when he speaks for Jewish organizations in the US and when he visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
By now Wilders’ rhetorical strategy can be seen as bullying or even better: trolling like we know from the Internet. It is about uttering a statement designed to attract predictable responses or flames. They initiate a flaming event and causing many people jumping on it and discussing it and getting angry about it, without the discussion leading anywhere. An interesting but long talk about trolling can be found at talkinganthropology.
The comments to this case of trolling were mixed. Wanting to evoke many reactions; he succeeded. But that is rather simple for him. Some time ago Wilders published a tweet with only a ‘!’ causing reporters to discuss online what the meaning of that was. The reactions however were rather mixed even among his supporters. Some people thought it was a stupid move, although he may have been right. His opponents found it hilarious and a waste of time. Many people made an analogy that what Beatrix did (adjusting to the customs of the country where she is) is something Muslims also have to do (integrating) implying that Muslims are (still) people from the outside. But while the reactions may be mixed and less positive as Wilders might have expected, this doesn’t really matter for him to use trolling as a political strategy. It is a means of disrupting the routine and thereby controlling the debate and the agenda of the debate. Don’t feed the trolls, that is easier said than done, but it means that journalists and researchers should really consider if they want to cover everything this troll feeds us.
See? You were better off not reading this.