De Fabel van de illegaal 68, January/February 2005
Author: Gerrit de Wit
Populist Right extremist Wilders “wants to eat headscarves alive”
The independent member of parliament Geert Wilders profits enormously from the death of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. According to some polls his new conservative party could win almost 20 percent of the votes and that would make it the second largest party in the Netherlands. Although one can argue about the results of such polls, it is clear that Wilders and his extreme Right opinions on immigrants and Muslims can count on a lot of sympathy in Dutch society.
Wilders’ political career started in 1990, when he became an assistant to the conservative liberal party (VVD) in parliament and a speech writer of party leader Frits Bolkestein. In 1998 he got a seat in parliament himself. He soon became known for pleading for a stricter policy on social security for people incapable of work. People with psychic problems shouldn’t get any security anymore, he said. And the same should hold for people who have worked less than 5 years. “Anti-social”, his plans were called by a lot of other members of parliament and the unions. But Wilders responded that he “strongly disliked the Left”. If the Left would get in power, he said, social security would go up and “asylum seekers would be housed in palaces”.
In recent years Wilders became real famous by his crusade against Islam. He for instance argued that “our own culture is in danger because of the more than one million Muslims in our country”. Moreover, in the summer 2003 he confessed that he hadn’t even seen a Dutch mosque from the inside. To stop Islam the Netherlands should “firmly step on the brake when it comes to allowing foreigners in. We shouldn’t be afraid to set a maximum, to select on the basis of age, and to implement stricter demands on income.” He also pleaded for even stricter integration measures. “I would want that everyone who gets to be Dutch after a lot stricter test than nowadays, would sing the Dutch national anthem with their hand on their chest and tears in their eyes.” He also often targets “criminal Moroccans”: “If they do not want to be good boys, put them in camps. Let them taste hard labor.”
In an interview (1) in February 2004 Wilders claimed that Pim Fortuyn was right when he talked about “the backward culture” of Muslims. “Why are we afraid to say that Muslims should adjust themselves to us, because our norms and values are simply of a higher, better, nicer and more humane level of civilization? No integration, assimilation! Let them wear headscarves and slaughter their sheep at home, outside they should behave like everyone else.” If he became a minister, he would immediately ban headscarves. “And then let them come and demonstrate in The Hague with their wavering headscarves. I will eat them alive.” Imams, who “almost call out for a holy war should immediately be send back to their caves in Saudi Arabia, or wherever”. He said he could justify any future race riots. “If it ever came to race riots, which I really do not want, they will not automatically have negative results.”
On July 2, together with his colleague VVD member of parliament Gert-Jan Oplaat, Wilders presented a manifesto with 10 thesis, called “Recht(s) op je doel af” (“(From the) Right at our target”). With this they wanted to steer their party even more to the right. They wrote that Turkey should never be a member of the EU because it is an Islamic country. They also wanted to raise the maximum speed, halve the amount of donations to Third World countries and deport radical imams without any legal process. They furthermore promoted the principle of “three strikes you’re out”, whereby anyone breaking the law three times automatically gets a life sentence. Wilders and Oplaat also wanted to “denaturalize” immigrants who do not integrate fast enough, and deport them.
Most of the VVD members of parliament weren’t very pleased with the manifesto. They considered it too extreme, and didn’t accept that Wilders went against party policy, especially on the issue of Turkey joining the EU. Moreover, a number of his colleagues had been getting more and more annoyed because of his rough ideas. And they didn’t like to working in his shadow anymore. Finally, the matter exploded and Wilders left the party on September 2. He became an independent member of parliament. Former party leader Ed Nijpels didn’t feel sad after Wilders’ departure. According to him, Wilders wanted “an extreme Right party, like the one of Janmaat”. The late Janmaat was leader of the extreme Right party Centrum Democraten. “Winning votes doesn’t make it right to voice abject positions. This 10 points plan is ultra Right”, said Nijpels, whose own party, moreover, also often uses very Right positions to attract voters.
After his departure from the VVD, Wilders took another step to the Right. He argued (2) that the Right wing parties “didn’t do enough to limit immigration and to stimulate integration. Their measures against problems with safety and crime are also far too soft.” According to Wilders one couldn’t deny “that the Netherlands have far surpassed the borders of hospitality to non-western immigrants, especially those of Muslim descent”. The Netherlands was “fuller than full”. He therefore pleaded for a “five year total stop for family creation and reunion of non-western immigrants” and for “the introduction of a maximum of at most a few thousand asylum requests a year”. Also, “criminal immigrants should lose their residence permits after finishing their jail sentences and then get deported”.
On November 4, two days after the death of film maker Theo van Gogh, Wilders announced that he was going to found a new conservative party together with Bart Jan Spruyt, the director of the conservative think-tank Edmund Burke Foundation.(3) Spruyt had written a political program which Wilders loved. According to the program Muslims have to be excluded from constitutional rights like the freedom to found their own schools and organizations. According to Wilders and Spruyt, Islam cannot be reconciled with “Dutch culture” and the “democratic rule of law”. Ever more women Muslims would wear headscarves as a symbol of their rejection of the West, and the Islam would even be “imperialist” with “it’s towering high minarets in Rotterdam”. To arrest “the islamization of Dutch culture”, Spruyt wants to stop immigration. Every non-integrated immigrants should leave the country. “You adjust, or get out of here”, he says. He also argues that the Netherlands are “getting poor” because the number of rich people is not growing anymore. Therefore his new party wants to lower taxes and minimum wages.
Spruyt’s cooperation with Wilders created a crisis within the Burke Foundation. Almost all the members of it’s recommendation committee left, like Christian fundamentalist party (Christenunie) senator Van Middelkoop, former Christian democrat (CDA) member of parliament Hillen and former prime minister Van Agt. According to them the foundation shouldn’t ally itself with one political party. Van Agt, himself quite a Right wing hardliner, called the opinions of Wilders “reactionary, xenophobic and too militant”.
In July, 2004, former politician Marcel van Dam had also compared Wilders with Janmaat. Wilders complained about that comparison. He was “continuously stigmatized by Left wing intelligentsia”. But that is caused by his own ultra Right opinions. In his eyes, immigrants, Muslims and the Left are responsible for all the problems in the world. He tries to create tension between groups in society and discriminates on the basis of background and religion by wanting to keep non-western immigrants and Muslims out. He’s not just criticizing Muslim fundamentalism but fighting Islam as a whole, and he clearly dislikes all non-western immigrants. That is extreme Right, and that puts him in the category as Janmaat, Fini, Dewinter and Le Pen.
Wilders’ opinions can count on much sympathy within Dutch society. That is remarkable, because the Netherlands already have the most Right wing government in many years. The current government rigorously cuts in social security, and implements the most restrictive policy on immigration. In 2002 only 103 refugees got a residence permit as political refugees. That was only 0,55 percent of all 18.667 applicants. In the first 8 months of 2004 only 6.300 requests for asylum were accepted, whilst in 2000 there were still 43.895 applicants. On the European level, the Netherlands are well ahead in keeping out and excluding refugees and immigrants. And for years now we have seen racist agitation against refugees and immigrants in the media and in politics, with everyone calling on “the freedom of speech”. But taking Wilders’ popularity in account, this is all but enough to large parts of the population.
There are some other public figures who want to fill this so-called “gap on the Right”. Popular crime fighter and journalist Peter R. de Vries is thinking of founding a party. According to some polls he can count on a lot of votes. Although De Vries is tough on crime, he seems to be somewhat less harsh on other issues. For instance, he is against budget cuts on rehabilitation and he wants a more liberal drugs policy. Another candidate is Rotterdam alderman Marco Pastors from the fortuynist party Leefbaar Rotterdam. He’s thinking of stepping up to national politics, but may want to join Wilders. Former Right populist party (LPF) members of parliament Joost Eerdmans and Hilbrand Nawijn have already been flirting with Wilders for some time now. Furthermore, former Philips top manager and internet investor Roel Pieper is considering founding his own party. He was, back then, talking with Pim Fortuyn, and was considered a possible candidate for some LPF-ministry position. And last but not least, former LPF minister and notorious quarreler Herman Heinsbroek also thinks about founding a new party.
Wilders will surely have a lot of trouble finding capable people to work together with and to put on his election list. Maybe Wilders’ party will end up the same as the LPF. In that party all kinds of charlatans, job hunters and extreme Right scum fought each other, until they one by one left the party. Wilders’ success also depends on the Christian democrat CDA and the conservative liberal VVD, who are now both in government. Pushed by the polls, they could decide to step to the Right even more in order to catch Wilders’ electorate. De VVD is well capable of doing so. At the end of November, party leader Van Aartsen already asked Wilders to come back to the party which considered him “ultra Right” just a few months before. Anyhow, in the near future Wilders will play an important role in pulling all parties to the Right. It’s up to the Left and anti-fascists to halt that development.