The whisper of the people

Today saw a debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch parliament (equivalent to the house of commons or the house of representatives) on a report written by the WRR in April last year entitled 'Dynamics in Islamic activism'.

Given the much vaunted 'polder model' or consensus model of Dutch politics, one would expect a mindnumbingly boring 'debate' in which parliamentarians attacked each other on minor technical details while congratulating one another on the overall big picture. And one would be sorely mistaken.

Especially Geert Wilders was responsible for the fireworks that were on display this afternoon and evening. Not being the least bit apologetic about his call to ban the Qu'ran, he stated not once, but twice that Minister for Integration was 'raving mad' for suggesting that in the future the Netherlands would be of a Judeo-Christian-Islamic persuasion. Interupted to the hilt by parliamentarians mainly from the left (PvdA, SP and GroenLinks) he managed to keep the upper hand.

And for the first time Wilders PVV got some actual support in Second Chamber. This came from the VVD (liberal conservatives) who came out in favor of revoking Dutch citizenship for Salafist imams preaching in mosques in the Netherlands. Nisnews has a good, if somewhat dry, roundup of the debate. It is reproduced below, in case that the link stops working.

All in all, the conclusion after this debate is that for the first time ever, with regard to the problematic relations of members of the islamic flock with the rest of the Netherlands, the voice of the Dutch made itself heard. Not much above a whisper, but it was there, thanks to Wilders and the VVD.

[UPDATE001] The transcript of the entire debate (NL) can be found on Page 2 of KV.

THE HAGUE, 07/09/07 - The conservatives (VVD) and Party for Freedom (PVV) are putting pressure on the Christian democrats (CDA) and Labour (PvdA) to take tougher measures against radical Islam. The opposition parties appear to have the support of the population.

The Lower House yesterday discussed a report from the Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR), entitled 'Dynamics in Islamic activism', published in April 2006. WRR researcher Jan Schoonenboom said at the time that many politicians in the Netherlands engage in "Islam-bashing", that there is no need to fear Sharia law and that the Netherlands should "support the moderate Islamic powers much more, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah in Lebanon".

At the time, the report enraged many MPs, including CDA MP Maxime, the present Foreign Minister. "The WRR should propagate science, not politics," he said last year. Part of the House yesterday repeated the sharp criticism of the report already voiced earlier. The VVD used the debate to propose several measures against radical Islam.

The VVD wants Imams with a Dutch passport who preach hatred to have their Dutch citizenship withdrawn so that they can be deported. The party also believes that their mosques should be closed down, said MP Halbe Zijlstra. "On principle, the possibilities already exist, but the descriptions of the law in the constitution are very unclear here. As a result, mayors never apply the rules."

PVV leader Geert Wilders used the debate to repeat his recent plea for a ban on the Koran. He also fiercely attacked Integration Minister Ella Vogelaar (PvdA), who said in an interview that Islam will eventually be regarded as part of Dutch culture. "You have demonstrated that you are absolutely nuts", stated Wilders, who repeated this remark when asked by Lower House speaker Gerdi Verbeet to take it back.

Coalition parties CDA and PvdA tend to warn that Islam must be discussed cautiously and with respect, but the population appears to disagree. Radio programme Standpunt yesterday presented the statement 'The debate in society on Islam is too tough.' Only 24 percent agreed, and 76 percent disagreed.

VVD MP Zijlstra said he expects CDA and PvdA to support the plans he presented yesterday - as well as PVV. But the PvdA in particular is wavering. PvdA MP Jeroen Dijsselbloem: "We already have an article stating that preaching hatred and violence is forbidden." Also, "if you close a mosque, then the board often just sets up a new foundation, which continues under a new name and at a new location."

Dijsselbloem is however critical of CMO and CGI, the government's official Muslim consultative bodies, as being too conservative. "They are not representative. Youngsters and liberal Muslims do not recognise themselves in them."

Home Affairs Minister Guusje ter Horst (PvdA) said that in the Netherlands, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are susceptible to Salafism, an ultra-orthodox movement within Islam. There are around 2,500 "potential activists," she estimated, for the first time giving an indication in public of the size of Salafism in the Netherlands.

The minister refused to say, despite pressure from several MPs, how many Salafist Imams there are. This is "operational information" of the AIVD secret service. Ter Horst acknowledged the Salafist body of thought is spreading, but said preparedness for violent action is not increasing. The AIVD will bring out a new publication on the rise of Salafism in the Netherlands in October

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