By Cameron Parsons
The leader of the right-wing Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders, was acquitted today on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims, bringing to a close a three-year court case. The provocative politician made a name for himself with his outlandish remarks in which he called the Koran "fascist," and with his proposed tax on the Islamic hijab. Today, the highly public court case came to an end, as Wilders was aquitted of all charges against him.
In the current issue of World Policy Journal, Dutch writer Bas Heijne reflects on Wilders, the so-called "Islamization" of Dutch society, and rampant anti-immigration sentiments in the Netherlands:
So far, his movement has captured only about 15 percent of the vote. Yet his view of the state of Dutch society is widely shared, even by many of his political opponents. Wilders’ main concern is the so-called “Islamization” of Dutch society—a largely imaginary smothering of liberal Dutch values by an aggressive and oppressive Islam. Wilders’ activities consist mostly of an ongoing campaign of verbal attacks on Dutch Muslims, and many of his policy ideas are no more than cheap provocations, including a proposed tax on the Muslim headscarf, which he calls a kopvoddentax—a “head-rag tax.” (It sounds even worse in Dutch.)
The genius of the new populists like…Wilders has been to tap into this anxiety without also engaging in economic populism—indeed, by ignoring economic issues almost entirely. What they are really exploiting is the fear of loss of identity—national, local, even existential. They have built a political movement around an anti-immigrant sentiment expressed in almost purely cultural terms, allowing them to attack and scapegoat the less affluent—the immigrant lower classes—without referring to class. In their vision, the problem with Muslim immigrants isn’t only that they commit crimes, or that they are a drain on the social-welfare system, or that they are dragging down standards of living. Instead, the real problem is Islam. The problem with poor immigrants isn’t the fact that they’re relatively poor, or that they are not middle-class enough—the problem is that they’re not “Dutch” enough.
For more insight into Dutch politics and Wilders, you can read Bas Heijne's entire article here.
Cameron Parsons is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.
[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Roel Wijnants]