It’s only natural that Dutch citizens with Islamic roots should be concerned about Geert Wilders. But they should also take a critical look at what is going on in the countries where their Islamic roots lie. That’s the opinion of Mohammed Abdulrahman of Radio Netherlands Worldwide’s Arabic service. He writes...
It used to be common knowledge among immigrants from the Islamic world: the Netherlands was the most tolerant country in Europe. But in the post 9/11 era, the mood has changed considerably. The populist anti-Islam Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders became the third largest part in the Netherlands at the last election and is now in the key position of providing official parliamentary support for a new minority right-wing government coalition.
Geert Wilders never tires of warning that Islam is a dangerous ideology that is out to dominate Europe. He has dismissed the Prophet Mohammed as a paedophile and the Qur’an as a fascist book that should be banned. He wants to limit the influx of immigrants from Muslim countries.
Open to discrimination
As Dutch citizens with Islamic roots, we observe these developments with a mixture of shock and indignation. We feel less welcome in the Netherlands and rebuke the Dutch for not giving us a fair chance. But before we start preaching to the Netherlands, one important question needs to be asked: how are foreigners and minority groups treated in the countries where our roots lie?
The facts speak for themselves: in the Islamic world, foreigners and religious and ethnic minorities hardly have any rights at all. In almost all Islamic countries they are open to discrimination that is accepted without criticism by almost everyone, as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
Take, for example, the situation of guest workers in the Gulf States: they are treated little better than slaves. They have practically no legal status and they have absolutely no entitlements in terms of cultural and religious rights. In the entire Arab peninsula, there is only one church: in the mini-state of Qatar whose national identity largely consists of irritating its far larger neighbour Saudi Arabia.
The fact that governments in the Islamic world do not respect the rights of their own ordinary citizens either does not provide a valid argument with which to ease our conscience. For ordinary citizens are only denied political rights, while foreigners and minorities cannot claim any rights whatsoever and have to contend with discrimination by both the government and the population at large.
So when we here in Europe seek to defend our civil rights, we should remember one thing: that we are part of a society based on the idea that everyone, regardless of their background or beliefs, is equal and enjoys the same rights to practice their religion and express their culture. That is an ideal that is worthy of imitation, especially in the countries where our roots lie.
Geert Wilders is currently standing trial for a number of statements he has made about Islam. The mere fact that a handful of immigrants and ordinary Dutch citizens can take an influential politician to court speaks volumes in itself. It illustrates that in this society, the law stands above all else.
For people with an Islamic background it is hard to listen to Geert Wilders' provocative statements about Islam. But ultimately they are common insults, nothing more and nothing less. The worst thing that Geert Wilders can do to us is to make us as radical as he is; to drive us to the point where we seek to defend our identity and culture in a forced and aggressive way. And, in doing so, that we forget to be critical of ourselves. In other words, that we start behaving in exactly the way he claims that we behave. Surely the last thing we should do is give him that satisfaction?
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