A call by the controversial MP Geert Wilders to ban the Koran in the Netherlands has led to a flood of negative reactions from politicians and community leaders in the Dutch media today.
Christian Democrat foreign minister Maxine Verhagen is quoted by ANP news agency as saying that Wilders has ‘exceeded the boundaries of decency’ with his comments. Religious freedom, like the freedom of expression, is the foundation of the Dutch constitution, he said.
Verhagen has sent Dutch ambassadors abroad a copy of a letter in which the cabinet distances itself from Wilders’ comments. Statements by Wilders earlier this year that Dutch Muslims should rip up the Koran caused considerable anger in a number of countries.
Integration minister Ella Vogelaar already made it clear yesterday that banning the Koran in the Netherlands is out of the question as far as the cabinet is concerned and will remain so. Wilders’ comments damage inter-community relations, she said.
Further than Vlaams Belang
Halbe Zijltstra, MP for the right-wing Liberal VVD party, said Wilders has ‘lost his way’. ‘He says he is defending Dutch norms and values but at the same time he’s putting one of those values, the right to religious freedom, in the rubbish bin,’ he told ANP.
And in the Volkskrant, Labour MP Khadija Arib said: ‘Geert Wilders keeps thinking up something new with which to attack Muslims… His comments don’t affect me any more, I’ve become immune to them.’
Even Filip Dewinter, leader of Belgium’s nationalist Vlaams Belang party, feels Wilders has gone too far. In a tv interview on Wednesday night Dewinter said he did not agree with banning the Koran.
Cardinal Ad Simonis said the idea of banning the Koran was ‘too crazy for words’, adding that every word wasted on such a proposal was ‘one too many’.
Muslim groups reacted with resignation to the latest attack on their religion by Wilders. Nasr Joemman of the CMO, the organisation which represents Muslims and the government, said Wilders is using his statements purely for political gains and called on young Muslims not to raise to the bait.
And on the front page of today’s Volkskrant Abu Zayd, a professor of Islam at the universities of Utrecht and Leiden, described Wilders’comments as ‘total nonsense’ and ‘irresponsible’.
In a letter published in the Volkskrant yesterday, Wilders said the Koran is encourages violence and compares the Islamic holy book to Hitler’s Mein Kampf which he points out has been banned since the end of the Second World War.
Wilders’comments were prompted by an attack on the chairman of the ex-Muslims committee and Labour councillor Ehsan Jami at the weekend.
This morning publicist Afshin Ellian told ANP news agency that Jami had received scores of death threats on Wednesday after his telephone number was published on the internet.
Meanwhile two lawyers, one in Lelystad and one in Rotterdam, have lodged official police complaints against Wilders’ call to ban the Koran saying his comments incite hatred.
Wilders is leader of the anti-immigration PVV party which has nine MPs.
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