A controversial Belgian Lebanese activist, the first guest on the traditional Dutch summer chat show series Zomergasten, failed to live up to the hype, Dutch media said on Monday.
Dyab Abou Jahjah who founded the Arab-European League and sparked an threatened exodus of writers from publishing house De Bezige Bij when it agreed to publish a pamphlet by him, was the first guest of the new season which typically sees guest choosing television or film footage to illustrate their views.
According to the Volkskrant the hype that ensued in the run up to the programme did not hike viewing figures: some 484,000 people tuned in, under half of the number of people who watched last year’s first Zomergasten which featured Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.
The programme which has a different presenter each year and has a reputation for being hard-hitting and controversial, did not see sparks fly. Jahjah presented himself as ‘largely moderate’, the paper writes. ‘The film fragments he chose – about religion, colonisation, segregation, migration and racism – were often more outspoken than the man himself. (..) Abou Jahjah wants to look dangerous but isn’t’, the paper concludes.
The NRC’ s tv critic says Jahjah – who tweeted ‘Zionists and racists are going crazy because I’m on Zomergasten. After the broadcast they’ll be crazier still. Zionism is racism’ in the run up to the programme – ‘refused to be provoked and fielded the criticism convincingly and in a nuanced way.’
While presenter Thomas Erdbrink’s interviewing style was ‘severe’, it was at times ‘overly mistrustful’, he wrote. ‘Can the controversy ahead of the programme have prompted Erdbrink to pile on the pressure? If so, it worked because Abou Jahjah was able to explain his views without it becoming too civilised: mission accomplished.’
In its review Trouw’s tv critic calls Jahjah a ‘fusion expert’. ‘Were we really able to form an opinion about Abou Jahjah as the makers of the programme promised? If his intentions are bad, as his opponents claim, they will find in him a formidable player.
‘He can’t be pinned down in the left-right, black-and-white, east-west scheme of things. He is a fusion expert. He has no strict god to contend with, he calls himself a spiritual agnostic, a Muslim by culture, not faith.’
‘You can call it manipulative or suggestive: the parallels he tried to make the viewers see by choosing tv fragments of how interesting outsiders are and about successful activist Freddie Hampton of the Black Panthers. But perhaps flirting with the image of being an outsider would be a better way of describing it.’
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