Monday 18 October 2021

De Pers: Do we really have to talk about this?

GroenLinks mp Tofik Dibi wants to confront Wilders’ xenophobic rhetoric in a parliamentary debate. But politicians aren’t exactly lining up in support, writes De Pers.


‘The killer from Oslo is falsely claiming to be one of us. But he isn’t. We condemn violence. We are democrats. We believe in a peaceful solution.’
Maybe it was easier in German. Geert Wilders, in his speech in Berlin on Saturday, had quite a lot to say about Anders Breivik, the man who killed dozens of young social democrats and who openly admired the PVV leader in his pamphlets for his battle against Islam and the left wing elite that allowed mass immigration.
But Wilders stated emphatically that he, unlike Breivik (‘a mad, narcissistic psychopath’) believes in democracy. More than that, as a silent partner in the cabinet he is trying to call a halt to the islamisation of the country by peaceful means.
Compared to the 140 character tweet and a short statement on ‘Oslo’, Wilders was almost loquacious. He obviously decided he needed to explain his vision of an international fight against Islam in a country whose Nazi past may makes it sensitive to anything leaning towards the radical right.
But Tofik Dibi’s demand for a parliamentary debate about xenophobia – during which the GroenLinks mp wants to cross swords with Wilders – will meet with his usual indifference.
Moral appeal
Dibi, who has a Moroccan background, wants to make a ‘moral appeal’ to Wilders to stop maligning Islam and start working together. Achmed and Fatima are just as likely to suffer from street thugs and crime as Henk and Ingrid, he said.
Dibi has a point. Oddly enough, politicians aren’t exactly applauding his initiative. After the events in Norway the whole of Europe turned the spotlights on the people Breivik mentioned in his pamphlets. In Germany, anti Islam critics were questioned about their stance and in France Martine Le Pen came under fire, not helped by her father who said the Norwegian government had been too lenient about immigration.
The English Defence League in Britain came in for criticism in Britain and in Belgium attention focused on Paul Belien and his anti Islam website The Brussels Journal. Belien is, by the way, an associate of Wilders.
In the Netherlands reactions were very cautious indeed. But opinion leaders, both left and right wing, did expect Wilders to make a statement to his voters about how he sees his fight against Islam in the light of the Norway attack.
Nothing was heard from the politicians. SP leader Roemer said it would be ‘dangerous’ to link Wilders’ comments to the events in Norway. PvdA’s Job Cohen warned ‘for God’s sake’ not to blame Wilders. He then went on to say what he has always said: politicians have to watch what they say. That was a heated as it got until Wilders, in the Telegraaf and on the day the victims were being remembered, called the PvdA ‘the party of the Arabs’ and said Tofik Dibi could ‘buzz off’.
Circumspect
The coalition parties were even more circumspect. The Christian Democrats traditionally kept to the middle ground: Wilders shouldn’t have said what he said and Cohen had been too quick to point the finger.
Meanwhile the VVD remained as quiet as a mouse. Board member Mark Verheijen revoked a critical tweet, parliamentary party leader Stef Blok was invisible and prime minster Mark Rutte was on holiday and distanced himself from such terms as ‘palaces of hate’ only when he was asked about the subject.
Prominent party members like Hans Wiegel hit back by accusing the left of hypocrisy and by pointing to the way the Norwegian government had reacted.
And the debate was, indeed, handled differently in Norway. Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg, who knew many of the victims personally, warned against a witch hunt. But he also said, like Cohen, that ‘in future we will have to take care how we put things.’
And what did Siv Jensen of the Party for Progress, the Norwegian version of the PVV, say? Did she say Stoltenberg should buzz off? No, Jensen wrote that ‘our rhetoric should change because most of us want to avoid exaggeration and misunderstandings. Many party members regret saying certain things during heated debates.’
Reluctant
Siv Jensen listened to the prime minister and advocated a change of tone. SoWhy are politicians so reluctant to ask Wilders who, other than Jensen, is mentioned by name by Breivik, to even slightly turn down the volume?
One reason is loyalty between parliamentarians. Most politicians have known him for years. He is a colleague and one who is under threat himself. Reason number two is that CDA and VVD need Wilders. The prime minister has called the PVV ‘a party like any other’, blithely ignoring the fact that the PVV does not form part of this government because it regards Islam as a totalitarian ideology and not a religion.
In spite of promises to the contrary VVD and CDA hardly tick off Wilders when he lets fly about ‘Muslim colonists’ and ‘mass immigration’.
The third reason is fear. Criticising Wilders could cause a backlash. Voters, disenchanted by the taboos on multiculturalism, may increasingly turn to the PVV.
A more fundamental reason is that society is changing. Up to 9/11 Islam was a religion like any other. Then things changed but slowly. Pim Fortuyn was condemned for comments on Islam which pale in comparison to what Wilders is saying now.
The taboo to criticise Islam has been broken but don’t touch the Islam critics. When Tofik Dibi suggested a debate he was called ‘an insect’ suggesting that he should be crushed.
This sort of anger is exactly why Dibi wants a debate. People look up to Wilders and that is why he must make clear again and again that it is wrong to use any other than democratic means, he thinks. Until he is sick and tired of it. ‘Just like we Muslims have to say over and over that we are not supporters of the radical ideas of terrorists.’
This is an unofficial translation

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