Aziz Ansari writes: “Don’t go anywhere near a mosque,” I told my mother. “Do all your prayer at home. O.K.?”
“We’re not going,” she replied.
I am the son of Muslim immigrants. As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped.
Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news.
Today, with the presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and others like him spewing hate speech, prejudice is reaching new levels. It’s visceral, and scary, and it affects how people live, work and pray. It makes me afraid for my family. It also makes no sense. [Continue reading…]
Jenna Johnson reports: Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has ranged widely: He has long stoked the idea that Obama might be a secret follower of Islam. Two months before proposing the Muslim ban, Trump announced he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country and bar any others from coming in because they could be a “Trojan horse.” Trump also suggested killing the innocent relatives of terrorists.
“I’ve had good instincts in life, and a lot of this is instinct,” Trump said, adding that three of his Republican primary rivals “confidentially” told him that they agreed with the ban but could not publicly endorse it.
By February — after losing the Iowa caucuses and winning the New Hampshire primary — Trump focused on the next contest in South Carolina. The night before the primary, he told an apocryphal tale that he would return to again and again about U.S. Gen. John J. Pershing fighting Muslim insurgents in the Philippines in the early 1900s.
“He took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood,” Trump said. “And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: ‘You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”
Lewandowski said in an interview before his firing that the telling of the story was planned ahead of time. He said it doesn’t matter that it isn’t true. [Continue reading…]
Mohammed A. Malik writes: Since Sept. 11, I’ve thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.
Then, during the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full of explosives into a government office in Syria. He’d traveled there and joined a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the previous year. We had all known Moner; he was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar. According to a posthumous video released that summer, he had clearly self-radicalized – and had also done so by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki, the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset. We hate violence and were horrified that one of our number could have killed so many. (After an earlier training mission to Syria, he’d tried to recruit a few Florida friends to the cause. They told the FBI about him.)
Immediately after Moner’s attack, news reports said that American officials didn’t know anything about him; I read that they were looking for people to give them some background. So I called the FBI and offered to tell investigators a bit about the young man. It wasn’t much – we hadn’t been close – but I’m an American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I didn’t want another act like that to happen. I didn’t want more innocent people to die. Agents asked me if there were any other local kids who might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No names sprang to mind.
After my talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic community, including Omar, about Moner’s attack. I wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the imam never taught hate or radicalism. That’s when Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki, too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He told me the videos were very powerful.
After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Jo Cox, the MP who was killed outside her constituency office on Thursday, was going to warn of an increase in anti-Muslim attacks – particularly against women – it has emerged.
She was planning to address parliament later this month to introduce a report she had been working on with the Islamophobia watchdog Tell Mama (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks), the group’s director said. The study is expected to conclude that there were about 80% more attacks on Muslims in Britain in 2015 than the year before.
“She met us to talk about how people could report attacks; particularly women in her constituency,” said the founder and director of Tell Mama, Fiyaz Mughal, on Sunday.
The report is the latest in an annual series on the prevalence of Islamophobic attacks. “We were hoping she would highlight the impact on Muslim women; particularly given the targeting [that exists],” Mughal said. “The majority [of incidents] at street level were [on] women and she was going to raise that.” [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: Sayeeda Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative party, has said she will no longer support the campaign to leave the European Union just days before the referendum, accusing it of “hate and xenophobia”.
Warsi said the positive case for leaving the EU had been neglected by the official campaign, though leading leave campaigners have denied she was ever an active participant in the campaign.
“Why is it people like me, instinctively Eurosceptic who feel the EU needs reform … feel they now have to leave leave?” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. “Because day after day what are we hearing? The refugees are coming, the rapists are coming, the Turks are coming.”
Warsi’s intervention came amid a slew of news around the referendum campaign, with car manufacturers, Richard Branson and premier league football clubs urging a vote for remain. [Continue reading…]
Bim Adewunmi, a journalist from the UK now living in America, writes: I am Other, and the worlds I know most intimately are becoming increasingly uncomfortable, but I still have the luxury of the option of packing my bags and returning to the also-troubled land from whence I came (London, for the obtuse). I think about that option when I see Americans say that they are not going to vote, either in protest at what they call a rigged process, or more worryingly, because Trump is “what we deserve”, a slap in the face to shock America into a corrective overhaul of its cultures and systems.
Here’s what I think: His usefulness as the most “necessary” jolt back to common sense is severely limited and/or massively overrated. To be “sitting this election out” reeks of a repugnant sort of privilege. The damage that life under would-be President Trump would introduce does not lie in the not-too-distant Future; it is in the Right Now, under Presumptive Presidential Candidate Trump.
It is the noxious idea of a fictitious Great American past, which allows citizens to incite hatred and fear, and stoke it to such a tempo that it leaves those most at risk in a state of constant terror. [Continue reading…]
Sasha Abramsky writes: eight years after Obama’s extraordinary electoral victory, Donald Trump is stoking a racial violence, a seething, bubbling, street-violent animus last whipped up so overtly by a presidential candidate in 1968, by the segregationist George Wallace.
Trump has repeatedly re-tweeted, thus endorsing, White Supremacist tweets, launched a vicious verbal assault on Mexican-Americans, made sweeping anti-Muslim statements that, if one were to substitute “Jew” for “Muslim,” would not have been out of place in early Nazi propaganda, and has, in the process, racked up endorsements from a who’s who of white nationalists and neo-fascist groups.
It’s not that that animus hasn’t long been there; it’s just that, since the civil rights era, politicians have calculated that subtlety wins out over naked bigotry, that it’s somehow more palatable to the great mass of middle-of-the-road voters. Hence the rise of what came to be described as “dog whistle politics,” a coded appeal to racial hatreds that could be heard and clearly understood by those it was aimed at while being plausibly denied when politicians were publicly called out for it.
Neither party can claim to have been immune to this. On the Democratic side, Bill Clinton, for example, despite his great popularity amongst African American voters and his reputation as a post-segregationist, liberal Southern governor, sought to shore up his conservative credentials with tough-on-crime policies and welfare reforms that disproportionately impacted black Americans.
But, by and large, once the national Democratic Party broke with its southern segregationist wing and embraced Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights agenda in the mid-1960s, it was the GOP, employing what Richard Nixon termed “the Southern Strategy,” that utilized race-resentment politics in the crudest, most personal, of ways. After all, millions of white Americans were largely unreconciled to the civil rights revolution, and for a party willing to pander to their bigotries, there were rich electoral pickings to be had. [Continue reading…]
FactCheck.org reports: Donald Trump made a baseless claim that assimilation among Muslim immigrants in the U.S. is “pretty close” to “nonexistent.” Trump offered no support for his claim, but the Pew Research Center, which conducted detailed surveys in 2011, concluded that “Muslim Americans appear to be highly assimilated into American society.”
Scholars on Islam that we spoke to also dismissed Trump’s claim as “bizarre,” absurd” and inconsistent with their observations of a Muslim community that they say is — for the most part — well integrated into American culture and identity.
Let’s dig into the highlights of some of Pew’s specific findings:
- Muslims are more likely than other immigrants to become U.S. citizens. Four out of five Muslim Americans are U.S. citizens, including 70 percent of those born outside the U.S. That is a much higher rate than the broader immigrant population in the U.S., as 47 percent of all foreign-born are citizens.
- Nearly three-quarters of Muslim Americans (74 percent) believe that “[m]ost people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard.” That rate of optimism is higher than the general public, 62 percent.
- A roughly similar percentage of Muslims and Christians in the U.S. say they think of themselves first as either Muslim (49 percent) or Christian (46 percent). Among white evangelicals, 70 percent said they identify first as Christian. A higher percentage of Christians as a whole say they identify as Americans first, 46 percent, compared with 26 percent among Muslim Americans. But Muslim Americans were more likely (18 percent versus 6 percent) to say they considered themselves Muslim and American equally.
- A majority of Muslim Americans (56 percent) responded that most Muslims who come to the U.S. want to adopt American customs and ways of life, while 20 percent said those Muslim immigrants want to be distinct from the larger American society (16 percent said they wanted to do both).
- About half of Muslim Americans say that only some or hardly any of their close friends are Muslims, while half say most or all of their close friends are Muslims.
- More than six in 10 Muslim Americans see no conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, almost identical to the rates among U.S. Christians.
- Half of Muslim immigrants say they display the American flag at home, at the office or on the car, and 33 percent of native-born Muslims reported doing so as well. Overall, displaying the American flag is less common among Muslim Americans (44 percent) than among the population as a whole (59 percent).
Huda Al-Marashi writes: My Iraqi immigrant grandfather used to have a small novelty shop where he sold hair accessories, lipstick-shaped erasers and noisy, battery-operated toys. He soon learned enough English phrases to complete a business transaction. All other communication he handled with gestures and the warmest smile.
During his many hospital stays in the last years of his life, his nurses would always tell me he was their favorite patient. They’d pat his hand and say he was just the sweetest. They understood this about a man who said no more to them than “How are you” and “Thank you.”
Last week, Sean Hannity posed a question to Donald Trump about how to vet the hearts of Muslims coming to the United States. Trump replied: “Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation — for some reason there’s no real assimilation.” (Maybe this explains Trump’s support for profiling Muslim, which, on Sunday, he called “common sense.”)
Assimilation is a contentious concept among those who study immigration. (How does one measure assimilation, especially when most of the qualities associated with being assimilated have more to do with assuming aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture than with actual social integration?) Sociological considerations aside, the suggestion that Muslims in the United States have not assimilated is simply not correct. [Continue reading…]
Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’; new indications of Britain First ties
The anti-Muslim, extreme right-wing, Britain First party, has disavowed any connection to Thomas Mair, the man who has been charged with murdering British MP Jo Cox.
When Mair appeared in Westminster magistrates court in London today, he answered the judge’s request to confirm his name by saying: “My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain.”
The Guardian also reports:
The prosecution told the court that Mair told police he was “a political activist” as he was being arrested moments after the fatal attack. This assertion was repeated in a summary of crime released by the prosecution.
Mair also allegedly said “this is for Britain” and “keep Britain independent” as he stabbed and shot the MP for Batley and Spen, prosecutors said both in court and in their printed outline of the case.
Police searching Mair’s property found newspaper articles related to Cox, as well as far-right and white supremacist literature, they claimed.
Whatever assessment is made of Mair’s mental health, there seems to be no question that this was a politically motivated murder.
The photograph above (which is circulating on social media) shows members of Britain First’s Northern Brigade in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, just three miles away from Birstall where Cox was murdered. Whether the man in the baseball cap is indeed Mair remains unknown. But there is mounting evidence of Mair’s long-standing ties to right-wing extremism in the form of Nazi regalia found in his home along with literature on how to construct homemade guns and explosives.
Britain First recently organized an “activist training camp” in North Wales where its members “learned things including self-defence, martial arts, knife defence,” according to a report at WalesOnline.
In March, Britain First made clear its deadly hostility to EU supporters:
Deputy leader, Jayda Fransen, admonished their “pro-EU, Islamist-loving opponents” for “ruining our country”.
She added: “They think they can get away with ruining our country, turning us into a Third World country, giving away our homes, jobs and heritage, but they will face the wrath of the Britain First movement, make no mistake about it!
“We will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country.
“And by punished, I mean good old fashioned British justice at the end of a rope!”
Since 9/11, nearly half a million Americans have died as a result of gun violence inside the United States. That’s more than the number of Americans killed during World War II, the most deadly war in history.
Suppose that during the same period, from 2001-2016, this number of deaths could be attributed to terrorism. Were that the case, democratic governance in the U.S. would have been suspended. We would now be living under martial law.
The fact that gun violence is not generally regarded as an issue vastly more perilous than terrorism, has nothing to do with an objective assessment of each threat. It is simply because the ability for Americans to kill themselves and each other with legally obtained weapons is widely accepted as a feature of American culture. It’s an American thing. It’s the homicidal/suicidal shadow of freedom.
Many of those Americans who are desperate to defend the right of each citizen to arm themselves, now want to characterize the mass shooting in Orlando as not being an American thing and the easiest way of doing that is to undermine the American identity of the gunman.
In news reports, journalists with what I assume are good intentions, are referring to Omar Mateen as “American-born” and a “U.S. citizen.” Both are accurate labels and yet they obscure the fact that Mateen was just as much an American as Donald Trump.
Who gets referred to simply as an American and who does not, illustrates the fact that in common discourse here, it’s generally assumed that there are three categories of name.
Someone who is white and has a vaguely English-sounding name — like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Tom Hanks, or Bernie Sanders — gets called an American and no distinctions of heritage need be specified.
Then there are those Americans with Spanish names — like Gonzalo Curiel, Alberto Gonzales, Eva Longoria, or Sonia Sotomayor — who tend to fall in the nebulous might-be-American category.
And then there are Americans with “foreign” names like Omar Mateen.
Anyone with a name that signals Muslim or Middle Eastern, is commonly regarded as foreign until proved otherwise. And even if it turns out the individual was born in America and has never lived in any other country, they are still likely to be viewed in some unstated sense as somehow not quite fully American. These are the Americans who get asked where they come from after having already explained that the come from Florida, Texas, California, or wherever in America they happened to be born.
As much as this country professes to uphold a system of non-discrimination, the core category of membership has yet to shed racial and ancestral connotations. It’s ironic that a country that came into existence by breaking away from English rule and which took a Spanish name, should still retain such strong cultural ties to England.
Nevertheless, to understand what Mateen did, it’s necessary to acknowledge that he was no less American than Donald Trump or any other American who might currently be using the Orlando shootings to fuel Islamophobia and xenophobia.
In post 9/11 America, how much more American can someone aspire to become than to serve as a police officer in New York City?
Even so, while recognizing that American identity is not linguistically or ethnically determined, we also have to divest it of its mythological accretions: the notions that Americans are blessed in some way.
Americans aren’t special. They have no unique virtues and a multitude of commonplace failings.
What we are learning from those who knew Mateen was that, his dreams of the NYPD notwithstanding, he was a disaster in the making.
Former co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, a former police officer who worked with Mateen as a private security guard, found Mateen’s habitual and out-of-control rage so threatening, he ended up quitting his job. Gilroy now says: “I saw this coming.”
“I feel responsibility — there was no shock. I feel responsible. I felt like, because I was a coward, 50 people are dead. That’s the way I feel.”
American-born Donald Trump, with no foundation to make such an assertion, also claims prescience about the shootings.
What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
Of course he’s not referring to a ban on the purchase of assault rifles — he’s alluding to his promised ban on Muslims.
He has yet to amplify what it would mean to “ban” American Muslims. Is he calling for all Muslims to be rounded up and put inside concentration camps?
The only predictable effect of Trump’s statements on this issue is that they will fuel hatred.
Hatred is contagious and can be found among the religious and non-religious in every nation.
As much as many people might pray for the creation of a more loving, less violent country, we will inevitably continue living in an America that harbors countless hateful individuals.
And yet as much as hate can harm others, hate alone cannot result in a massacre.
Without access to instruments of deadly violence, Omar Mateen’s hatred could certainly be hurtful but it was very unlikely to result in anyone’s death.
How many more mass shootings are to come is simply a question of how willing America remains as a facilitator of mass violence. Most likely, it takes a president to say resolutely, enough is enough — and follow through in action — but such a president has yet to take office.
Dave Zirin writes: There are no words regarding the emotional whiplash I feel, having attended Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday and now, on Sunday, attending a vigil in Washington, DC, for the 50 — and counting — slaughtered at the Pulse in Orlando on Saturday. Was this really all the same weekend? The juxtaposition is beyond tragic.
To hear about the remorseless killing of predominantly Latino LGBT people during Pride month is shattering enough. To then see Donald Trump and a collection of the worst anti-gay bigots be boastful, almost gleeful, about it because the shooter was Muslim is all the worse. Muhammad Ali, as eulogist Billy Crystal said, truly devoted the last half of his life to building bridges. These bridges are fragile; that’s what makes them matter. It is so much easier to just burn them down, and that is exactly what one shooter aimed to do, and now in death he is being assisted by an entire right-wing apparatus, which despises bridges about as much as it detests irony.
Never mind that by all accounts, we know that the shooter — whose name I will not write — was an American citizen. Never mind that he bought the automatic weapons legally, or was a violent misogynist, or worked for one of those shadowy global private security firms for almost a decade, or wasn’t even religious. The fact is that powerful people are demanding their villain of choice. So it won’t be the gun nuts, or those poisoned by seeing women as objects of violence, or the internal culture of these private security firms. It will be Muslims. That’s their narrative of choice. [Continue reading…]
Politico reports: In the wake of Sunday’s deadly terrorist shooting in Orlando, Donald Trump’s longtime friend and informal adviser wants the presumptive Republican nominee to hit Hillary Clinton even harder, suggesting the former secretary of state’s top aide Huma Abedin could be a “Saudi spy” or a “terrorist agent.”
Only Trump, Roger Stone said on Sirius XM’s “Breitbart News Daily,” will be able to draw the necessary amount of attention to the theories, which have drawn significant blowback from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I also think that now that Islamic terrorism is going to be front and center, there’s going to be a new focus on whether this administration, the administration of Hillary Clinton at State was permeated at the highest levels by Saudi intelligence and others who are not loyal Americans,” Stone said. “I speak specifically of Huma Abedin, the right-hand woman, now vice-chairman or co-chairman of vice—of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.” [Continue reading…]
Robin Wright writes: Hena Khan, the author of best-selling children’s books, thought Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday was going to be a turning point for American Muslims. “Ali spent his life trying to show the real Islam—battling Islamophobia even as he battled Parkinson’s disease. That’s what was highlighted after he died,” she told me this weekend. “It was nice to feel proud—and to see people saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ interpreted in a positive way.”
On Saturday, Khan was herself honored for the publication of “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” a groundbreaking new book that also tries to span the cultural chasm for a new generation. The Diyanet Center of America packed its auditorium with kids and their parents to hear Khan read from her book. In this latest spinoff, the mischievous simian learns from his friend Kareem about the sacred Muslim month of fasting, good deeds, contemplation, and evening feasts. Together, they help with a food drive for charity. George gets up to his usual antics, this time planning a good deed to donate all the shoes that Muslims leave outside a mosque when they go in to pray, only to be stopped in the nick of time. In the evening, George and Kareem break the fast together with pizza and chocolate-covered bananas. In honor of Ramadan, The Man in the Yellow Hat — the caregiver who brought Curious George to America seventy-five years ago — dons a yellow fez.
At the end of Khan’s reading, a teen-ager dressed as Curious George raced down the aisles, onto the stage, and fist-bumped Khan. The kids went wild. “It was a weekend of hope and feeling inspired,” Khan told me. “It was a time of reaffirmation,” especially during the first week of Ramadan.
On Sunday, Khan woke up and, as is her habit, checked the news on her cell phone before waking her family. It was consumed with the killings at Pulse, the gay night club in Orlando, Florida. “First it was twenty people, then fifty,” she told me. “I thought, Not another shooting! When is this going to stop? This is insanity.
“Then I saw the name,” Khan said, her voice choking back sobs. Omar Mateen, the lone gunman in the largest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11th attacks, in 2001, is an Afghan-American. Khan is Pakistani-American. Both are second-generation. Mateen, who was twenty-nine, was born in New York and later moved to Florida. Khan, who is forty-two, grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and now lives with her husband and two children in the Maryland suburb of Rockville.
“It added a whole new layer of anguish,” she told me. “I bore this tragedy as much as any American, and then to see his name. You can’t even find the words. It’s unbelievable. And during Ramadan! As a Muslim, your heart sinks.” [Continue reading…]
Zack Beauchamp writes: While most of the Western world is seeing a surge in nativism and Islamophobia, the Canadian government has become more and more open to minority groups and immigration.
“The only real outlier [to the nativist trend] is Canada,” Cas Mudde, a professor at the University of Georgia who studies nativism and far-right politics in Europe, tells me. He continues:
[Trudeau] has handled, so far, the Syrian refugee crisis incredibly well, having taken in 25,000 Syrian refugees against the majority will. Initially, he wasn’t supported by the majority — but when they finally arrived, a majority of Canadians did support it. That’s one of the few encouraging lessons that we have seen over the last several years: that if you have a positive campaign, which is supported by a large portion of the media, that you can actually swing public opinion in a positive direction.
Why? It’s because Canada is genuinely different from other Western countries in terms of its attitude toward immigrants. It’s far more welcoming than basically everywhere else.
“Compared to the citizens of other developed immigrant-receiving countries, Canadians are by far the most open to and optimistic about immigration,” Irene Bloemraad, a sociologist at UC Berkeley and its chair of Canadian studies, wrote in a 2012 study published by the Migration Policy Institute.
“In one comparative poll, only 27 percent of those surveyed in Canada agreed that immigration represented more of a problem than an opportunity. In the country that came closest to Canadian opinion, France, the perception of immigration as a problem was significantly higher, at 42 percent.”
Why? According to Bloemraad, the Canadian government has spent decades attempting to foster tolerance and acceptance as core national values, through policies aimed at integrating immigrants and minority groups without stripping them of their group identity. [Continue reading…]
Joris Luyendijk writes: Once a beacon of progressive politics, the Netherlands today is a traumatised, angry and deeply confused nation. Support for immigration and the European project are at all-time lows. Synagogues and Jewish schools need police protection from homegrown jihadists, and freedom of expression is under serious pressure. Leading pundits and comedians incite hatred against Muslims in much the same way that antisemites rage against “the Jews”.
It seems a long time since “Dutch” was synonymous with tolerance. A founding member of the European Union, the Netherlands developed from the 1970s onwards into a laboratory for social and cultural change, boldly pioneering the legalisation of prostitution, soft drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.
Those were the days when Dutch politicians and opinion-makers would refer to the Netherlands, without any apparent irony, as a “gidsland”, or “guide country”: a small nation leading by example. Its proudest moment probably came in June 1988 when an ethnically mixed team of Dutch footballers won the European Championships, beating the all-white teams of arch-rival Germany and then Russia. It felt like the ultimate vindication of multiculturalism.
Fast-forward 28 years, and heading the polls today is Geert Wilders’ PVV or Freedom party. Elected “politician of the year 2015”, Wilders is the sole member of the party he founded, ruling over it as undemocratically as the Arab dictators he so despises. He wants the Netherlands to drop the euro and leave the EU. Like Donald Trump he demands an end to all immigration from Islamic countries. A typical Wilders tweet: “As long as we have ‘leaders’ such as [Dutch prime minister] Rutte, Merkel, Obama and Cameron denying Islam and terror are one and the same, there will be more terrorist attacks.”
Of course there was racism and intolerance in the Netherlands during the 70s, 80s and 90s, too, and the country of old has not entirely disappeared. A slim majority continues to vote for pro-EU parties that abhor discrimination against Muslims. The popular mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, is openly and proudly Muslim. The speaker of parliament, Khadija Arib, is of Moroccan descent; and in 2007 Dutch readers voted the book The House of the Mosque by Iranian-born Kader Abdolah to be the second “best Dutch book ever”.
Yet the influence of the PVV is widely felt, particularly because the steadily growing far-left Socialist party shares many of its views on the EU. And with every new terrorist attack, wave of refugees or expensive euro bailout, the forces of regression grow stronger, both on the far right and the far left. [Continue reading…]