The Dutch elections was a reality check that Islamophobia is mainstream in Europe

Against popular opinion, the outcome of last week’s elections in the Netherlands wasn’t a defeat of “hate” politics, rather it was further proof of Europe’s Islamophobic underbelly, writes Jahangir Mohammed.  

The media analysis of last week’s Dutch elections focused on a victory against the “wrong kind of populism” and a cause for celebration. This uncritical analysis merely reflects the pitiful state of the mainstream media. A more critical analysis has been left to non-mainstream social media sites. Yet, this has also adopted the language and terminology of the establishment.

The reality of course is that the Dutch elections, following on from the US elections, and the forthcoming French elections, are all victories for hatred of Islam and Muslims.

Geert Wilders, the leader of the Freedom Party PVV, himself summed up the situation better than anyone, “We were the third largest party of the Netherlands. Now we are the second largest party. Next time we will be number one!”

The PVV increased its number of seats in the 150 seat Parliament from 9 to 20, just 13 behind the winning Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) led by the current Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Of the nearly 10.5 million people who voted, 13.1% voted for Wilders’ PVV party. Statistics however can be deceiving. That’s around 1,368,189 people, just 865,000 less than the winning party. Admittedly that’s not a lot of people compared to the total electorate, many of whom were also right-wing. But it’s certainly a lot when you know what Wilders stands for; and more than the entire Muslim population in the Netherlands; or the 2% Moroccan community and 2% Turkish community.

An anti-Islam manifesto

The first item on the PVV’s 11-point manifesto was Islam and Muslims. This is a man and a party who wants to ban any Islamic symbols, the Quran, the hijab, wants to stop the building of mosques, and stop the general “Islamification” of the Netherlands. Wilders refers to people of other races as “scum”. This leader of a mainstream political party was last year convicted of racial discrimination and inciting hatred.

Candidates for Dutch elections [Photo credit: AP]
Nobody in the Netherlands could have been in any doubt with regards to what Wilders stood for.

Yet, nearly 13% of the electorate still voted for him and his manifesto.This shows how deep anti-Muslim hatred has become in the fabric of Dutch, and in extension, European society.

To me, that’s a clear indicator that 13% of Dutch electorate at least, have been “radicalised” into hating Islam and Muslims.

Some limited attitude and opinion surveys of Muslims highlight some negative views; these are then presented as a major threat to integration and community cohesion. In that case, 13% of a population expressing support for a politician with an openly anti-Muslim agenda must constitute a major threat to society, and should surely be subject to a government programme to counter their “extremism”?  Again, the same is applicable across Europe.

Geert Wilders the hate preacher

At a time when Muslims are indiscriminately labelled as “extremists” in the mainstream media and by progressive “anti- hate” groups, I pose the following question – what does it take for a white European Christian to be declared an “extremist “or “hate preacher”? If 1.5 million Muslims anywhere in Europe supported a political party that was openly anti another group of people, and called for their religious books to be banned, that party would have been declared “extreme”, and possibly proscribed as a terrorist organisation.

Yet, if you examine the entire coverage of the Dutch elections from beginning to end across all media (mainstream and alternative media too), there is not a single reference to Wilders or his party as “extremist”.  They are not referred to as promoting intolerance or dividing society into “them and us”, or a threat to the integration and community cohesion.

Geert Wilders

They have been presented in the context of democracy, the tolerance of dissenting political opinion, and the expression of genuine indigenous grievances. I think we all know how the western media and politicians would react, if in the Muslim world a political group with popular support emerged, to say we must ban the Bible, the Torah, and the building of Churches and Synagogues.

The most common words used to describe Wilders and his party have been; “populist” (by their own admission highlighting that anti-Islam and Muslim sentiment is popular?); or nationalist, patriotism; right-wing or far-right (meaningless terms); or at worse, anti-immigrant or anti-Islam party.

In the USA, they have even come up with a wonderful term for white supremacy, “nativist” and “alt-right”. The discussion is around freedom of expression and indigenous people not being able to speak about their issues because of political correctness. As if European societies and politicians have never expressed their prejudices and outright racism about “foreigners” in every election since the presence of immigrants on their soil.

In the Dutch elections, the Muslim and ethnic media also adopted these terms and labels for Wilders, seemingly unable to come up with their own.

“Extremism” is in the eye of the beholder

It is becoming increasingly apparent to many activists and academics that terms like “extremism”, “radicalisation” and “preachers of hate” are simply racist constructs and labels of white supremacy to define and smear the “other” – the dissidents of colour. This is the language of Rudyard Kipling in today’s world, and it’s equally a mission to “civilise the natives”.

Prime Mnister Theresa May

It’s no wonder that British Prime Minster Theresa May, appears to be struggling in her attempts to define non-violent extremism.

The problem is not in defining it. The problem is in defining it in a way which includes Muslims and excludes others.

She knows full well that using any sensible and impartial definition of extremism will lead to large numbers of white “populist” non-Muslims being caught in it. “Extremism” would then become a wider non-Muslim, rather than an exclusivist Muslim issue.

For decades, we have been told that “Islamist extremism” is the greatest threat to Europe.  In reality, what we have seen with Brexit, the US presidential and Dutch elections; and with the forthcoming French and German elections; the greatest “extremist” threat to Europeans is from within themselves and their own politics.

Meanwhile, having ignored Dutch hate preachers and extremism, our papers will be back to exposing “Islamist extremists” this week.

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