The controversial, right wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders, was invited by the Australian Q society, an anti-Islamist group, for a tour of speaking engagements recently. Wilders, a law graduate, is the leader of the Party for Freedom (Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV), one of 10 parties in the Dutch Parliament.
In the 2010 election the PVV received 24 out of the 150 seats but in the 2012 election they dropped back to 15, still 10% of the total. Wilders does most of the talking for the party, publicly and in Parliament. Some see it as a one-man party.
When comparing the multicultural situation in the Netherlands with Australia some very major differences should be stated first.
The Netherlands is not an immigration country quite unlike Australia that now takes in some 200,000 + migrants annually, including refugees (up to 10%). In contrast, the Netherlands was very much an emigration country especially in the 1950s and 1960s.
It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. It has experienced the post WWII influx from citizens from former colonies, such as the Ambonese (Indonesia), Suriname and the Dutch West Indies. When the growing post-war economy created labour shortages, guest workers were invited by several European countries for limited periods, mostly from Turkey and Morocco. Many stayed. Refugees followed, first the Tamils.
With the growing prosperity of the EU the old state borders became quite porous and refugees from many other countries arrived, although especially from Africa, and settled in the Dutch welfare state. However, clusters of culturally quite different groups began to irritate some of the Dutch; in particular those who adhered to fundamentalist Muslim beliefs. About 6% of the population are Muslims.
At first the late Professor Pim Fortuyn emerged as a prominent public critic. He portrayed the Islam religion as "backward". Sadly he was assassinated in May 2002 just before his party was to take several seats in Parliament (not by an Islam opponent but by an animal rights activist). More tragedy was to follow. Dutch filmmaker, writer and actor Theo van Gogh had produced a highly critical film about the Islam religion, which generated further anger.
Van Gogh worked with the Somali-born feminist writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali to produce the film Submission, which heavily criticized the treatment of women in Islam. This also aroused controversy among local Muslims. He was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, in November 2004. In this heated climate of anti-Muslim feeling Geert Wilders took on the role of public critic and his party campaigned against Muslim refugees. In June 2011 the then conservative Dutch coalition government said that it would abandon the long-standing model of multiculturalism that, in their view, had encouraged Muslim immigrants to create a "parallel society" within the Netherlands.
Speaking to the new integration bill the then Dutch Interior Minister Piet Hein Donner said "The government shares the social dissatisfaction over the multicultural society model and plans to shift priority to the values of the Dutch people".
The new integration policy would place more demands on immigrants. For example, immigrants would be required to learn the Dutch language, and the government would take a tougher approach to immigrants to ignore Dutch values or disobey Dutch law.
The government would also stop offering special subsidies for Muslim immigrants because, according to Donner, "it is not the government's job to integrate immigrants." The government will introduce new legislation that outlaws forced marriages and will also impose tougher measures against Muslim immigrants who lower their chances of employment by the way they dress. More specifically, the government will impose a ban on face-covering Islamic burqas as of January 1, 2013.
There are many interpretations of Islam but Wilders concentrates on the dominance of Sharia Law and violent aspects of the religion, in reality aspects that only a small minority of Muslims relate to. Even fundamentalist Muslims are rarely given to support violence. As a radial critic of Islam he apparently was an attractive guest speaker for the Australian Q society.
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