June 10th, 2010
02:19 PM ET

Anti-Islam party's success worries Dutch Muslims

Opinion polls had predicted the anti-Muslim Party for Freedom would do well in Dutch elections this week - but not this well.

Led by the controversial politician Geert Wilders, the party nearly tripled its representation in parliament, from 9 seats to 24, according to exit polls.

That has Dutch Muslims worried.

"We are all concerned now. It's like we are not welcome any more," said Ibraham Spalburg, the head of SPIOR, an umbrella organization of Muslim groups around the Dutch city of Rotterdam.

Once famously tolerant, Dutch "society has changed a lot in a very dramatic way," Spalburg said. "It's like Islamophobia. It's not nice any more."

Holland is not alone in its apparent distrust of its rapidly growing Muslim population.

Switzerland voted to ban minaret construction last year, and France and Belgium are considering bans on Islamic veils such as the burqa.

"Today's election result in the Netherlands is the latest evidence of rising anti-Muslim sentiment across western Europe," Lucy James, a research fellow at the Quilliam Foundation in London, told CNN.

"Far-right parties such as Wilders' have increasingly targeted anti-Muslim votes by manipulating popular grievances - such as economic recession, unemployment and housing - and laying the blame for these problems on Muslim immigrants," she said.

"Europe is therefore less witnessing a 'clash of civilizations' than a deft manipulation of people's fears by far-right populists," she said. The Quilliam Foundation describes itself as a "counter-extremism think tank."

Negative views of Muslims have become slightly more common in France and Spain in the past half-dozen years, while British and German views are about where they were in the middle of the last decade, according to Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

British views toward Muslims are consistently less negative than those found in France, Germany and Spain, he added.

The project has not polled the Netherlands.

Spalburg understands that native Dutch people - especially older ones - may be nervous about the fast growth of the country's Muslim population. "They see minarets around them, or women with scarves, and they don't like to see them in the public space," he said.

The Netherlands has just under a million Muslims, representing 5.7 percent of the population, according to "Mapping the Global Muslim Population," an October 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in Washington.

It has relatively low levels of social hostilities related to religion, it found in a separate study, "Global Restrictions on Religion," in December.

But Wilders is fanning the flames with "propaganda," Muslim leader Spalburg says.

"Wilders is saying all the time he was wants to stop the Islamicization of Holland," Spalburg said.

Wilders - a potential kingmaker in the formation of the next Dutch government - faces criminal charges of inciting discrimination and hatred over comments he has made about Islam over the years.

They include an October 2006 interview with the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant in which he said he wanted to stop the "tsunami of Islamization," and another in September 2007 with Radio Netherlands in which he said the Quran should be banned.

Wilders' film "Fitna," which he released online in March 2008 to international outcry, is also named in the charges against him. The film features disturbing images of terrorist acts superimposed over verses from the Quran in order to paint Islam as a threat to Western society.

He is due to go on trial in October.

Last year he said he had "nothing against Muslims. I know the majority of Muslims in our society are law-abiding people."

"I have a problem with the Islamic ideology, the Islamic culture, because I believe that the more Islam we get in our free societies, the less freedom we will get," he added.

Spalburg disagrees.

"We don't want to be the cause of problems in society," he said. "There are always people who are more radical. We don't have everything under control, but 99 percent of people are not radical."

There is a possibility that the rise of Wilders' party will radicalize Dutch Muslims, Spalburg conceded, but he said his organization was working against it.

"We are trying to explain to Muslims, especially to young people, that they don't have to feel provoked," he said. "We have to stay calm and we have to show that we are normal people and don't want to make a problem in society, to show that Islam is a peaceful religion."

He took some comfort from the thought that Wilders still does not have widespread support.

"There are a lot of Dutch citizens even now who are very sympathetic towards us, towards Muslims," he said. "About 1.5 million people in the whole of Holland are supporting the policy of Geert Wilders," he said, out of a population of around 16 million.

"The majority are not supporting that, so there is a lot of hope," he said.

And Muslims were not leaving Holland, he added.

"We cannot go away," he said. "It is our country as well as the country of the Dutch citizens. There are people who have been here 40, 50 years. They are Dutch now."

CNN's Lianne Turner contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Islam • Politics

soundoff (386 Responses)
  1. W. G.

    Maybe Germany can take some lessons .

    June 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
  2. Anne

    All the politically correct liberals should go to aome Muslim country and experience the tolerance and friendliness of Islam. Take a Bible with you...Oh – you are not religious? Ok, get into a mini skirt and kiss your husband in the cheek....

    June 10, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
  3. AK

    All Muslims should take a good hard look at their own religion before crying foul and accusing the rest of the world as being prejudiced against them. If you want to be accepted as equals by the rest of the world, why don't you start accepting 1/2 of your own population as equals (I am talking about your women) instead of as secondary citizens/slaves??? Today – Muslims take away woman's right under the guise of "protecting them". They are no better that white slave owners who controlled when the slaves ate, when they went out, who they mated with. Muslims do the same with their women. Even farm animals are treated better than women in some Islamic countries. And to all you liberal Muslims – you are no better than white people who turned a blind eye to their brotheren who were slave owners. I have yet to see the so called "majority" or muslims protest the treatment of women by their "fundamentalist" kin. Muslim men want to take advantage of free economies and equal rights, so they move to western countries. Then why don't you treat your women the same way you like to be treated? Muslims are some of the most hypocritical people in the world today.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  4. arno

    13% of the people voted for this idiot. Mainly the lower-educated. 87% did not! lets not forget that the majority in Holland despises those who voted for Wilders. It annoys me that some people are doing here exactly what Wilders is doing; blaming the whole group for the problems caused by a few.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  5. A Dutchy

    Alot of native dutchies think about it this way. In this country we have alot of trouble with the arab/muslim youth. And most dutchies agree with the fact that most of them behave in a unappropiate way in our country. Which is why Geert Wilders has got such an amount of votes. They mis-behave in our country, and they are seeing the consequences of it now.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  6. A Dutchy

    Alot of native dutchies think about it this way. In this country we have alot of trouble with the arab/muslim youth. And most dutchies agree with the fact that most of them behave in a unappropiate way in our country. Which is why Geert Wilders has got such an amount of votes. They mis-behave in our country, and they are seeing the consequence of it now.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:55 pm |
  7. frank

    Islam cannot coexist in Europe. Muslims in France rioted for weeks in 2005 and again in 2007 and the nature of these riots were surpressed in the media. The Banliuexs around Paris and certain parts of the UK are no-go areas for non-Muslims. Theo van Gogh was murdered for criticising Islam, Ayan Hirsi Ali was forced to leave the Netherlands, and Geert Wilders has lived under perpetual guard, hardly able to see his family, for years. Lars Vilks and Kurt Westergaard have both been victims of attempted murder just this year. Wherever Islam takes root, violence follows.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  8. Guest

    muslims were created when muhammad had relations with pigs... look it up I read it in the quran

    June 10, 2010 at 5:46 pm |
    • WorldPeacePlease

      You are truley uneducated....... go back and read it since u were clearly reading the wrong book. do not make false comments. no that is not in the quran and if its in some handmade book written by somebody antimuslim then you should say that... but its not in the quran so stop trying to spread stupidity.

      June 10, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  9. Louli

    Every argument justifying discrimination or outright war against Islam and Muslims has rested on very broad, gross (mis-) generalizations.
    The members of the Taliban are Muslim. The people they persecute in Afghanistan are also Muslim. Many of the people setting up secret schools for girls in that country are also Muslim. Some of the people fighting for the U.S. in that country are also Muslim.
    There are Muslims – and I would argue that they are few – who refuse to assimilate, who wish to spread Islam violently (which is, incidentally, against the tenets of Islam). And then there are the Muslims that travel to or are born in Western countries; that adapt to the new surroundings while holding on to their beliefs and morals and taking something from both cultures; that are doctors, lawyers, carpenters, unemployed.

    Muslims make up 19.6% of the world's population. There are millions of Muslims in the world, and as many different *kinds* of Muslims.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • Vinit

      "@Louli" you seem to be worried about fellow violent muslims, why dont you preach them moderation and true islam? I bet you will be beheaded for that 🙂 .. so please preach human values to your bretheren before trying to teach us values of moderation...

      June 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  10. dog

    Unfortunately, Europe has not yet learned the lesson of bigotry in spite of WWII. People are quick to persecute and repress peoples they consider as different (the US is no better w/their refusal to deal fairly w/ illegal immigrants). What European countries truly fear is that their "pure race", their "pure culture" be sullied by what they consider lesser peoples (Africans, Latin Americans, Muslims, etc..). Muslims are easy targets right now.

    That being said, for far too long Muslims have allowed the voices of their own fanatics to outnumber those of the more moderate (dare I say: "more sincere") believers. How many times have they sat and watched how groups in their own countries have been persecuted. How many times have they allowed themselves to be wrapped up by the violent mob inducing retorhic and sat by while people of other Faiths have been persecuted, while people of their OWN faith have been denied basic rights conferred to them by their OWN PROPHET. How long have they allowed to fanatics to lead the calls for extremism!! So the once glorious Islamic civilazation is now seen as a backward/fanatic/violent faith. And even the more sincere muslims are paying the price.

    Don't feel so smug Europe.. and Muslims, don't feel so underserving of suspition..

    June 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  11. frank

    The PVV is not the same as far right groups like the FN or fascist groups. They are a centre-right nationalist conservative party. They are for human rights and democratic freedoms for all people, which Islam does not support. Man made law is a form of Shirk, and in Islam, Shirk is the greatest form of sin. The goal of Islam is to annihilate Shirk from the earth. Islam is the only religion that makes it a divine mandate to achieve political goals. There is no "render unto ceasar what is ceasars" in Islam.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Vinit

      kudos to Dutch public for voting in favour of Geert Wilder, where is humanity going for god sake, if there is something wrong please face it and make an attempt to clean it, no body hates muslims, but people need to help them to clean up their mess which they are unwilling to clean by themselves...

      June 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm |
  12. Tom

    Reading this article scared me.

    Reading these comments, however, has absolutely terrified me.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Vinit

      Tom you must stay home, you seem to be a scare crow...

      June 10, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  13. zion

    right behind me.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
  14. Vladimich

    1.I am sure if you were to visit Rotterdam you would see for yourselves what the fuss is all about.
    2.The grows of Islam there is not due to people converting, but due to immigration from Muslim countries.
    3.The Dutch are not Americans, they are not a country of immigrants they have their own notional borders, history as a people, history that they have a right to protect.
    4.It made me laugh out loud to read comments regarding the Jews, what do the Jews have to do with it? BTW The Dutch protected their Jews from Hitler unlike some others (take a look at The Diaries of Anne Frank).

    June 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Chris

    How many Middle East countries do not allow Palestinians to become citizens let alone legal residents? Whose country is prejudiced?

    June 10, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  16. James Walsh

    People in the Netherlands are sick and tired of the aggressive Islamisation they've been confronted with in recent years. All this talk of racism is nonsense, the Netherlands has been a tolerant society for hundreds of years providing a refuge for French protestants and Iberian Jews fleeing persecution in their own countries. The big difference with Islam is that the muslims want to overthrow the culture of the countries they move to whether that is France, Sweden, Holland or any other European country, if they want sharia let them go to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan NOT Europe! Don't forget Theo Van Gogh who was murdered by a muslim fanatic for speaking his mind!

    June 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  17. zion

    muslims were created when muhammad the false prophet bred with pigs

    June 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Russian

      Don't you dare insulting pigs!

      June 10, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  18. Antoinette

    Regardless of all the ignorance and surely an idol mind has been the Devil's workshop with these insulting comments, hatred sprewn about and personal attacks. I would never insult or disrespect another's belief, faith, race, family, etc. It's not humane. You who are sprewing insults sound like a lynch mob, Roman Gladiator audience, barbarians. This is the same rhetoric given to jusitify the mass killings of the Jewish people across Europe. Regardless why they were chosen to be exterminated, it wasn't right, justice or morally conscious as the same with these folks talking about Muslims, this is how it began.....Shame on you to hate a whole race or religion because of the actions of a few compared to the majority.

    June 10, 2010 at 5:16 pm |
    • Vinit

      Not only people in Netherlands, the whole world guys, India is the worst hit with its tribal neighbour Pakistan and the largest population of goat minded Muslim Population. There are over 200 million muslims in India, can you imagine what we have to go through everyday...every house has a potential terrorist..when the police raids them they talk secularism...do they know what secularism is..Muslims have no right to high human values such as freedonm of speech and secularism if they stand for Sharia and Islam....interstingly all the indian muslims were Hindus by decent, and converted by sword ..yet they talk and walk like Arabs :)..I guess Koran also teaches Arab attiqutes :)...Is there a religion in this world or in the entire universe that Islam does not have a problem with? I see them fighting with all the religions/beliefs of this world...

      June 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • jack nickos

      I agree with dutchman. If the muslims want to live their life with an extreme outlook, please do not come to our country and try to change us. Stay where you are ... in the middle east. Also, countries in the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia represent Islam the most, as it is the birthplace. Have you ever tried going there. Do you know how difficult it is for an individual of another faith to live there, or even try to profess their faith. All other religions are basically prohibited in Saudi Arabia (the birthplace of Islam), except in highly guarded elite complexes where there are a large influx of western workers. I dont understand why we even give the Muslims the freedom to worship, when there is no reciprocity. The fact that they do not accept any other religion is why they are aggressive. Most of the muslims were converted by the sword in the earlier days. They are scared that if people have the FREEDOM to choose a religion, they probably follow a religion that believes in peace and love. Most western countries are kind enough to give them the right to practice their religion. However, they are abusing it and trying to increasing their influence by raising their population in Europe. I dont think this is fair and a legitimate way for a religion to increase its adherents. A religion should give its followers the freedom to choose whether to follow or not. I feel the most important feature of a religion is tolerane and respect towards others, which Islam lacks. I know that most of the muslims are not extremists, but extremism and hate towards other religions is the core value of the religion. Most muslims do not choose that path, may be because they are either lazy or are educated enough to understand the fallacy. One of my friends who converted from Islam had to flee the country for fear of death. So, Antoinette, I understand your passion for Islam and I respect it. But, in an argument lets try to be fair. Please ask yourself, why Muslim countries do not allow other religions equal rights and freedom, when all Western countries provide every support possible and equal rights to Muslims. God Bless

      June 10, 2010 at 7:14 pm |
    • WorldPeacePlease

      its good to know that there are people in the world who still understand what it means to be HUMAN. great post!

      June 10, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • Naana

      Unfortuantelly it is not a few. I live in the West and see burkas, and women covered in black and their faces completelly hiddn behind black cloth with incisions for the eys. I often am taken aback in a store when I come accross these women walking behind their husbands who are dressed in jeans and t-shirts pushing a shopping cart. In the West these women have the right to dresss this way, however, were I to go to Soudi Arabia and dress in a mini, I don't believe that my dress would be tolerated on the streets of Arabic most Arabic and Muslim nations in the Middle east. Further I don't appreciate the mean looks I get from these women and their 7 children touching every peace of exposed bread with their dirty little hands, that I am planning to buy for my family.

      When we are talking about tolerance, there is none in the Arab world. If you expect western women to be covered when they come to the Middle East, then your women should wear the clothes that women here in the West wear. What are Muslim women hiding? They have everything other women have.

      June 10, 2010 at 8:15 pm |
  19. no mulim lover

    every country in the civilized world is worried about muslim extremists and most are afraid to say it because of terrorism threats and muslim outrage at the rejection of their habits and anti western beliefs

    June 10, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  20. matt

    Way to go holland – now crazy muslims its time for you to LEAVE Europe and head back to where you came from! We will not take the islimazation of Europe anymore – if you want to live here LIVE according to our rules or GET OUT!

    June 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.