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. Vladi

    Well.. about time Europe woke up.
    I don't see how it's related to Holocaust or something like that, no one will slaughter the muslims or anything like that. They're just not liked by the Europeans because of their primitive culture (that's how it seems to those who doesn't like them.. well.. and for me too).

    Muslims don't assimliiate, they annoy people with their behaviour and with their culture and some of them are even violent.
    and the people that protect the Muslims in these comments, are probably muslims that assimilated, which is good for them, but the majority of you, Muslims, didn't (and by the way, Muslims in Europe never speak English, so the one's that didn't assimilate, can't write a proper english comment anyway 😀 )

    June 10, 2010 at 7:32 pm |
  2. Good

    I think it's time we people stand up for OUR rights , it's going to far when you can't even put up a cross in the schools or fly the nations flag in case the MINORITY get upset..STOP immigration now if Muslims want to practice there faith do it on your own country's , don't come to our country and say well we are here now so YOU must change..99% come here just to get a better life ..well you should make a better life where you are . there's no room in the hospitals , we can't get housing no spaces in our local schools , you can't wear a small cross at work any more. and god forbid you draw a cartoon of there
    holy profit , i don't remember the last time some one was beheaded or shot just cos he made a cartoon of Jesus ?..this is not just a problem in Holland but across the whole of Europe..

    June 10, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Saied

    I didn't have time to ready the entire article. But as someone who was born Muslim (unfortunately), I am fed up with Islam myself, so I don't blame non-Muslims to be sick of Islam. I wish I could join Greet Wilders Party.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
  4. elenore

    I think this has more to do with a culture clash and poor assimilation on the part of Muslims.No different than Americans getting up set with Hispanics and their poverty brought to our shores because Rich and Middle Class won't help them in their nation of origin which is usually a democracy and lack of assimilation.You don't move to a new country and not blend and make demands of the native population.Metro Detroit has a Mid-Eastern population has for like a 100 years,difference is they assimilate quickly,plus many are Christians as well,most are not poor or uneducated.There is a rise though with Mid-Eastern illegals coming through Canada not having education and scamming both Welfare systems although Eastern European also do this,but again because of the large variety of immigrants in Metro Detroit we can't cater to their cultures they are forced to adapt to get along and get services and jobs.Really the only ones who expect it are Hispanics who sadly try to have illegal rallies but it doesn't work out because they are not majority in Metro Detroit and they only care about issues for Hispanics only.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
  5. agree

    Well said dutchman. Statistics don't lie. Tolerance has its limits especially when abused and when it becomes a challenge to uphold democracy, equality and justice. I am on the ground as well and I see it right before my eyes. It is really sad to see that it has reached this point. Wilders does not have the solution either but I hope he sets the tone Europe wide and world-wide. There are many problems already within the European borders itself starting from security. It is really mind boggling that terrorist cells are actually here in the European mainland and nobody can do anything about it.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:18 pm |
  6. Perdita

    While we may disagree with each other at least people are talking, if the conversation stops then we have a reason to worry.

    June 10, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
  7. a dutchy

    let me tell you people first i was a supporter of the freedom party becuase somethings are wrong here in the netherlands and they should be dealt with and i thought wel atleast wilders speaks his mind and is clear about what he is going to do.

    but then when i was thinking more and more about it i was comming to turn around about his foughts u know why? because what e wants to be dealt with the muslims that are causing these troubles (most of them are 14-30) will only be more sepperated from the dutch and more seppretad from the dutch values the way to deal with them is to give them a good education (that will also let them intergrate) because they drop out of school alot (because theer parents speak arabic at home and so they dont speak propper dutch that wil let to bad school results and thats why they drop out and make trouble on the streets )

    but wilders doesnt want to spent anymore money on the assimulation of the muslims and will there for only worsen the situation no schooling will let to more troubling situations they wont speak the propper languas and wont no our values

    if u want to get rit of the trouble u should get the problem where it starts that is the solution

    it doesnt matter for me though i ccant even vote im 16 yeras old but stil i thought to share my mind with u people
    (i hope u have understood what i tried to say i know it wasnt the best english haha)

    June 10, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
    • Sanity

      Your English is fine.

      While I agree that (good) education can (and does) end many problems like intolerance, xenophobia, and can create a better trained work force (which can lead to better income and social mobility), I don't think a simple lack of education is the problem here. Many Muslims find it hard to assimilate because to do so would be a betrayal of their religious values. Are there liberal "Muslims" who are irreligious? Certainly. How many are there though? They don't make up the majority. Like I stated earlier, Muslim values, at their core, are completely opposed to notions of freedom and equality. How can a Muslim reconcile these things without giving up part of their faith?

      June 10, 2010 at 7:10 pm |
    • sofiamx

      I agree in part with you..education is the basis...but what can you do when they are the ones that doesn't want to asimilate to the country??? I don't think that if you spend more money in that they will do it...now how can you deal with the extremism that comes with the islam???....I know that not every muslim is extremist but sadly those are the ones that speak louder...

      June 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  8. Perdita

    Extremism isn't limited to any one group or culture, one group trying to force it's beliefs, culture and laws on another has caused the majority of human misery. If you are of a particular cultural or religious group and wish to move to another country for more economic opportunity or a better life, please don't bring everything you are trying to escape from with you, by choosing to move here you are acknowledging that we are doing something right with our laws and the way the country is run. I accept your right to your religion and culture, encourage it even, please accept my right to be free from religion and celebrate my own traditions.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:54 pm |
  9. Dutchman

    Its lovely to see all your comments. Great to get all the news from the papers.

    I actually live in Holland and I see what goes on here in the streets. 95% of all violent crimes are committed by immigrants. Check Dutch Statistical Office if you must. I see it happen every day. Fact is, most of these immigrants are Muslim. We are building the largest Mosque in Europe right now in Rotterdam (government sponsored). Have you tried building a Catholic church in Riyadh with local government money? A more than fair portion of our welfare is distributed to the Muslims, who indeed do not generate near enough productivity to justify this. It has to stop and Geert Wilders is the only Dutch politician willing to do something about it. The spread of Islam within Europe has to be stopped. Their views of life do not coincide with ours. If we let this go on we threaten the survival of our own, highly cultivated, productive societies, in the name of tolerance. Has there ever been a worse excuse for not acting?

    June 10, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • a dutchy

      with wilders the situation will only get worse the muslimes must intergrate not segregate and wilth wilders the effect that he wants will only backfire

      June 10, 2010 at 7:04 pm |
    • CAL1

      @ a dutchy

      Muslims, as guests in our countries, should take the initiative to integrate. They migrated here in search of the better life that our laws, values, culture and customs provide. If there is an increasing backlash against muslim immigrants and islam, it's because they seem intent on taking advantage of what our countries provide while, at the same time, rejecting everything in our countries that provides it. If they reject, resent or look down upon our "decadent western culture", then they should just as well pack up and go back to their countries of origin and avoid having to "suffer" ours.

      June 10, 2010 at 7:30 pm |
  10. Sanity

    The majority of posts are ridiculous...

    First... all of those jumping out of the woodwork screaming, "Islam isn't a race so it's not racism." Just stop. Yes you are correct, but I think you are purposely missing the point by derailing the argument. Perhaps instead of racism, they should have said intolerance.

    Second... The Crusades... I hear them brought up as some misguided, and frankly weak attack on Christianity as a whole. As if bringing them up serves as a rebuke against criticism of Islam. Apparently historical study is all but gone. The Crusades were, among other things, a reaction to Muslim expansion. By the time the first Crusade was launched in the 11th century, Islam had conquered the Middle East (including Sassanid Persia), North Africa, the Iberian peninsula, and was threatening what remained of the Eastern Roman Empire. Bringing them up is also weak considering the last (9th) crusade happened close to 800 years ago. Are you trying to compare Islam of today with Christianity (and by extension Europe) of 800 years ago? You are only hurting your argument.

    Now to address the misguided souls (and I mean that in a non-religious way) who think that the Dutch are "racist", bigoted, or intolerant. Open your eyes. The rise in such sentiments across Europe are a mere reaction to abrupt cultural changes, combined with legitimate fear of extremism. Unlike other waves of immigration, immigrants from Islamic countries bring religious views with them that are diametrically opposed to Western views of equality, democracy, and justice. Just ask any Islamic jurist – even "liberal" ones. The majority of the Muslim world is taught Wahhabi Islam – a particular intolerant form of Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia. It's taught there and is the mainstream. From there it has spread to many other Muslim countries and many schools have cropped up in Islamic communities across Europe. Let's face reality. Theo van Gogh's murder is still fresh in the minds of the Dutch. So is the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy over their depiction of Mohammad and the subsequent death threats that many of the cartoonists received.

    Lastly, quit comparing this to the holocaust, or the cultural mindset of that time to today. The situations are not at all similar and doing so not only highlights your own ignorance but also trivializes one of the greatest tragedies in recent history while at the same time delegitimizing solid concerns about Europe's future prospects of stability given the rising Muslim population and religious extremism – which threaten to overwhelm the very tenets that modern Europe is founded on – democracy, equality, and justice.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm |
  11. Fair Play

    That's the thing though. They arte more than willing to go out in their thousands and rant on the streets when we, non-muslims insult them; but where are the demonstrations when muslims kill fellow muslims or 7 year old children or fly planes into buildings killing thousands of people in the name of Allah?

    The fact is they are evil wicked people with a mind to take over. If they were so touchy about their religion they would be demonstrating all of the time. SUDAN for god s sake??? Where's the outcry? Bombs on baghdad streets killing kids? No lets blame the jews like Hitler would have!!! The most people killing mulsims today is muslims and the fact they don't go on about it as strongly as they have with cartoons proves that there are no moderates in Islam.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:44 pm |
    • WorldPeacePlease

      let me start by saying that coming from a country with freedom of speech and the right to assembly, as an American Muslim that although you dont hear about it in the news, i can assure you that i have been to and witnessed many protest against what the muslims do to eachother. The sad and ugly truth is that yes...when our prophet is mocked...they flip out, burn buildings and make themselves look like idiots!!! For people preaching peace they have the stupidst way of showing it.! second.... Muslims have been in battle with eachother since Islam arised 1400 years ago.... its sad, and from this point i still see no end in sight. A child.....ANY child be it musim christian or jew being killed is nothing short of shameful. I am not disagreeing that the way SOME...( not all ) SOME muslims choose to protest thier feelings is completly out of line. What i am disagreeing is that you feel there are no muslims in the world who have a peaceful voice, and although it makes me sad to think that you already hate me just for my religion...my hope is that you will broaden your view of the world and not generalize. For I as a muslim do not generalize christians, catholics or jews because of autrocities being committed by their leaders. Whats happening in the world is that RADICAL EXTREMIST are being put into power by people who have no means of a voice.... So when a poor person who cant feed their families are wandering the streets waiting to die, and Some mad man comes along saying that he will fix thier lives and assure them paradise and plays mind games on uneducated people...and preaches that Americans are the ones to blame and BLAH BLAH BLAH.... you can see where the weak fall prey. But not all are weak..and not all are uneducated..... 🙂

      June 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
    • Rational Thinker

      "@WorldPeacePlease" I belong to India, and you will be surprised that atleast 90% of indian muslims educated or uneducated consider and openly admit that Osama is a "Hero" after 9-11.... I used to wonder what has USA done to the indian muslims and why do they hate USA so much? The same indian muslims also do not come out strongly against terroists that attack Indians including muslims...I fail to understand what makes them like this, is it illiteracy? is it Koran's teachings? Is it the Immams in the mosques? or is it the values that are taught to them at home ? Cause even the literate muslims seem to have the same pro terrorist mentality. A religion or any race is known by their majority and the majority of muslims are intolerant and pro-terroists...the minority muslims will be subjected to the same yardstick more so cause you are not doing enough to clean your system...so intead of teach and preaching us, please go to your next door mosque and preach some tolerance there...

      June 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm |
    • jack

      Rational thinker, what have you done to the Muslim population of India, why are they so mad with you? Please clean up the hindu racism, biotry and altruism from your country and then teach Muslims a lesson here. Learn to live with each other.

      June 11, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • Truth Speaks

      Jack, most probably a fake name of Jalaluddin ? ..
      Hindus in india have been living with muslims since 1000s of years and have somehow managed to survive...
      The tolerance levels of hindus is unprecedented, look at the Dutch within 30-40 years they have had enough of you ...
      for more search wiki

      June 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  12. agree

    What is heppening in the Netherlands is inevitable. Politicians stick their head in the sand and do not want to face this issue maybe because of fear. Those who cry foul are the Muslims and play their victim card all the time to get by in whatever they do. There is now a generation of them who were born, lived and received pension without ever working. While there are billions of other people who would work hard and contribute to society. I hope this issue becomes front page all the time. Time to face reality.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  13. tony russo

    some of the muslim men who dearly hate women might be fa*****************Gs ????????, How can anyone hate those beautiful women.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  14. CAL1

    "Taliban executes boy, 7, for spying"; “Three years ago, a 70-year-old woman and a child in the Musa Qala district of the province were executed following the same allegations”: other CNN headlines.

    It's about time that the muslim community starts to show at least a small degree of concern regarding its declining reputation.

    These periodic and continuing atrocities and radical islam’s blood thirst have so far never merited the reaction, ANY reaction, from allegedly “peace loving” muslims, good or bad, around the world.

    If the Western world has opened its arms to muslim immigrants, then they should start by loudly and openly condemning these heinous acts, BEFORE they have the gall to start complaining about Western condemnation or “rising anti-Muslim sentiment across western Europe”: you want to live in our house? then have at least the decency to recognize our western values and our culture, including respect for human life.

    “Deft manipulation of people's fears by far-right populists”??? when a 7 year old is summarily murdered, there is no manipulation, the fact is glaringly staring you in the face. Calling that atrocity “manipulation” is just further proof or your bottomless hypocrisy and your double standards.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
  15. sukit

    Muslims refuse to deal with their more fringe elements the way the rest of the world does. They chose to let radical islam continue when they could man up and do something about it. All muslims should be thrown out of western countries. I don't care if we take them into the ocean and dump them out there somewhere if no country will take them.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm |
  16. Philip

    Must read this article!

    June 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  17. agree

    I am in the the Netherlands. Our society is tolerant and liberal but at the same time fragile. We are just 16million scattered in small cities and villages. Our fragile ecosystem is being overwhelmed by the islamicization. It is real and palpable. One cannot dismiss this backlash. This has been going on for more than a decade now and has been suppressed by tolerance and centralized politics in Europe. Mind you, this is a democratic process and the people of The Netherlands have a right to decide the direction they will take as a people.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  18. Philip

    Must read!

    June 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  19. Shaun

    WOW.....it really seems that alot of you don't quite get it. The islamic religion is exactly that a RELIGION.....NOT A RACE! We as free people living in a democratic countries have every right to question it, revile it, or outright dislike it. Its not racist.

    June 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • Naana

      S. We ALL know that it is a Religion not a race – don't get your panties in a knot :). The religion is intolerant and the people of that religion are intolerant whether they are from Iran, Saudi A., The Emirates, Lebanon – although they are a little more modernized, etc.......

      June 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
  20. Vinit

    Ohhh !! I loved it.. Allah you are amazing at BJ ..

    June 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm |
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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.