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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. Dutchy

    Haha American's are -when it comes to Europe- really stupid, half the time you're discussing wether Muslims are a race, or giving false information (the cartoonist is Danish, not Dutch, Geert Wilders' PVV is not the largest party and it is not likely that the PVV will be in our government, EVER. And no, not ALL muslims want to spread the Islam in our country: just a few; most of 'm are just normal people who keep their religion in their private household).

    The actual problem is the 'anti-islam' party PVV (Party for Freedom). This party spreads fear, hatred and other anti-islam propaganda. He is againt the collaboration with the EU and NATO and wants the Netherlands to go solo in the future.

    But I guess for all you americans its easier to point the finger to a couple of muslims..

    Great stuff..

    June 12, 2010 at 8:19 am |
    • Thorrsman

      I suspect that you are even more ignorant of America than Americans are of Holland. To be certain, in my years in Europe, I found very few European who had any real understanding of America, nor were many willing to learn.

      June 12, 2010 at 9:15 am |
    • Tolerant but not Stupid

      This "Dutchy" for sure is a muslim..:)... cmmon brother dont hide your name .. come out in the open you creep

      June 15, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Tony S

    I don't particularly like Wilders, but the problem is that people will not question and counteract his arguments. I have seen the film "Fitna". It is controversial and opinionated. I have never yet seen a reply to from anyone which says that the contents of the film are incorrect or conveniently selected. What I have seen are answers from Muslims saying that Christianity is bad. It is the wrong sort of answer, based on the two wrongs make a right principle. It also does not question the actions of extreme violent Islamists in the Netherlands like Bouyeri, Azzouzi and Walters.
    I would also add, as an immigrant myself to the country in which I live, I work by the principle that I accept the culture of the country in which I live, I do not try to impose my own on it. I believe that all immigrants (of whatever origin) to countries like the Netherlands should do the same.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  3. andrew

    Islam and Muslims declared Crusade war on USA and Europe by mass Muslim immigration, building a lot of Mosques in USA and Europe ,building Muslim politicians in USA and Europe. USA and Europe must expel Muslim terrorists and destroy mosques in USA and Europe. Example – Indonesia is Buddhist country before . Mass Arab Muslims immigrant to Indonesia and build a lot of Mosques in Indonesia . Indonesia Buddhists converted to Islam Muslims later and Indonesia become Islamic Muslim country now.

    June 11, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
  4. John Stamos

    It's sad to see that Muslims probably enjoy western society. The technology, the peace, and the stability. But they take them for granted, and wish to bring their own culture with them. If Muslim culture was dominate, you wouldn't have your flatscreen TV, you wouldn't have your cars to drive, probably no airplanes. No space travel. Nothing but famine and war. I mean, just look at the living proof we have. We have Islamic nations that show exactly where the world would be if Islam were to rule the world. Yet they have no appreciation of this, only the desire to bring that about.

    Just remember, immigrants are leaving a worse country to enter a better one. So why try to bring the worse one with you?

    June 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
    • Andalusio

      This is not only in Muslim countries. What about Turkey that makes its own TVs and fridges? Here in Lagos, Nigeria, most of the people are Yoruba Christians and, yet before the electing of our current governor, Babatunde Fashola, our roads and infrastructures were as close as looking like those in Afghanistan. Thank goodness that we're heading towards to being called a "Mega City". New schools, super roads and expressways, revamped streets and road signs and lights, our first ultra-modern bus and train routes, and more. ...Let's not be forgotten that, in case of Muslims, the likes of Arab Gulf countries had improved their standards of living by far, but with much need to be done.

      Besides, why invest so much on what's causing cancer and global warming lately? *-)

      July 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  5. Frank Rizzo

    Let all Muslims live together in harmony and peace in:
    -Malaysia
    -Sudan
    -Somalia
    -Ethiopia
    -Indonesia
    -Saudi Arabia
    -Egypt
    -Iran
    -Iraq

    And leave all other countries free of Muslims.
    Can you all imagine that?

    Islam is evil, and the evidence is all over the globe, found in terrorism.

    thereligionofpeaceDOTcom
    Check it out someday and read up on its current events.

    June 11, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
    • Rational Thinker

      How could you forget

      The Pakistan (with its state policy of terrorism and Heroin/Crack drug traficking to sustain terroist activities byits military)
      Afghanistan
      Bangladesh
      India (caught in the middle with over 150 million muslims..with its weak democratic structure and weak leadership unlike China soon the country will be divided again in the name of islam)

      June 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  6. Niels

    I'm Dutch, very white/pink like Geert Wilders, I'm not a left wing 'tree hugger' and generally not a big fan on (imposed) religious believes, but blaming the (few) problems we have in this beautiful country on all Muslims ?? What just happened this week is really unbelievable. Thinking I was living in a well educated, open minded country I have to conclude this week that 1 in 10 of my friends have lost their minds, voting on this idiot. I am for the first time ashamed to be Dutch. Like Bush its fear that has won this clown 1.5 million votes, not one realistic or constructive idea he has. He is as clueless and bitter as the narrow minded individuals he is against. Peace, and lets hope we can, all Dutch citizens, stay sane!

    June 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  7. murli

    Hooray for the Dutch! Muslims should go back to Muslim countries (wherever they are from).
    All Muslims are potential terrorists!

    June 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  8. Athiest

    This article and all the posts are evidence enough that GOD and RELIGION are CANCERS and Plagues of violence, animosity and hate ....

    The quicker the human race drops GOD off ... the better for all .... : )

    June 11, 2010 at 6:47 pm |
  9. Total non sense

    Muslims, because they are the ememies of humanity, are not welcome anywhere. islam need to be banned. and muslims expulsed from all civilize countries. There is no such thing as a american muslim or dutch muslim. Muslims are extremly simple minded peoples who use extreme violence, torture and war to spread. Muslims are parasites and need to be deal with ash such.

    June 11, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  10. johannes gryzenhout

    Your Dutch when your name has appeared in government and social registers for more than 300 years like mine has.Some Islam cleric who spends a few years in Holland,doesn't integrate and then shots his mouth of about Dutch intolerance should read some of our history.

    June 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm |
  11. Dante

    Another article cloaked in supposedly "neutral" language by an alleged "journalist". This stuff is so boiler-plate P.C. it's laughable. Once again, the "enlightened" reporter who thinks he's so much more intelligent than the masses he's writing for, condescendingly tells us that the wonderful peace-loving Muslims are being victimized by the mean old Westerners who have the audacity to ask that immigrants make a minimum effort to assimilate into their country. All the hand-wringing, public relations spinning, media releases in the world are not going to put this genie back in the bottle. People for the most part know exactly what they are getting when dealing with Muslims and their media-apologist these days....a hidden agenda (obligatory disclaimer: I'm fully aware there are exceptions) that pushes Muslims-First and Sharia Law once the curtain is pulled back.

    June 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  12. mpinsdca

    Kiss off all you bleeding heart politically correct nutcases. Islam is a religion not a race and can be criticized by anyone. Islam is the largest scourge to mankind on the planet. I don't care if those practicing are violent or not, their religion teaches discrimination, and hatred for those that do not believe as they do. I have no use for any organized religion and as long as they leave me alone I don't care what silly misguided fearful notions they believe, but this one is persistent in either converting people or destroying them. The free world better wake up before this puss of a religion takes away our democracies.

    June 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  13. ben

    HATE, HATE, HATE! To me it seems like the whole world loves to hate. Be it the Dutch, the Muslims, Americans, etc....
    Why is humanity so stupid and so illogical?
    Have we not learned of anything in our history?
    This intolerance for one another, this hatred that people have for one another will result in the final termination of mankind.
    Instead of concerning ourselves with this pettiness, we should be focused on the important issues of the day, OUR ENVIRONMENT!
    This "clash of civilizations" is a complete fabrication created by the higher ups in our governments to blind us from seeing the destruction they are creating on our environment!
    And we, the sheep, follow them no matter where we live, no matter what religion we have, no matter what our economic status is.
    WAKE UP PEOPLE AND SMELL THE ROSES!

    June 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Total non sense

      yes there is hate, but it's seem to be directed mainly at the most digusting peoples (if you can call them that) on the planet: Muslims.

      June 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm |
  14. Overmann

    Though I'm not a big fan of religion anyway, Muslims add to their own plight by not integrating with the cultures into which they immigrate. No you may not protest the lack of Sharia Law. We don't do that here. No you may not wear a burqa in public or subjugate your women. We don't do that here. No you may not protest our freedom of press and freedom of speech. These are values our countries hold and if you cannot come to terms with them, perhaps you should consider moving back to more familiar ground.

    June 11, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  15. Woodrow

    If the Moslem religion is so peaceful why do Moslems kill innocent people around the World Daily under the name of Allah ?
    Why don't you peaceful Moslems Speak out against these tragedies around the world. We do not hear you denouncing this kind of hate against innocent people. You keep quiet on these issues as if you condone these tragedies. From what I see Moslems are creating Hate and death all around the World. If you disagree please tell me why ?
    Quit complaining... Try doing something or say something against all tragedies under the name of Allah......Around the World

    June 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  16. Jack 2

    the muslim religion is much bigger than the nice muslim people you know. They may not even be aware of the direction it takes them. It's geared to take over and eliminate non-muslims.

    June 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  17. Big Bob

    They never seem to be around to answer that question.

    June 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  18. Big Bob

    Hey Jack?

    Want Sharia?

    June 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  19. jack

    Seriously I agree with you. With these kind of messages, where are we heading to? Angry words are only going to cause more anger and despair.

    June 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Jack 2

      Most blacks overwhelmingly are black in the US are Christian.

      June 11, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  20. seriously

    this is scary. some of these posts sound really similar to how i'm sure people talked about the jews several decades ago. and to say "it's not racism because we're bashing the religion, not the people" is bologna. clearly when you are referring to "The Muslims" you're not referring to a religion, but the people of the religion–most of whom are not radical or suicide bombers or terrorists.

    June 11, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • Dante

      Ahh.....the dreaded "Peaceful Muslim" charade again. Hilarious. You people are making fools of yourselves repeating this non-sense over and over.

      June 11, 2010 at 7:03 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.