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. Leah (TXanimal)

    Just ban all religion. That should solve about 98% of the world's problems right there.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  2. Adriana

    Geez...this is terrible. The guy in the picture looks like the Grand Dragon himself. I think that the majority of humans believe that they are above anything...for that, we will unfortunately pay dearly. So, all bigots, continue to be that way, all criminals, continue to perform your abominable acts, for the end is near & then we will all really be sorry & by then, it will be too late.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  3. Michael

    Do you think this backlash against muslims came about because they were quiet, respectful, and appreciated the freedoms they had compared to the countries they came from? No, it came about as a direct result of the muslim's rejection and hatred for the values of democratic countries – The most telling reason is the riots over stupid cartoons. It's time they were held accountable.

    June 15, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  4. POD

    Lenin was right about one thing.....Religion is the opiate.....and crack cocaine....of the uneducated and ignorant. Once you are addicted any kind of barbaric behaviour is justified by 'defending the one true faith'. When will we ever learn....When?.

    June 15, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  5. Michael

    This is funny. Muslims in Europe are upset about the way they and their religion are being treated there. Guess what, Christians are treated MUCH worse in almost all Islamic countries. Go try and build a Christian Church in Saudi Arabia and see what happens. Plus, the Muslim population of Europe by and large brought this all on themselves by refusing to stand up and fight against the Muslim extremists. They can't be passive bystanders when their co-religionists are plotting against their country. Pick a side, don't stand in the middle.

    June 15, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • diego

      muslims are hypocrits and liars

      June 15, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  6. looktheotherway

    Just look the other way and pretend there isn't a problem long enough and it will be the Armenian Genocide all over again, only this time maybe it will happen in your country.

    June 15, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  7. J.

    And yet the US is considered 'The Great Satin'

    June 15, 2010 at 8:54 am |
  8. kara

    The discrimination of Islam as a race is a new trend. The roots of this phobia was sown when the "muslim" who knew that due to the language of the religion- Arabic, the average person lacks in depth knowledge of what the re;ligion is all about.

    Now the hitherto unknown religions is now known for something so vile and inhuman- that the paranoia know associated is justifiable.

    Now more than ever if muslims desire acceptance- they need to be at the fore of the fight against radicalism and terrorism in the name of Islam. The way thimgs are deteriorating people will refuse to take the same bus, plane and even live in the same place with muslims.

    June 15, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  9. Anonymous

    The problem here is that the increasing anti-Muslim and racist sentiment is turning its violent nose towards those who wish to uphold the law as formulated by various human and basic rights conventions and established by the courts, the governments and constitutions of the countries in question. The radicalized parts of the population have already started to make violent threats towards various public figures through the internet. It is to be seen whether these threats transform into additional physical crimes against the politicians.
    During previous decades we could blame either the left or the right of our economy based problems and other insecurities which probably resulted as the wave of internal and international terrorism during the Cold War in Europe. Now the easy targets are the immigrants who are not aware of their rights and customs, and are therefore unable to defend themselves as well in the society using the legal ways. Violence creates more violence and the gangs are already forming up. Gangs from all "sides" can be mobilized as terrorists very easily. The drug problems of Mexico have already created an example of what mobilized gangs can "accomplish".
    Fundamentally, the fear of Muslims is based on the same reason that racism is, that is xenophobia. Many phobias are treatable so maybe this is as well. I'm personally treating my possible subconscious racist tendencies by enjoying the "fruits of the internet" as many colors as possible. I have found this treatment working very well and personally recommend using it to improve the international relationships particularly in the Middle East.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:21 am |
    • SR

      Stop your stupid ranting against the non existent Xenophobia in the US and in Netherlands.

      Why did you not identify the Xenophobia inherent in Islamic teachings, the Qur'an? Why don't you first understand that people like us are trying to fight the Xenophobia against Infidels that Islam teaches?

      We don't hate Muslims here, not even Islam. We are trying to make Muslims understand that extremist ideologies can hurt. That they should stamp out the extremists starting with themselves. They cannot live amidst us and expect us to fight extremists. This reform of Islam has to come from within Islam.

      Why don't you understand that first?

      August 22, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  10. Rod

    It is time to stand firm!!! DO WHAT MUST BE DONE.

    June 14, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  11. Tiger

    Give muslims the same freedome in Holland, that they give Christians in Saudi Arabia.
    Than they will learn to behave like humans.

    June 14, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • Tolerant but not Stupid

      Well said Tiger...

      June 15, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  12. JLP

    The Dutch have the right idea. Winston Churchill saw the threat in the 1940`s and it is has not changed. Instead of Africa, it is western europe and the U.S .that will be next. If anyone thinks it is peacefull, they are dreaming.

    June 14, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
  13. Kermit Roosevelt

    Islam is a conquering cult started by a warlord and his extended family after they saw how well the Roman Empire reinvented itself under the banner of Christianity. Like fascism and communism, it is a dangerous movement that needs to be stopped. Do not be fooled by thinking it is a religion.

    Civilized nations would do well to arm themselves in the event of the inevitable clash. Be prepared.

    June 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
  14. Kermit Roosevelt

    Moving to Holland now.

    June 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  15. Sherri

    Muslims hate non Muslims. They believe they should kill all infidels. And they will when they are the majority. This is what they have always done when conquering a country. They do not believe in freedom of speech – for others. Only for themselves. Know what happens to Christian churches in their countries? They are bombed or burned. No freedom of religion there. I am so glad I do not live in Michigan. I have heard what is going on. Calling to prayer 5 times a day. You mean they are so stupid they don't know when it is time to pray? Again they are making US change for THEM>

    June 14, 2010 at 7:29 pm |
  16. Sherri

    I am happy that Amsterdam is finally standing up for itself. The Muslims are trying to take over Amsterdam. I have been there and seen it. Muslims need to assimilate when they go to a new country. They are trying to make the Dutch go by their rules. Banning piggie banks etc. They already killed Mr. Van Goch because he was making a movie about Islam. Look into the number of honor killings in Amsterdam. That is what they have brought to Amsterdam. Islam does not honor freedom of speech, is very harsh on women. I have seen the protestors in NY with posters saying "We do not want freedom" Please watch the movie The Third Jihad and hear in their own words what they want for America.

    June 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  17. Monbois

    Am I supposed to be surprised that Europeans are nervous about a Muslim takeover of their cultures? Neither Holland nor any other country wants their own 9/11. Muslims are crying intolerance now, but Muslim countries are the most intolerant in the world! Although no country should be writing laws to discriminate against any religion or freedom of expression (such as wearing the burqa), they have a right to vote for who they want as their leaders. If the Muslims in Holland are unhappy about it, they may want to make more of an effort to prove to the rest of the population that they aren't a threat and that if they sought political office they would not try to force their own religion onto the rest of the population. (Good luck with that.)

    June 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm |
  18. myvapidity

    If you ever want to read a word for word perfect explanation of how the Muslim views himself and the world read the post of Someone. I spent a year in Afghanistan and that is EXACTLY how they see "non believers" (that would be anyone who is not Muslim. By the way the faith is Islam, but he who follows it is Muslim). Someone, that is the best description of the Muslim ideology I've ever read.

    June 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
  19. American Infidel

    All of you liberal, politically-correct blind idiots are the favorite weapon of the Islamic cancer that threatens your very freedom. Wake up and smell the coffee, or before you know it, your heads will be sitting on the small of your backs as your children are beaten into submission. Islam and western ideology DO NOT MIX! THIS IS NOT A RACIAL THING! (stupid morons posting on here are a trip) ITS IDEOLOGY, FREEDOM VERSUS RELIGIOUS FASCISM. Your ignorance is as bad as their extremism. Your SO afraid to offend the bad guys, that you are sacrificing the very freedom that allows you to post such stupidity.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  20. why

    Did anyone adopt trough history in colonised parts of Africa, USA , Indonesia to the culture there? This so called "muslim imigrants" do speak your languages,have diplomas, jobs, and are integrated! , I dont think any of so many negative comentators here do speak any of their languages?And puting everyone in same corner is so "Hitleristic"...waste of time explaining here- be whatever you want and see whatever you want. Good luck

    June 14, 2010 at 4:07 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.