I met Geert Wilders when he was in Denmark in 2014. He struck me as a humble, polite man with a big heart.
Translated by Thomas from NRC:
“Author: Dr. Peter van Ham, Senior Research Fellow at the Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations)
Subject: Progressive liberals are banning critical thinking about Islam, says Dr. Peter van Ham.
Dr. Peter van Ham is working as a Senior Research Fellow at Clingendael (Netherlands Institute of International Relations) in The Hague.
PVV (Freedom Party) leader Geert Wilders has warned for many years of the threat of Islamic terrorism. And while terrorists have murdered while holding the Quran in their hands, all progressive-liberal parties insist that none of this has anything to do with Islam. Not a single Dutch party-leader or opinion maker wants to admit that Wilders is right. There are five reasons for that.
From an ideological point of view, it makes sense that progressive-liberal parties choose to see the PVV as a bigger threat than radical Islam. PvdA (social democrats), D66 (social liberals) and SP (socialists) all believe in a succesful, multicultural society and find it hard to abandon this belief. Every ideology consists of a coherent set of ideas. Admitting that Wilders is right means admitting that Dutch society is less successful than they want to believe. Giving in to Wilders immediately begs the question: Why at all do we need such a large, meddlesome government that thinks it knows better than its own citizens in almost every matter? And why keep praising multiculturalism now that it has to face its limitations? It is much easier to deny and twist the facts, and to portray Wilders and his electorate as stupid and dangerous.
Moreover, there are many personal reputations at stake. Politicians and opinion makers almost never admit that they were wrong about something; that they have underestimated a threat; or overestimated their own abilities. For example, not a single politician has admitted that the introduction of the euro went wrong. In the same vein, we hear no mea culpa now that the threat from Islamic terrorism increases. Because whoever admits publicly to have made mistakes on such an important topic, undermines his own credibility. D66 leader Pechtold presents himself as a kind of “anti-Wilders”; whatever the PVV stands for, the D66 opposes. To admit now that Wilders is right, is therefore impossible for all progressive-liberal parties. The damage to their reputations would simply be too big.
Major interests and many jobs are at stake. It’s not so much about the politicians’ jobs, but about those people working in the immigration, integration, and asylum sector. The successful, multicultural society is allowed to cost a lot of money, and many are making a good living because of its existence. Admitting that Wilders is right not only means that Dutch immigration and asylum policy must be changed, but also that other policy areas – such as development aid – should be revised.
Anybody working in these vulnerable sectors realizes that the PVV should not be put in the right, no matter what happens. They prefer to downplay the Paris attacks and the threat of Dutch jihadists, and are trying to solve these problems with more social projects for disadvantaged young people and districts.
Admitting Wilders is right also has far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Turkey and the Gulf States interfere explicitly with the fate of Muslims in Western Europe. Not too long ago, the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan compared the German anti-Islamization movement “Pegida” with the Islamic State. Netherlands prides itself on excellent international relations with almost all Muslim countries, from Turkey to Yemen and even Saudi Arabia. The economic consequences of admitting Wilders is right could be dire. This explains the position of the VVD (conservative liberals) on Islam and their insistence that Wilders is wrong.
Finally, the personal hatred towards Geert Wilders should not be underestimated. Progressive-liberal Netherlands prides itself on its own tolerance and broadmindedness, both of which end abruptly when it’s about Geert Wilders and the PVV. Now that the PVV seems to be proven right regarding the growing threat from Islamic terrorism, they attempt to marginalize and demonize Wilders even more. This strategy is also used to intimidate the PVV and its electorate.
Any pupil, student, teacher, or government official who dares to publicly support Wilders, can count on social sanctions. Hence the remarkable silence in the Netherlands, even though the PVV is the biggest party in the opinion polls at 27 seats and would become the largest party in parliament.
Ideology, personal interests and aversion ensure that Dutch politicians will continue to underestimate the threat from Islamic terrorism, or even deny it. We let progressive liberals ban critical thinking about Islam even though the Islamization of Western Europe is steadily and rapidly continuing.