The rise of an anti-Islamic political party in recent Dutch elections leaves some Muslims in the Netherlands concerned for their future. Others, however, say the hostility is unlikely to last long because it is only a symptom of a lack of knowledge about the religion and does not reflect the day-to-day reality of their experience
Although Dutch voters gave the anti-Islamic party a boost in recent elections, Muslims in the Netherlands predict the hostile political atmosphere will be short lived, an idea bolstered by the fact that they are facing no increase in discrimination.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
In the recent general elections, Geert Wilders’ far-right Party for Freedom, or PVV, recorded significant gains and ended in a strong third place, with 24 seats out of 150 in parliament. Wilders campaigned on a platform that included ending immigration from Muslim countries and instituting a ban on new mosques and the Quran.
With coalition talks ongoing since the shock of Wilders’ election victory and debates continue over his possible participation in the Cabinet, many immigrants and Dutch people think the far-right’s surge in popularity is a temporary situation and does not reflect what they encounter in daily life. And, generally, they don’t take Wilders seriously.
“Although we don’t receive the anti-Islam party’s election success favorably and describe Wilders as a racist, we believe that this was not because of increasing discrimination in this country,” İslam Erkal told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. He also said he thought the political atmosphere would change soon.
The negative image that minorities in Holland - especially Turks - face is nuanced: Religious stereotypes, as evidenced by Gert Wilders’ party, that depict Muslims as criminals and the question of whether immigrants are integrating into European society remain as obstacles.
The Turkish Institute in the Netherlands serves to eradicate these prejudices by informing Dutch society about Turkey and its people. “It’s been two-and-a-half years since we were founded,” Turkish Institute Director Lily Sprangers said. “We still need time to change Turkey’s image.”
Whether Turkish immigrants have integrated into Dutch society is still debated, even within the Turkish community. “We can’t say Turkish immigrants have integrated into Dutch society yet,” said Zihni Özdil, program manager at the Turkish Institute. He said Turks in the Netherlands rank lowest among immigrants in the country when it comes to participating in social activities.
“The question is whether Turkish immigrants are going to become Turkish Dutch or whether they will segregate themselves,” he said. Integration means “the Dutch will become a little bit Turkish and the Turkish will become a little bit Dutch. But except in some underdeveloped countries, there is no example of this kind of ideal integration.”