Emma Thomasson, Reuters, Nov. 16
AMSTERDAM — The Netherlands must clamp down on the far-right and shun anti-immigration populists after more than a dozen attacks on Muslim buildings in the past two weeks, an adviser to the Dutch queen said on Tuesday.
“How is it possible that in Spain, after the attacks on trains in which 191 people died, not a single mosque was set on fire? It happened in the Netherlands which makes you think,” said Max van der Stoel, a former Dutch foreign minister.
At least 15 Muslim buildings, including two schools, have been attacked since a suspected Islamic militant killed a Dutch filmmaker critical of Islam two weeks ago. Police have arrested “several dozen” people over the spiralling violence.
Van der Stoel, an adviser to Queen Beatrix and former national minorities high commissioner for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), urged the Dutch government to build bridges urgently with Muslims.
His comments came a day after Pim Fortuyn, the maverick anti-immigration populist killed by an animal rights activist in 2002, was voted “Greatest Dutchman” in a television contest.
“Extreme right-wing youths must be dealt with firmly. Burning mosques show tensions increasing in an intolerable way. Then relations between natives and foreigners are really in danger,” Van der Stoel told the Algemeen Dagblad daily.
Van der Stoel said the Netherlands had reminded him in the last few days of religious violence in Macedonia in 2001.
“If we don’t do anything, the chasms will get deeper and the walls of distrust will become ever higher,” he said.
Van der Stoel said Queen Beatrix had set a good example when she visited a Moroccan youth centre last week and stressed the equality of all inhabitants. He also praised Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s efforts to strengthen ties with the Muslims, who make up about 6 percent of the Dutch population.
But Van der Stoel attacked the anti-Islam rhetoric of Geert Wilders, a populist seen by some as an heir to Fortuyn who wants to set up a new right-wing party to fight Muslim militants.
“His prescriptions lead to enormous tensions. Wilders takes aim at one faith, Islam. It would be very dangerous if such hostility became the guide for government policy,” he said.
Polls show support for Wilders has doubled since Van Gogh’s death, with one survey giving him 13 percent. Fortuyn’s party surged to second in a general election days after he was shot in May 2002, but has since been torn apart by infighting.
Meanwhile, historians expressed shock that Fortuyn had been chosen as “Greatest Dutchman” ahead of William of Orange, post-war Prime Minister Willem Drees, Jewish diarist Anne Frank and painters Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt. Some 300,000 people voted in the television contest broadcast late on Monday.
“This is really a nonsense result,” said Groningen University historian Henk te Velde. “It is completely undeserved. Of course Fortuyn meant something to the Netherlands in recent years but that was largely due to his death.”