Searchlight - December 2009
"Outrageous". "Absolutely crazy". "Terrible journalists". "Accomplices of Theo van Gogh's murderer": Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), always uses superlatives to display his state of mind or to describe his political opponents. The most used words, according to a survey of linguistics, - all with negative connotations - in his vocabulary are "banning," "extradite", "lock up", "punish", "stop", "send back", "rip", "prosecute", "abandon", "fine", "close", "struck off", "burn", and "force"…and so it goes on, summing up the PVV's policy in a nutshell.
Usually Wilders does not speak to journalists but communicates through them, by sending text messages by phone; an easy way to avoid debate and questions and, at the same time guarantee him headlines and comment from politicians, opinion makers and TV's eight 'o' clock news.
Wilders continues to keep attract public attention and to keep his party in the news, although he makes no significant policy proposals.
Similarly in parliament, the PVV's barrages of questions to ministers, usually end with the same question, whatever the topic: "Are you prepared to stop the Islamisation of our society? If not, why not?" and has become a clapped out routine.
In fact, for two years now, the government's standard has been along the lines of "Islamisation means arranging society according to Islamic principles. In the Netherlands there is no such thing. In our country the basic principles of the democratic state of law count. This means that the government maintains a neutral position towards the content and organisation of religions, thus also towards the Islam."
The biggest package of PVV questions concerned the alleged cost of non-Western immigrants to Dutch society. Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan answered them in a letter of almost thirty pages. The government's message to the PVV was clear; your agenda is not ours. Wilders, reacted with his customary "outrage", announcing an "investigation" into why his questions were not answered and opening a website - about the cost of immigration - that immediately filled up with the anti-Islamic and anti-government venom of typical PVV-supporters.
The government's refusal to answer Wilders' endless questions fully mark an end to the "post 9/11" period, when a mass of statistics and investigations into migration and the multi-cultural society were published and discussed. The reason for the change is the rapid growth of the PVV, a party that stands for a total halt to immigration from Muslim-countries, the denaturalisation of criminal Muslims, the removal of Muslims who do not follow up a strict "assimilation contract" and the deportation of Muslims who commit crimes or think or act for Jihad or Islamic law. Van der Laan refused some months ago to sign a plan for the ethnic registration of problematic youth, because he feared that the PVV, once in power, would use that law to extradite these youngsters.
This year's parliamentary debate about the government's budget for the coming year was centred on the economic crisis. Every party traditionally presents its own budget and so did the PVV. After referring to the cost of asylum seekers, Wilders went on to fume about the imagined Islamisation of the Netherlands demanding "Let us re-conquer our streets and make sure Holland looks like Holland again" and claiming that " (Islamic) headscarves are a sign of the women's oppression, of submission, of conquest…a symbol of an ideology that is aiming to colonise us." "That's why," he claimed, "it is time for a huge cleaning of our streets". Insultingly, he went on to propose a "head rag tax' - a verbal provocation good for the headlines and heated comments.
Lately, and strangely, it seems the PVV is shifting "left" in its economic policies arguing against raising, by two years, the pensionable age for workers, against the loosening of the rules for sacking people and against reducing benefits and the minimum wage. At the same time, says the PVV, these costs have to be covered by cutting such "left wing hobbies" as development aid, investment in deprived neighbourhoods, environmental issues and immigrants.
For a Dutch parliamentarian from a small party, Wilders travels abroad a lot. His tourism is not to learn from fellow parliamentarians in other various countries, but to promote himself as a defender of free speech and crusader against Islam. And, of course, to raise funds for his party which is not subsidised because it has no members.
Wilders' favoured destinations of are the United States and Israel but at the end of October he was booed off during a speech at the Temple University in Philadelphia where he had been invited by the ex-ultra-leftist and now conservative activist David Horowitz to show his anti-Islam video clip Fitna.
At the end of October, the word "demonising" became popular in public debate again. "Demonising" was a standard term was used by the late populist Pim Fortuyn whenever he was labelled as "extreme right" by some political opponents and journalists.
Now, an alleged conclusion from a report by three academics about radicalisation, conducted for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has triggered an exchange of insults and dominated the national media for days. Wilders' one-man outfit is, the report mentions, an extreme right-wing party that mobilises Islamophobia and hatred of the system. By doing so, the PVV allegedly undermines social cohesion and democracy.
Wilders, on the day that film maker Theo van Gogh was murdered five years ago, reacted furiously and called two political opponents who dared to agree with the label "extreme right-wing" "political accomplices of Mohamed Bouyeri", van Gogh's killer.
In fact, the still unpublished report does not itself state that the PVV undermines democracy but merely quotes from a report by the Anne Frank Foundation in December 2008 in which the PVV is called extreme right-wing.
Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net