Dutch far-right breakthrough met with Muslim disbelief
By Mariette le Roux (AFP) – Mar 4, 2010
ALMERE, Netherlands — Muslims in a Dutch city where the party of anti-Islam leader Geert Wilders won local elections reacted with shock and anger Thursday, fearing his victory would fan animosity.
“I am afraid that it will lead to more hatred,” said 20-year-old student Sakina Buyatui, a Dutch-born resident of Almere, a city of nearly 190,000 people near Amsterdam where a third of the population is of immigrant origin.
In a show of strength ahead of June general elections, Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) came first with 21.6 percent of the vote in Almere in Wednesday’s poll.
“This is bad for Almere,” said Buyatui, wearing an Islamic headscarf at the central station, where people of Turkish, Moroccan and Suriname descent, called “allochtonen” in Dutch, rub shoulders seamlessly with indigenous compatriots.
“It is terrible,” agreed 35-year-old computer sciences student Kadriye Kacar, born in the Netherlands like her parents and grandparents, who were of Turkish descent.
“People are looking at us in a new way today as if they are thinking: ‘We won and you are leaving’.
“I don’t wear a headscarf normally,” she added, “but I have decided to start doing so now out of protest. Other people in my community are planning to do the same; we will protest until Wilders is gone.”
The far-right swing was a hot topic in Almere, where women in headscarves and long, traditional gowns huddled in small groups on the main shopping street and Wilders’ name could be heard spat out in disgust.
Wilders campaigns for a ban on headscarves for public servants, a halt to immigration from Muslim countries and a moratorium on the erection of mosques in his bid to “stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands”.
Henny Kreeft, leader of the Dutch Muslim Party, described Wilders’ victory as “very, very sad”. The party also contested Almere but got no seats.
Wilders’ success “is based on a fear behind which there is no truth”, Kreeft told AFP.
“Mr Wilders has been spewing a whole lot of nonsense about Islamisation and security: the more people heard it I suppose the more they thought it was true.”
The PVV has nine of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, and five of the country’s 25 European parliament seats.
Some polls suggest the PVV is now the most popular party in the Netherlands, traditionally seen as a bastion of tolerance.
Wilders shock to the Dutch political system
After his party’s success, Wilders told Muslims in Almere they had nothing to fear “as long as they obey the law”.
“He is creating hatred, he is going too far,” a woman with a headscarf told AFP, declining to identify herself.
“This could become a serious problem,” added 48-year-old Muslim businessman Walli Hyrat. “It is very difficult to take the headscarf away from Muslim people.”
But one 19-year-old waiter, who would not give his name “because it may create problems at work”, said he voted for Wilders.
“Too much attention and resources are spent on Muslims,” he said.
“I have to work here to earn money for my studies,” he added. “I don’t get any help because the leftist parties in government reserve all that for the poor, most of whom are Muslims.”
Another Wilders supporter, a 62-year-old pensioner, said his concern was for security.
“We are afraid of walking alone in places where groups of young allochtonen hang around looking for trouble,” he said. “Wilders will give us commandos to patrol the city and will ensure that repeat offenders are put out of the Netherlands.”
But a 61-year-old woman who immigrated to the Netherlands from Turkey in 1976 said she feared Wilders’ rise would drive a wedge between hitherto peaceful neighbours.
“Things are going to change,” she said. “This is a really bad development.”