Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Wilders’

Wilders’ Delusions of becoming Premier

Posted by butalidnl on 11 March 2010

Geert Wilders’ party – the PVV (Freedom Party) won the local elections of Almere city with 21% of the vote, making it the biggest party in the city council, and the one which will have to form the governing coalition  for Almere.

Wilders is the Dutch parliamentarian who says that Islam is a “backward” religion, even political ideology; that the government should promulgate an “immigration-stop” from Muslim countries, and even repatriate many Muslim residents from the Netherlands. He had announced before the elections that one of his hard demands will be a prohibition on (Muslim) headscarfes inside government buildings, or inside any institution getting a subsidy from the government.

Now, with the victory in Almere, he  has to go ahead with his many anti-Muslim policies.

But he is not on his way to becoming the country’s Prime Minister. In the first place, the PVV had peaked before the local elections. Surveys conducted weeks earlier forecast that PVV will get 30% of the vote. They ended up with a “mere” 21%. The PVV only fielded candidates in two cities – Almere and The Hague – because Wilders calculated that its chances were best there. Thus, if 21% is all he can get in Almere, the percentage of the national vote that he can get in June is sure to be less than 21%.

Even if Wilders PVV gets more than 21% come June,  this will not be enough to become the biggest party. The Social Democrats (PvdA) will probably get more than 21% and become the largest party in parliament; giving it the prerogative of forming the ruling coalition. And the PvdA has stated quite clearly that it will not form a government with the PVV.

Muslim Netherlanders are now in the midst of a massive campaign to get out their vote come June.  They know that the PVV is out to get anti-Muslim policies passed in parliament. These voters will vote mostly for the PvdA and Green Left (Groen Links), the only two parties with good policies on integration.
At the same time, the PVV is sure to face problems in Almere, since the proposed ban on headscarves is not only unpopular, it is most probably also unconstitutional. And the PVV doesn’t have too much else to offer its mass base. And even this mass base is not as solid as Wilders makes it out to be. On voting day last 3 March, it was really difficult to get PVV supporters to talk to the media – they were too ashamed to admit that they were PVV voters. I think that although the PVV may have a solid base among the country’s rednecks, many others only look at them as a protest party, and are shocked by the reaction of the rest of the country on them. Thus, when election day in June comes, I think that the “protest voter” base of the PVV will evaporate.

Posted in politics, The Netherlands | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Fitna is an instrument for oppression, and not free speech

Posted by butalidnl on 21 March 2008

The impending release of Fitna, Geert Wilders’ anti-Koran movie, is pushing the discussion on what all this has to do with the freedom of expression.

The freedom of expression was cited by Danish newspapers, when they recently decided to reprint the controversial “Mohammed cartoons” (actually, they’re more caricatures than cartoons). The Danes said that they did this to protest the effective suppression of their press freedom. They said that Muslims should learn to take this kind of thing as part of how things are done in the modern world.

The same logic of freedom of expression is raised by Geert Wilders, the Dutch ultra-rightist, when he asserts that he has the right to attack Islam – especially now when he is about to broadcast his anti-Koran film, Fitna.

The debate on these inflammatory actions (both of the Danish media and Wilders) has recently boiled down to the conflict between the damage to national interest and press freedom. I am particularly disturbed that practically all parties here in the Netherlands seem to uphold Wilder’s freedom to express his views, even despite the extreme negative effects this would have on large groups of people. And that for them the main problem is not in terms of his right to express himself, but on the negative consequences for the country if he does so.

It is as if Dutch politicians declare that although they want to restrict Wilder’s “basic right”to express himself, their doing this is something like a “necessary evil” since this would hurt the country.

I think that they are missing a basic point in this. The freedom of expression, like other basic human rights, is part of a package. And this package of rights is intended to empower the weaker members of society, enable them to fully develop themselves as individuals and groups, and promote the smooth working of the whole society. From this framework, the exercise of the component rights becomes relative – both in a practical sense, and in principle. Take for example, the right to assembly – this needs to be curtailed in the case of rioting that causes bodily harm and destruction of property. And the freedom of religion is no excuse to deprive their members of health care. Such trade-offs between the various basic rights are principled decisions, and not merely practical.

In addition, rights such as freedom of expression, assembly, non-discrimination, etc., are particularly important in order to protect the weaker members of society. Thus, the freedom of expression would enable the oppressed, poor, or minority groups to be able to air their grievances, inform the rest of the population re these, and work to improve government policies towards them.

These rights are not there for the dominant and powerful – after all, they would be able to express themselves, assemble, practice their religion etc even without a special bill of rights. Human rights are thus the rights of the unempowered, the minorities etc.. If the powerful invoke such rights (especially in this case, the freedom of expression) in a way, and with the intention, of suppressing the rights of the weaker sections of society, this should be prohibited. And the basis of this prohibition should not merely be the fear of negative consequences, but rather on principle – the principle that human rights should be emancipatory and not oppressive.

Going back to Geert Wilders’ Fitna – this film should be banned on the basis that its purpose is to ban the Koran, which would be a grave infringement on the freedom of religion of muslims. There is no additional evidence needed to ban this film: Wilder’s declaration of his purpose for the film is enough; it is an attack on Islam as a religion. Wilders should not be given the opportunity to oppressive the muslim minority in the Netherlands, and help others to oppress muslims elsewhere.

Proceeding from the above line of reasoning, I believe that Wilders should be prohibited from continuing his campaign to ban the Koran.

* also see my other blog post: Anti-islam movie coming this April in the internet

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Anti-islam movie coming this April in the internet

Posted by butalidnl on 20 March 2008

The word is out: Fitna, the anti-islam movie by the Dutch ultra-right (and racist) politician Geert Wilders will definitely come out this coming April; but only in the internet. According to Wilders, the movie will show that the Koran is a book that is full of passages inciting to violence (against nonMuslims). With it, he wants to back up his arguments for a crackdown on Muslims in the Netherlands, which he sees as a mortal threat to Dutch society. (He literally believes in this, declaring that many Muslims are out to kill Christians.) His party, the PVV (Party for Freedom – what an ironic name, if you ask me) is calling for severe limitations on immigration from Muslim countries, and even the banning of the Koran, among other things.

Wilders originally wanted to broadcast Fitna on Dutch TV. This plan raised tempers all over the Muslim world, and Dutch diplomatic and security services warned of severe repercussions against Dutch citizens, properties and products if the film comes out on TV. The Dutch government and parliament implored Wilders not to go on with his broadcast plans, since this would hurt Dutch interests abroad and create tensions within Dutch society. Wilders refused.

The government and parliament are not able to simply ban the film, if there is no proof that the film is harmful. Although we all know that it will probably be quite harmful; Dutch courts could only ban the film  if evidence is presented proving it to be harmful.  For this to happen, a copy of the film is needed, or enough testimony presented to prove the point.

The broadcast media saved the day. All TV networks refused to broadcast Fitna (which actually is only a 15 minute movie). They said that Wilders demanded that they  agree to air the movie, even before they would have a chance to preview it. Wilders made this demand because he was afraid that letting the movie be previewed would provide the proof needed for a ban. The networks found Wilders’ demand unreasonable, because it would deprive them of editorial control over what they broadcast (after all, they would in effect be responsible for something they had not yet seen).

The latest announcement that the film will come out in the internet is about the best that we could hope for, I guess.  In theory, it could still be possible to stop this if somehow the internet providers would all refuse to host it.  Or if the domain name would be cancelled by the domain registry authorities.  But I doubt it.

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