As a parable on the cluelessness of the liberal commentariat about the threat of Islamic extremism, Slate magazine’s feature “explaining” why the Netherlands is supposedly more “anti-Islam” than other nations is hard to top.
The idea that Holland is uniquely given to “Muslim bashing,” as _Slate_’s headline writers put it, is itself highly suspect. Even the most of prominent of the Dutch Muslim “bashers,” Dutch politician and provocateur Geert Wilders, who went on trial this week for the ludicrous charge of insulting Islam and inciting discrimination against Muslims, has taken pains to differentiate between Islam as a militant ideology and its many peaceful Muslim followers.
It is also worth noting that much of what the popular press has derided as “Muslim bashing” is actually a well-warranted anxiety on the part of the Dutch populace about the increasingly restive, radicalized, and unassimilated Muslim immigrants in their midst. From the killing of libertarian politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002, to the 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist, to the upsurge in violent attacks on gays in Amsterdam by Moroccan street thugs, to the death threats and daily harassment that have driven critics of radical Islam like Ayaan Hirsi Ali from the country, the Dutch have become acutely aware of the wages of the country’s immigration policy from the Muslim world. At the same time, the official appeasement of Islamic sensibilities, represented most recently by the Wilders trial, and the crisis of national confidence exemplified by a Dutch justice minister’s notorious assertion that Islamic Shari’a would be welcome in the Netherlands so long as it was democratically introduced, have underscored just how attenuated the country’s defenses against Muslim religious radicalism have become.
But even if one accepts the strained premise that the Netherlands is singularly and unreasonably antagonistic toward Islam, _Slate_’s explanations for that phenomenon are so utterly divorced from reality that it’s hard to see them as evidence of anything except the intellectual cowardice of the liberal pundit class.
Chief among _Slate_’s explanations for the intensity of Dutch Islamophobia is the country’s size. In this account, it is the Netherlands’ population density that, combined with a high immigration rate from Muslim countries, has amplified anti-immigrant sentiment in a way that has not happened in other countries. That observation might be interesting if it were true. But it ignores the demonstrable fact that the Netherlands is far from alone in its concerns about its resident Muslim population.
France, Britain and Germany are perhaps the best known examples of European countries struggling to cope with their Muslim minorities, but they are hardly the only ones. Sweden, where one-in-seven residents is now foreign-born, has in recent years witnessed many of the same problems stemming from its unassimilated Muslim community. It has responded by making its immigration policies more restrictive and, just last month, voting into parliament an anti-Islam party for the first time. Policies to limit Muslim immigration have also been passed in Denmark, where the publication of the Mohammed cartoons by Copenhagen-based paper Jyllands Posten tragically demonstrated the gulf in values between the Western and the Islamic world. Norway, where Muslim attacks on Jews have become more common, has similarly struggled to reconcile its tolerant culture with Islam, and the creeping Islamization of the country is now a perennial election issue. Insofar as Islam is now a major political issue, much of Europe is literally going Dutch.
If Slate is to be believed, however, it is precisely the politics of dealing with Islam that are the real problem in the Netherlands. Apparently, the “Dutch political system” is partly to blame because it has “given a louder voice to anti-immigrant sentiments.” That curious explanation misses the obvious fact that Netherlands is a democracy, and its political system is responsive to the attitudes of the Dutch electorate. On the issue of Islam, there is no mystery about where the Dutch stand. It’s reflected in the surging political fortunes of Geert Wilders, who has seen his Islamo-skeptic Freedom Party gain 24 seats in the country’s 150-seat parliament, becoming the Netherlands’s third most popular party even as Wilders himself has seen his name dragged through the mud by the country’s judicial elite. In no small part, the Freedom Party’s success is attributable to its platform of reducing asylum seekers from Muslim countries and cutting immigration from non-Western countries by half. An honest account of the debate taking place in the Netherlands would require acknowledging that in his alarm about the consequences of Muslim immigration and in his desire to see it reduced, Wilders is simply representing the views of a growing number of Dutch voters. The Dutch people have spoken – and they have sided with Wilders.
Most absurd of all, perhaps, is _Slate_’s final explanation for the Netherlands’ problem with Islam. According to the magazine, it has to do with the “international media,” which “plays a role in publicizing the [anti-Muslim] rhetoric” and which reports on the “sensational killings of Van Gogh and Fortuyn highlighted religious tensions in Holland over other European countries.” But if the “international media” has in any way contributed to the growing alarm about Islam in the Netherlands, the contribution is entirely inadvertent. For his troubles in calling attention to the barbarism and militancy of foundational Islamic texts – cited and acted upon by al-Qaeda and other jihadist terror groups – Geert Wilders has been roundly condemned in the international press as an “Islamophobe,” a “racist,” and an instigator, sometimes with the sinister implication that he deserves whatever punishment his Islamist enemies threaten to deal out. The temptation to purge critics of Islam from polite society has touched even ostensibly conservative media like FOX, where Wilders was denounced as a “fascist” by Glenn Beck. And if the media’s reporting on the grisly murders committed by Islamist fanatics (and, in Fortuyn’s case, their disgruntled apologists) is evidence of anti-Muslim incitement, it’s hard to see what at this point does not constitute an offense to Muslim sensibilities. Presumably, if everyone just kept their mouth shut about Islamic extremism, it would cease to be a problem.
Defeatist as it is, that really is the mentality that the self-appointed arbiters of political correctness in the media and beyond have embraced. The trial of Wilders, after all, is nothing more than a high-profile attempt to silence the bearer of bad news about Islamism in the Netherlands. In that sense, the more urgent question is not why the Dutch are so concerned about radical Islam, but why so many in a position of influence are not – and why they are so determined to blame everything and everyone for Islamic extremism except the source itself.