Rabble rouser who could be the next nail in EU’s coffin

Introduction — Feb 5, 2017

We have no time for Geert Wilders’ condemnation of Islam. We’ve studied the faith and know that it does not preach violence and extremism, as some claim. However, that is no reason to dismiss the 53-year-old Dutch politician, especially as Holland approaches national elections next month.
Support for the outspoken Wilders is growing and he’s been tipped to do well in the election.
Moreover, Wilders is correct when he says the Dutch people have been “betrayed” by their politicians. Like Donald Trump in the U.S. or the UK’s Nigel Farage, Wilders is appealing to the growing cynicism with conventional politicians. He is saying what many ordinary white voters now think but dare not say openly because of political correctness.
More importantly Wilders is also calling for a national referendum on whether Holland remains in the EU. If it were to leave the Union other nations could well follow, which is why the Eurocrats in Brussels will be watching the outcome of the Dutch election closely. Ed.

Rabble rouser who could be the next nail in EU’s coffin

Geert Wilders is the virulently anti-Islam Dutch politician on course to win the election in Europe’s cradle of liberalism – with even the respectable middle classes supporting him.

Sue Reid — Daily Mail Feb 4, 2017

geert Wilders

Wearing spivvy shoes, a tight blue suit and a crooked smile, the wide boy of European politics strides into a room in the Dutch parliament building, flanked by armed security men.

He holds up a fat paperback entitled Anger, full of stories of ordinary folk worried about the kind of issues that swept Donald Trump to power in America.

‘Our people have been betrayed by politicians and want a new Patriotic Spring,’ he tells his audience, who nod enthusiastically.

This is Geert Wilders, the 53-year-old of part-Indonesian heritage with peroxide blond hair, who is turning Dutch thinking on its head. He is described by some as a rabid racist and has been convicted for inciting discrimination.

Once temporarily banned from Britain as ‘persona non grata’ by the Labour government, he lives under threat of assassination for his fiercely anti-immigration stance, and only this week tried (unsuccessfully) to plaster ‘Stop Islam’ adverts over Holland’s trams.

He is in such danger from Left-wing activists and Islamic militants that he often wears a bullet-proof vest and is guarded at a safe house round the clock.

He can only visit his wife Krisztina, a former Yugoslav diplomat, once a week at the family’s secret address because of security concerns. Nobody, he says with truth, would want his sort of life.

Yet next month there are national elections in the Netherlands — and Wilders’s Freedom Party is ahead in the polls and expected to win at least 20 per cent of the vote. It could be even higher.

One paunchy man listening on Thursday at the book launch admitted: ‘At first we dared not think like him or talk like him. Now many of us in Holland do both.’

For a groundswell of support for Wilders among the Dutch — his is the most popular party in the Netherlands — is fast gathering momentum.

In 2012 he was doing well but not that well, with one in ten supporting him.

Today his Right-wing, Trump-like promises of imposing border controls, stopping Islamic sharia law, sending home migrants who reject Dutch values or cause crime, and even banning the Koran, has won him an extraordinary following in this Christian country, which has a Protestant ‘Bible belt’ and is dotted with Catholic churches.

One of his favourite mantras (confirmed, so he claims, by university studies in Holland and Berlin) is that 80 per cent of Muslims in the Netherlands believe it is heroic to travel to Syria as a fighter.

He says Islam is not a religion but an imperialist ideology like communism or fascism. And the Dutch, from the urban middle class to those out in the sticks, are lapping it up.

Wilders’s meteoric rise means the Netherlands, long famed for its liberal outlook, could well provide the next shock to the European political elite.

On his agenda is a Dutch exit from the European Union and possibly a return from the euro to the traditional Dutch currency, the guilder, too.

This week, when I travelled around Holland to speak to ordinary people who have thrown their support behind Wilders, I found them in a mood of defiance stoked by him, and by Donald Trump’s victory.

Few are better placed to notice the changing mood than Protestant church minister Henk-Jan Prosman, a mild-mannered 41-year-old, who invites me to his home in Nieuwkoop, a village surrounded by flat land and canals in the west of Holland.

On an average Sunday, about a third of the 800 villagers attend morning service at his 19th-century church, and he has got to know them well in five years as their minister.

The traditional jobs in the Nieuwkoop area, once famed for producing peat and bullrushes, have all but gone.

Now the locals worry about jobs, the strains on the health and welfare system and even rising crime, which they blame on Muslim migrants (although there are precious few to be seen in Nieuwkoop on this cloudy day, or any other).

More of the villagers, says Minister Prosman, are turning for consolation to the Freedom Party.

‘I have watched them start listening to Wilders. Very few really expect him to close all mosques and ban the Koran [as he threatens]. They don’t agree with everything he says. But there are no other political leaders in Holland whom they trust any more.

‘Even a senior policeman told me the other day that 60 per cent of his officers will vote for the Freedom Party. They are not racists. They know what it’s like in the real world working with the day-to-day consequences of open borders and uncontrolled immigration.

The white political elite, who defend a multicultural Holland, have no idea what’s going on.’

Indeed, everywhere I travel, there is an overwhelming feeling here that the Dutch old guard’s days are coming to an end.

Nevertheless, Mark Rutte, the middle-of-the-road prime minister (and head of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) is now scambling to head off the Right-wing challenge.

He stunned Dutch citizens last month by publishing an open letter, online and in full-page newspaper advertisements, warning that there was ‘something wrong with our country’.

In what might have been a message from Wilders himself, he said the ‘silent majority’ would no longer tolerate immigrants who ‘abuse our freedom’, castigating those who drop litter or spit in the streets.

He went on to criticise those who abuse women and gay rights, adding: ‘If you reject our country, I’d prefer you to go… act normal or leave.’

It was, of course, a last-ditch attempt to lure back disaffected voters. But it was also a belated recognition of the acute concerns over years of uncontrolled mass immigration of non-Europeans to Holland, which has helped push the population up to 17 million (despite many indigenous Dutch choosing to emigrate), a rise of about 700,000 in a decade or so.

Many who have been here for years are families of Turks and Moroccans who were invited as ‘guest workers’ half a century ago. Others are a legacy of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia, the Caribbean, and Suriname in South America.

More recently, though, amid the biggest migration crisis in Europe since World War II, thousands of asylum-seekers and economic migrants from the troubled Middle East and poverty-riddled Africa have arrived, too.

Yet today almost half the non-EU migrants in the Netherlands are out of work, according to an estimate by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.

The Gatestone Institute, a conservative international think-tank, says a Dutch interior ministry report in 2011 revealed that 40 per cent of Moroccans aged 12-24 (and mostly born in Holland) had been arrested, fined, charged or implicated in a crime.

Dutch journalist Fleur Jurgens, in her book The Moroccan Drama, further claims that more than 60 per cent of Moroccans aged between 17 and 23 drop out of education without even a basic qualification.

Jurgens also contends that 60 per cent of Moroccan men aged between 40 and 64, including some who arrived years ago, live on state benefits.

Geert Wilders, needless to say, has something to say about that: ‘They happily accept our dole, houses and doctors but not our rules and values,’ was one of his comments.

In a more florid pronouncement, he said the Dutch have had enough of ‘burkas, headscarves, the ritual slaughter of animals, so-called honour revenge, blaring minarets, female circumcision, hymen restoration operations, abuse of homosexuals, halal meat at shops and the enormous over-representation of Muslims in the crime arena’.

It is inflammatory stuff, yet the indigenous Dutch (and even some migrants who have integrated well over time) are listening.

One of them is Edwin Heij, 49, who is married to a Bulgarian woman, with a family of three boys aged eight, 11 and 18. They live in a four-bedroom house with a big garden in a village near Utrecht — a city full of Christian monuments dating back to the 14th century.

Edwin is a builder who always voted for the Dutch liberal parties. ‘Now I distrust politicians because they don’t do what they promise. Wilders is too radical for me in many ways, but there’s no other party to halt what is going on.

‘Really it will be a protest vote, but what else can I do?’ he asks, as we sit in a coffee bar not far from his home.

‘I would love Holland to leave the EU, like Britain. The politicians say this is a rich country but I have worked for the Army and see that on the ranges the soldiers must pretend to fire rifles because they don’t have bullets.

‘In the care homes, the old people have nothing. I have worked in them and watched when two 19-year-old Dutch girls tried to care for 30 elderly in their beds. They were on a shift from 7am to 1pm. They only finished cleaning the last person at lunchtime.

‘That is unfair treatment of pensioners who have paid into the social system all their lives, especially when we see new migrants getting council homes, state money, and not working because they don’t speak Dutch and have no skills.’

Then he adds: ‘Of course, not every migrant is the same. The Indonesians and those from Suriname have integrated well. They stand up on the bus to let old people have a seat. It’s the others who don’t care.’

Edwin says it is only now that he dares speak his mind. On Monday night he appeared on a Dutch TV programme to debate the Freedom Party phenomenon. ‘Afterwards I received hundreds of messages on Twitter from people agreeing with me. Only three were rude.

‘It is only on social media that you hear what people really think. People are scared of being called racist if they tell their friends or workmates what they really think. Until very recently I didn’t mention my new political views, even to people I invited to my house.’

Then there is Cindy Van Kruistum, 57, a mother of two girls aged 17 and 21, who lives in a smart house in Veenendaal, a city in the central part of the country. She is a finance manager and married to a businessman (who has little time for the Freedom Party).

A pretty woman — and half Indonesian herself — she sits on a sumptuous grey sofa and says: ‘The election of Donald Trump has changed a lot here. What happened in America has freed Dutch people to voice their opinions, and they see the chance of change with the Freedom Party.’

She explains: ‘At my office, I told my boss that I was voting for Wilders. He said Wilders is a racist and therefore I was, too. I said he was a hypocrite.

‘He has 30 employees sitting at their desks who are all Dutch. There is only one Muslim, a lady who cleans the toilet. That makes me ashamed. We live in a parallel society where migrants, mainly the Muslims, have not integrated and that is dangerous.’

Then things get personal — for Cindy’s teenage daughter has a boyfriend who is Moroccan. ‘He comes here every day but never takes my child to his home. His family don’t know she exists because the boyfriend daren’t tell them he is going out with a Christian Dutch girl.

‘The two are very much in love and I don’t mind that. He is a nice boy, very respectful to me. But I am worried that the relationship cannot last, that she will end up with nothing because the two societies don’t mix.’

Cindy is certain that Geert Wilders will triumph in the forthcoming election, thanks to people who will vote for him without necessarily admitting it publicly.

Those voters, she and others tell me, are sick of hijabs for sale in the shops, rising homophobia amongst immigrants and a watering down of Holocaust teaching in schools in the Netherlands (the story goes that Moroccan teenagers walk out of such World War II lessons because they have been told in the mosques that the Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people never happened).

Of course, in this febrile atmosphere, many of the allegations hurled at migrants may be half-truths or even untruths.

Yet the book called Anger, which Wilders held in his hand on Thursday, was written by a respected journalist called Joost Niemoller.

It details the views of 31 Dutch men and women from every walk of life who are worried about the impact of uncontrolled immigration on them, their families and the future of Holland.

It is expected to become a bestseller and, of course, is well-timed fodder for the Freedom Party. Geert Wilders left the book launch carrying a copy. No doubt he will wave it in the air again during the next few weeks of election campaigning.

Although the betting is now on Wilders and his party winning, until a few days ago there was little chance of him becoming Prime Minister.

The Netherlands has a system of proportional representation, and the other main parties say they will not partner him in a coalition Government even if he gets a landslide victory.

Then out of the wings stepped the leader of a small new anti-Establishment party, the Forum for Democracy.

Thierry Baudet is a dashing, floppy-haired, 34-year-old former university professor who put himself on the political map last year when he organised an unsuccessful referendum opposing an EU association with Ukraine.

Lionised on social media and expected to win a respectable election vote, he agrees with Wilders that the Netherlands, like Britain, must cut off the EU shackles and regain its sovereignty.

He says he could act as kingmaker in post-election talks, joining forces with Wilders to hand him power.

‘We are seeing a surge of change in the Netherlands,’ an ebullient Baudet boasted the other day. He may provide a critical lifeline for Geert Wilders, the political bogeyman they dub the Dutch Trump.

But one thing is certain: if Wilders wins the election but cannot take power, it will surely enrage those Dutch people who — rightly or wrongly — believe they have no one else to turn to.

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