Elections in the Netherlands: Islamophobia, Xenophobia, and Anti-Immigration Policies Dominate Political Discourse

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According to Migration Policy.org, one-quarter of Dutch inhabitants are first- or second-generation immigrants and the top 3 countries people are originally from are Turkey, Morocco, and Indonesia.

Dutch voters are currently heading to the polls to vote in the election. The Netherland’s incumbent Prime Minister Mark Rutte is expected to finish first place and win a fourth term in office.

Rutte’s government collapsed earlier this year due to a racial profiling scandal concerning child benefits, which led to hundreds of families being forced to repay subsidies resulting in unemployment and bankruptcies. 

Orlando Kadir, a lawyer representing about 600 families, told Dutch radio people had been targeted “as a result of ethnic profiling by bureaucrats who picked out their foreign-looking names”. 

According to a survey conducted earlier this year by Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam, 33% of respondents believed the government should step down following the scandal. “The child benefits scandal hasn’t influenced voters at all, when it comes to voting for Rutte,” says Mariken van der Velden, professor of political communication at VU Amsterdam. Supporters of Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are generally not dependent on state benefits, she told DW, which means he has maintained his base. 

There are four other strong contenders including Thierry Baudet, Jesse Klaver, Sigrid Kaag, and Geert Wilders. Wilders is the leader and founder of the anti-Islam, anti-immigration nationalist right-wing group – the Party for Freedom (PVV.) They are currently leading second in the polls. 

Another problematic populist group is Forum for Democracy (FvD), which is led by a far-right figurehead, Thierry Baudet. Although Baudet’s rhetoric is not as anti-Islamic in comparison to Wilders, FvD policies still heavily oppose immigration. And in November 2020, Dutch newspaper Het Parool published evidence of the FvD’s youth branch, run by his close ally Freek Jansen, who posted anti-Semitic and racist chat messages. His party members insisted that Jansen be fired but Baudet stepped down as leader and returned to resume the role.

A senator has claimed that Baudet responded to concerns about anti-Semitism in the party by stating, “almost everyone I know is anti-Semitic.” Baudet didn’t deny making these statements but refused to explain what he had meant. 

The multicultural centrist DENK Party offers some hope in Netherland’s political landscape as it stands against discrimination and Islamophobia. In the Netherlands, the word “denk” is Dutch for “think” and Turkish for “equal” or “balanced.”

Deputy Tunahan Kuzu of DENK told Daily Sabah that, Our message is not only to people of foreign origin but also to the Dutch people. The Netherlands belongs to all of us. The hundreds of thousands of foreign origin people in the country are a part of the Netherlands.” He continued: 

Unfortunately, people like Wilders continue to defame Islam on a daily basis. Most parties have acknowledged this. Yet we do not hesitate to counter such racist acts everywhere and every time.”

“Immigrants and Muslims are of course affected by such racist remarks. Racist and impudent words against Islam are normalizing and naturally, immigrants and Muslims are alienated,” he underlined.

Over the past 70 years, the Netherlands has experienced steady growth in immigration. According to Migration Policy.org, one-quarter of Dutch inhabitants are first- or second-generation immigrants and the top 3 countries people are originally from are Turkey, Morocco, and Indonesia. During the 1960s there were guest worker programs with Morocco and Turkey, and in the 1970s family reunification schemes meant these families immigrated and settled in the Netherlands.

In February 2021, the Dutch parliament decided that mosques will face further monitoring over “foreign influence.”  The only party to oppose the proposal was DENK. Mosque finances will also be under heavier scrutiny, which could mean they shut down as a result of no funding. 

100,000 Muslims signed a petition to criminalise insulting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). It was created by Imam Ismail Abou Soumayyah. The petition stated that: “We Muslims strongly condemn all forms of violence as a result of the cartoons,” and “insulting our Prophet Mohammed has nothing to do with freedom of expression.”

These Dutch Muslims were denounced as anti-Dutch for peacefully demonstrating their basic constitutional rights. The main focus of the PVV is to close mosques, Islamic schools, ban the Quran, and stop Dutch people with dual nationality from voting or becoming a politician in the Netherlands. In addition, he also wants to establish a Ministry of Immigration, Remigration and De-Islamisation. 

Polls close at 9pm today. Much of the Netherland’s current political discourse wants to take away the basic rights of Muslims and isolate immigrants. But this year there are 810,000 first-time voters in the Netherlands. Younger people tend to be more inclined to vote for progressive parties so hopefully, negative attitudes will dissipate in the future. 

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