Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Geert Wilders: The Extremist or the Victim?

I received an e-mail the other day with an interesting article and an even more interesting question attached. The article was actually a speech by a member of the Dutch Parliament, Geert Wilders given in New York. When I read the speech, I could barely believe that it was an accurate transcript and so I looked it up, and indeed it seems to be authentic. The whole speech is here and I encourage you to read it before I get to the interesting question.

Having read the speech, you'll see that Mr. Wilders is obviously very concerned about Islam. He has little nice to say about the religion or its followers and paints a picture of a Europe being overwhelmed by populations of foreigners with no interest in integrating into Europe who may, eventually come to seize political power and then be in control of some of the worlds most powerful militaries and weapons. If this argument sounds to be extreme, apparently, it is not, and is even being championed, to a large part, by pundits, like Daniel Pipes.

So now the question that came with the article asked by the person who sent it to me: "Is this the Jew warning about the Nazis, or the Nazi warning about the Jew?"

Now, to be clear, I'm not suggesting that either Mr. Wilders, or Muslims are Nazis. The term is used here to highlight the question of whether this is the extremist who may be fanning the flames of racism, or is this truly a victim sounding the alarm? The reason I ask this question is because I really have no idea.

When I first read the speech, I could hardly believe it. It seems very extreme and I am frankly not even convinced that all the information in it is true. For example, his claim that the Holocaust is not taught in some schools for fear of offending Muslims is, at least in the case of the UK, not true. Some of his other claims, about not teaching Muslim children about farms seems equally outlandish, but I don't know if it's true or not. His fears of Muslims watching television channels from their countries of origin also seems natural to me and not a reason for concern and I have no problem with a school, even a public school, offering Halal food to their students if that schools happens to be in a predominantly Muslim area. His arguments about Muslims taking over the governments of European countries also seems completely absurd and the likelihood of each "step" in the gradual takeover he foresees just seems...outlandish. To be frank, even if every word of the speech were to be true, I would find it difficult to accept that such a speech was motivated by anything other than a profound xenophobia and scarcely concealed racism.

On the other hand, I do take Mr. Wilder's point about immigrants who arrive in a new country recognizing that the values and lifestyle of their new home may be different than what they are used to and that adaptation is necessary. Certainly, national values and mores change with demographics and populations, but there are core values of different countries that need to be respected and it seems reasonable to say to new arrivals that they are free to carry on as they wish within the confines of the laws and constituting principles of their chosen home. I think this is really the only point on which I feel comfortable agreeing with Mr. Wilders but I am willing to be persuaded on the matter and hope this interesting question will generate some interesting comments.


Anonymous said...

Frankly, Charlie, I don't understand what you find so objectionable in Mr. Geert's speech? He is simply stating what seems to me to be obvious! Unlimited immigration to Europe from Muslim countries will eventually tip the scale.

It's the same argument that Samuel P. Huntington made in "Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity" (2004), when he denounces Latino immigration, or David Ben Gurion's argument when he encouraged Jewish immigration to Palestine. In fact, in the case of Palestine/Israel, European Arabs have a concrete example of how to do it, based on historical precedent.

There are many other historical examples one can point to.

But what really fascinates me about the article, is not Geert's rhetoric, which is standard really (read any right wing bible thumping American railing against Latino immigration, 1930 Palestinian intellectual railing against Jewish immigration, or French rightists railing against Muslim immigration), but his lack of suggestions to solving the problem. What is it: force Christian women to have 12.5 children each? Expel all the Muslims?

So? What do you do? beyond making interesting movies?

A friend

Anonymous said...

yes he does he says to ban the Koran because the book Mein Kampf is banned so why shouldn't the Koran. It incites hatred and violence both. Once the Koran is banned, the Muslims will leave.