According to current opinion polls, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) will be the largest party in the House of Representatives. However, even if the opinion polls hold steady and the PVV are the largest party, I remain firm in my conviction that Geert Wilders will not be the next Dutch prime minister. In a piece about that very subject, I argued that the current political culture of the Netherlands is such that cooperation between the PVV and mainstream parties would be unthinkable. It appears that Wilders has himself acknowledged that I was correct and the only way for him to become the PM would be to get the support of other parties. These advances must be rejected.
Thankfully mainstream parties have said that they will not work with Wilders. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his party the VVD, who incidentally are closest ideologically to the PVV, will not work with Wilders’ party. Parties to the VVD’s left have also said that they will not work with the PVV which could mean that the Netherlands’ next government will be some form of grand-coalition who unite to oppose Wilders. As I have previously argued, radicals on the Left need to co-opt the issues that Wilders is speaking about and undermine his party’s support because failure to do so will only allow these ethno-religious tensions to fester and permeate deeper into Dutch society.
Wilders is in a difficult position. He needs to get mainstream political parties to work with him but will alienate his core support base if he moderates his message. It appears that Wilders has no intention of moderating his message. In a 40-minute interview with Dutch broadcaster WNL, Wilders called mosques akin to ‘Nazi temples’ and the Qu’ran as comparable to Mein Kampf.
On a positive note, Wilders has shown himself to be opposed to Nazism, which is good. On the other hand, everything else about this statement is appalling and needs to be challenged. Islam, as with any religion, is a patchwork of different ideologies and interpretations and as such shouldn’t be seen as one monolithic entity. For instance, if you took a Wahhabi and a Sufi they would agree on very little, so wanting to marginalise ‘Islam’ makes no sense. Islam is not a cogent ideology so to characterise it as such would be false. Ideas expounded by Islamic doctrine should be challenged because all religions should be shown to be vapid and harmful to humanity, but comparing the Qu’ran to Mein Kampf is illogical and reveals a certain amount of ignorance on this subject.
Another important thing to point out that a key aspect of Nazism is far-ring nationalism that venerates the nation-state to such an extent that it begins discussing the country as if it occurs naturally. A Nazi conception of national identity also frames everything through the lens of race. Islam, being a religion, is largely unconcerned with race. There are no passages in the Qu’ran that emphasise the importance of national identity. In fact there are many passages in the Qu’ran that talk about how nations may have been created by God, but obedience to God is the most important thing rather than race, nationality, cultural background etc. Indeed this is why jihadi movements have appeared in countries across the world. If the most extreme forms of Islam focused on the inherent superiority of Arabs, there would be more credence to Wilders’ assertion, but this is not borne out by the evidence.
To go one step further, there is certainly more of an umbillical cord between Nazism and the far-right nationalism supported by Wilders than there is between Nazism and Islam. That isn’t to say that Wilders is a Nazi, because any honest evaluation of the evidence would show that he isn’t, but there is certainly more in common between the PVV and the Nazis than there is between, for example, Mein Kampf and the Qu’ran.
Why have I spent time explaining why Wilders is wrong to compare Islam and Nazism? Because if mainstream parties work with the PVV, they will be providing a man who thinks in binaries and rejects nuance with a platform that would be undeserved. Wilders’ election would not be a defence of Dutch liberal values, as some have argued, but rather a nail in the coffin of tolerant coexistence. I would welcome criticism of any terrible ideas, including those found in the Qu’ran, but Wilders is not the answer. He is an authoritarian that wishes to redefine Dutch identity as monoethnic, predominantly Judeo-Chistian, and wishes to ban books that he disagrees with. This should never again be Europe’s direction of travel.
Wilders must be resisted not only because he promotes a form of nationalism that is toxic to tolerant societies, but because he is promoting a caricature of Islam that is patently false. There are some who argue in favour of civil liberties and claim to be left-wing who have developed a political crush on Geert Wilders because he is critical of Islam and is not as aggressive in his tone as other bigots. These people need to be called out because Wilders perception of Islam is simply false, and creating a state that institutionalises persecution against Muslims is abhorrent. The far-right need to be defeated wherever they raise their banners, and in the Netherlands Wilders is the standard-bearer.