On the very same night his Party for Freedom (PVV) scored a victory in local elections, Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right politician, managed to attract the most negative attention he’s seen in a long time. Standing in front of a huge Dutch flag, Wilders asked his supporters if they wanted “more or less” Moroccans in The Hague and the Netherlands. After his supporters chanted “Less! Less! Less!” he said “Then we’ll arrange that”. The ugly scene has attracted a firestorm of controversy across Dutch politics, media and social media. So what do Wilders and the PVV stand for these days? What makes these remarks different than what we’ve heard before? And what has the reaction been in the Netherlands?
Geert Wilders has made headlines time and time again since he set up the PVV, not only for his anti-Islamic views, but for his crude way of wording them. He has compared the Quran to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and called for it to be banned, and said he hates Islam as “the ideology of a retarded culture”. He wants all criminals with dual nationality to be deported after their sentence, and a complete stop on all immigration from Muslim countries. This is just scratching the surface; the PVV’s election program is full of bizarre proposals such as a ban on headscarves in the Dutch parliament, even for visitors.
However in recent years Wilders seemed to be jumping on the anti-EU bandwagon. The party’s tone firmly emphasised its opposition to Dutch membership of the EU and power in Brussels. This is a popular opinion in a country that feels like it’s financing the Southern European EU states, and this helped the PVV to become one of the most popular parties. It seemed like Wilders had found a new rallying cry to gain votes. But then Wednesday night he returned to the Islam issue in a spectacular way.
Wilders has made incendiary statements before, but this is different, in a potentially important way. He referred directly to Moroccans, and not to Muslims, leaving him open to charges of inciting ethnic hatred. Already thousands of people have filed charges against him with the police. This is just part of a huge backlash against Wilders:
- The Labour Party has said they will block any proposal made by the PVV in parliament, no matter the content.
- Prime Minster Mark Rutte, who previously was in a semi-coalition with the PVV, said the comments left him with a “bad taste in his mouth”, and ruled out working with the party again.
- Many of the most important newspapers and media groups in Netherlands have strongly criticised his words, and expressed disgust.
- Within his own party there has also been discontent. Numerous local council members and even MPs have left the PVV.
But what are his supporters thinking? A Dutch newspaper, the AD, carried an interview with a man was in the room for Wilders’ speech. It gives a good insight into the way Wilders’ supporters think. The man said:
“Everyone knows that Geert is talking about the criminals right? They have to be deported immediately. I’m talking about the 17 year old kids who shout ‘whore’ at young women… Today an Islamic market seller who I must have seen at least 15 times suddenly called me a disgusting NSBer [Nazi]…it makes me think: maybe all those Moroccans really are the same”
When these people think of Moroccans, they think of the worst Moroccans they’ve seen. Not the family doing their shopping, the snack bar owner, the butcher, or even the policemen on the corner, but the criminals and inner-city gangs. These criminals aren’t referred to by what they do (crime) but who they are (Moroccan). And seeing a few is enough to label the entire nationality. Instead of constructively trying to deal with problems in the cities, the PVV makes a vicious generalisation over an entire ethnic group, including people who were born in the Netherlands.
While Geert Wilders has made extreme comments before, the attention this has got is new. I believe it is because the incident shows the real ugliness of him and his supporters. Seeing a room full of people chant for Moroccans to be thrown out of the country, and seeing Wilders’ satisfied face, people seem to have noticed how small and dirty the man and his ideas are. In recent years he may have tried to refocus towards an anti-EU position, but this has shown yet again how the PVV appeals to the worst in human nature. Hopefully his supporters will wake up to what kind of a man he truly is.