The day before yesterday, local elections dominated the day in the Netherlands. Election night culminated rather unfortunately with a display of xenophobic rhetorics by the leader of the Freedom Party PVV, Geert Wilders. In the Hague, mister Wilders spoke to his supporters (video on the right), with whom he celebrated their re-election in the Hague; one of only two cities where his party campaigned. Mister Wilders victoriously proclaimed that three questions define the principles of his party. He asked his followers to answer three questions that clarify the principles of his party:
“The first question is. Do you want more or less European Union?”, to which the crowd chanted: “Less. Less. Less”. Wilders continued: “The second question is. Maybe even more important. Do you want more or less PvdA”? [*], to which the crowd responded in a similar fashion. And then he voiced the third question: “The third question is. And we may not say this because criminal complaints are filed against you. And maybe there are public prosecutors of D’66 [**] who prosecute you. However, the freedom of expression is a great good. We have said nothing what may not be said. We have said nothing that was not true. Thus I ask you. Do you want, in this city and in the Netherlands, more or less Moroccans? The crowd chanted: “Less. Less. Less.” Mister Wilders gloated, sensing that his choice of rhetorics had paid off, and welcomed the crowd’s more than enthusiastic response by adding: “we will arrange that”.
[*PvdA refers to the social democrats, currently the coalition party in the Administration]
[**D’66 refers to the social democrats]
The District Attorney’s office told reporters today the police had received over a hundred criminal complaints. The District Attorney’s office said that it will look for grounds for prosecution, but that it will take the time to carefully review the matter. Whatever the public prosecutor decides, the court of justice is one of legality, and I will refrain from commenting in that respect. In the court of moral opinion however, rules of sentiment apply and in this sphere of moral discourse, I think it is worth repeating what I commented two years ago when Geert Wilders argued to exit the EU: “Getting finance from abroad, promising an unsustainable past, and appealing to [.. *1] sentiments based on a xenophobic inspired form of nationalism: three characterizations that cause me to have an acute allergic reaction”.
These words are worth repeating today. Mister Wilders is clearly not my cup of tea. Or to use the words that our vice Prime-Minister, Lodewijk Ascher (PvdA) used today, Wilders’ words are indeed, “poison“. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Wilders’ comments had left a bad taste, and added that his thoughts were with his pupils who he tutors each Saturday. Among them are Moroccans. Rutte genuinely looked saddened, realizing that they will hear these comments too. He found it awful. While editing this blogpost, Prime-Minister Rutte decided he will shut all doors to Geert Wilders so long he does not retract his words about Moroccans. Better sooner rather than later.
In this rare instance of conveying a personal outcry, I feel a need to share my position explicitly and publicly. In the arena of morality, I find mister Wilders guilty of discriminating a Dutch minority by the prejudicial means of declaring them guilty by association. All people are entitled to “be judged by the content of character“, not to be judged on the basis of a personal feature they cannot possibly escape. Shame on you mister Wilders for attaching an accusation of criminal to each and every single member of a minority group, and for — as the editors of one of the nation’s newspapers NRC wrote — “[..] mobilizing a crowd for less Moroccans, [calling] for an atmosphere of deportation“. In German media, the analysis is one shock and even reason for bringing up some very bad memories.
These memories weigh heavily, and instead of hearing mister Wilders say that “he only refered to criminal Moroccans, and that he does not see anything wrong with his statements”, I would like to urge him to visit Berlin and have a walk for I think he has some serious soul searching to do.
Thus far, mister Wilders has been able to push the outer boundaries of what still can be deemed acceptable illustrations of his narrow-minded point of view and his ill-advised xenophobic rhetoric. Until now, these illustrations could be excused on the basis of his right of entertaining the freedom of opinion, however distasteful and insulting. The vigilance with which Dutch have stood up to protect this fundamental freedom has until now been key for many of us to swallow these often venomous words. This time however, mister Wilders has, at least morally and ethically, abused this cherished freedom with the intent to further a political agenda of a prejudicial intolerance. This can no longer be dismissed as distasteful, dubious or questionable rhetoric, because whether we like this or not, mister Wilders is an elected politician who has left little doubt that he is more than prepared to go as far as to disqualify a Dutch minority group — one which he obviously does not like — the freedoms and liberties that we are equally entitled to.
The vigilance with which we defend the freedom of opinion, and with that, mister Wilders’ right to insult and polarize, is in the very same manner demanded in respect to defending the equal entitlement of liberties to us all. Mister Wilders may be able to share the gutsy depths of his wildly imaginative anxieties — figments of a very disturbed imagination if you ask me — but we cannot stand by and hear mister Wilders make a promise to deny some of us our liberties. This suggestion demands our refutation, and so, this is my version of it. Shame on you mister Wilders. Shame on you.
A postscript for fellow Dutch.
Ik zeg wel eens gekscherend: “kansloos definieert zichzelf”. Laat kansloos aan anderen over. Hou het simpel: definieer jezelf en doe dat met gepaste trots.
[*1] If someone can come up with a translation for “onderbuikgevoelens”, you are very welcome.