Douglas Murray on Geert Wilders and liberalism

Douglas Murray’s latest article for the Spectator claims that Geert Wilders ‘doesn’t threaten Dutch liberalism: he’s defending it’.  There’s something in this.  Whereas other populist/far right parties, such as the BNP, have tended to take a conservative stance on women’s rights and LGBT issues, Wilders’ views are perfectly liberal.  He is also a vocal opponent of antisemitism (and supporter of Israel).

However his views on Muslims stress test his liberal credentials.  This is of course in part a function of the tendency, evidenced by many opinion polls, for European Muslims to hold less liberal views than the rest of the population on just the issues cited above.   Here’s a link to some findings on Muslim antisemitism in the Netherlands. And here is an absolutely shocking story, if accurate, of failure to deal with homophobia from Dutch Muslims. This news report confirms the genuine problem with homophobia – but also positive pushback from a Muslim mayor.

This study demonstrated that there was certainly a link between homophobia and immigrant and Muslim communities. However other factors also correlated with homophobia including lack of education, conservative Christianity and far right views.  Encouragingly, second generation immigrants were more tolerant.

Muslims in the Netherlands are not a homogenous group.  Clearly, as in other European countries, their views tend to be conservative – though of course there are Muslim liberals too –  and in some cases extreme.

The Muslim population of the Netherlands is just a little higher than the UK, as a proportion of the overall total, but lower than France.  Like most other Europeans, the Dutch greatly overestimate this figure.

Douglas Murray outlines some of the concerns felt by Wilders’ supporters, and derides mainstream politicians for trying to take the wind out of his sails by talking tough at election time.  He criticises the 2011 attempt to prosecute him for hate speech – which I also opposed – and then turns to the more recent case brought against Wilders for inciting discrimination and hatred against Moroccans in the Netherlands. Here’s a summary of the background from the Guardian.

State prosecutors say Wilders asked a crowd of supporters in March 2014 whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, triggering the chant “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”, to which a smiling Wilders responded: “We’ll take care of that.”

I find Murray’s account of this case disingenuous:

The latest trial — which concluded last year and finished with a guilty verdict — was an outrageous example of judicial activism. By prosecuting Wilders for advocating less immigration into Holland, the courts effectively made it illegal not to support mass migration. If it is illegal to say that you want ‘fewer’ Moroccans in your country, then in response to the question of whether you want ‘more or fewer Moroccans’ in your country, the only legal option is to say ‘more’.

This was not a discussion about immigration but about one specific nationality, so it’s quite misleading to say that ‘the courts effectively made it illegal not to support mass migration.’

There are plenty of other reasons why liberals might raise an eyebrow at Murray’s claim that Wilders is a champion of liberalism.

Wilders wants to ban all mosques, Islamic symbols (I’m unsure quite what this means in practice), and even the Qur’an, and will close the borders to immigrants from Muslim countries.

He has said in the past that he’d like to see millions of Muslims deported from Europe.

Interesting too is this policy statement, though it’s got nothing to do with Islam:

No public money for development aid, windmills, art, innovation, broadcasting, etc

That doesn’t sound too liberal.

And you can see why he is drawn to Trump:

Here is our plan: instead of financing the entire world and the people we do not want here, we give our money back to the common Dutch person.

Here are a couple more points from his manifesto:

– Preventive incarceration of radical Muslims
– Criminals with double nationality stripped of their Dutch citizenship and deported

How radical would you have to be to be jailed, and for how long?

Ian Buruma makes an interesting observation, also in the Spectator.

Even though the bulk of Wilders’s supporters are both provincial and conservative, he uses Dutch social tolerance as a stick to beat up Muslims.

Wilders does not have full support from the groups he seeks to champion, and some of his alliances suggest that Wilders won’t make a shibboleth of gay rights.

What is  perhaps most annoying about Murray’s article is its failure to acknowledge any of these specific concerns people have in relation to Wilders’ policies, or to make it clear what Murray himself thinks of them.