Although the majority of the world does not know anything about politics, politicians, and political parties in the Netherlands, suddenly, the election became of interest to Arabs, Muslims, and Westerners as well. The election gained unprecedented media follow-up and coverage. It was different because this time, racists were knocking on the doors of the government, and they were not about to let go easily.
That is the case for the Netherlands. As for the Arab world, a video of Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch racist party made headlines. The politician provocatively attacked the Turks specifically, and Muslims in general. The video created a social media storm. It became trending on WhatsApp and other social media outlets. In fact, more Arabs watched the video than the Dutch themselves.
The person who exploited the speech of Wilders translated it to Arabic to make sure it reaches the target audience. In the said speech, Wilders stated that the Dutch do not want the Turks or the Muslims in their country. He has extremist views calling for the ban of the Qoran and mosques in the Netherlands.
On the night of the election, many people held their breath waiting for the results, which were of no interest to anyone else in the world, except for the people of the Netherlands. That election threatened to launch a new era of fascism that could have sweeped Europe through the ballot box.
The extremist racist party, called the Party for Freedom, used whatever propaganda techniques to intimidate the voters and convince the Dutch to vote for them based on hate against Muslims and immigrants. The majority of the people voted against them, and they lost the election with a mere 13 percent.
The reason behind the rapid rise of the fascists these days is their focus on intimidating the public, including the Dutch, from the influx of refugees, the number of immigrants, Muslim extremism and terrorism.
No one denies the danger of the rise of the extreme right, and the rise of racism in the West. But it is important to realize that this stream of thought has no economic project or services. They live by alienating Muslims and immigrants, propagating that Muslims would seize their country, recruit their children for Jihad and shut down their churches.
The greatest ally to these western extremists are Muslim extremists who did a great job defaming Islam and portraying all Muslims as hateful. Racists took advantage of Muslim extremists and their video messages to scare the majority of their fellow Westerners. Just as well, Muslim extremists also played the racial card of Wilders, and they distribute the video widely in the Muslim world to spread the message of adverse hatred and incitement against the West.
In a speech inciting hatred, there is usually some truth. Here, the racist Dutch make no mention of the fact that the majority of Muslims are peaceful and productive. Muslim extremists do not say to the Muslim world that the Netherlands is one of the most tolerant societies in the world and offer a lot of help to their citizens and Muslim immigrants to practice their religious rituals and ethnic education.
Thus we are faced with a stream of extremists assisting each other, and we should not fall for their schemes or get dragged into their project, so that we may have our civilizational symbiotic project.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 18, 2017.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.