On Friday evening, in front of the Turkish embassy in the Dutch city of The Hague another act of provocation caused tumultous scenes. Edwin Wagensveld, the Dutch leader of the islam and xenophobic party Pegida, tore the Koran in front of the eyes of around 100 Muslims. A blatant and profound insult and provocation for every believing Muslim. In the run – up to the events, both the Dutch security authorities and the mayor of The Hague, Jan van Zanen, had been informed about the planned action. The Dutch authorities reacted to the calls made by the Muslim community to prevent this action by saying, that it is not possible to prohibit anyone from freedom of expression.
The question that arises at this point is: is such a deliberate provocation still a matter of expressing freedom? Or are the authorities obliged, in the interests of social cohesion, to put an end to such actions?
But first of all, lets have a look what happened. The Dutch government has been struggling for years now with an increasing social problem in its own country. Already in 2016, the back then Vice – President of the Commission, Frans Timmermans, introduced proposals for a new EU migration control in African countries. He said: ” The EU needs to create a mix of positive and negative incentives and reward those countries that work effectively with the EU. All other countries would have to deal with the consequences.” According to Timmermans, one of these migration control instruments would be “laissez – Passers”, i.e., the EU would have been able to write “deportation” documents and issue those deportations on its own. For the countries concerned, this idea was a pure farce. Together with the government of Mali, the Netherlands tried to launch a first pilot project, but this was immediately rejected due to violent protests in Bamako. Even in the Netherlands itself, the government’s integration policy failures are becoming more and more obvious. For example, after the World Cup match between Morocco and Belgium, which Morocco 2-0 won both in Belgium and in the Netherlands clashes and assaults on police units took place. For example in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. The group of young people, who were attacking the police units was estimated by the security authorities to be close to 500 people.
At present, the Dutch government is trying to develop efficient outposts for EU external border protection through targeted measures in North and North West Africa. One of those projects are the training of a border protection unit in Niger or diplomatic talks with the government in Tunis. As a result, the Netherlands had been criticized more and more for their foreign policy strategy.
Türkiye is one of those countries which criticizes the Netherlands strongly due to the actions it has set and sees itself as a spokesman for the so – called Umma, the Muslim society as a whole.
Erdogan’s extended arm in the Netherlands is the DENK party. This micro – party is a political movement that is clearly positioned as a party of immigrants and is elected by a majority of Moroccan and Turkish Muslims, living in the Netherlands. In the last elections in the Netherlands, the party managed to claim 3 seats in the second chamber of the Parliament. At the top of the party is Farid Azarkan. The founders of the DENK party Tenahan Kuzu and Selcuk Öztürk were in the past members of the Dutch Social Democrats (PvdA), but were excluded from the party and subsequently started their own political project with the establishment of the DENK party. Since the establishment of the party in 2015, the DENK has been campaigning against racism and discrimination. In doing so, it is an open secret that the party is supported from Ankara. For nearly a decade, Ankara has been planning and pushing for the targeted development of migrant parties, in order to be able to influence the politics of the European states. To date, this project has only achieved moderate success.
This is precisely the fact that Pegida leader Wagensveld tries to express when he talks about Türkiye´s influence in Europe. On Friday, just a few hours before the Koran’s tearing, he announced that he would use this action to mark a sign against the Turkish government’s influence on demonstrations in the Netherlands. Wagensveld justifies his actions as follows: ” Islamic countries are threatening Sweden and Denmark with sanctions if the right to demonstrate is not restricted. This approach is unacceptable and requires a tough response.” Thus, Wagensveld points to demonstrations by pro – Kurdish PKK – organisations that are still holding demonstrations against the Turkish government in Sweden. In a statement, the DENK party turned directly to the mayor of The Hague in the words: “The planned action of the Pegida is not freedom of expression, but an open hate speech. Through such actions, one individual tries to humiliate Muslims down to the bones and sow the seeds of division in society.”
Dutch Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz, a woman with kurdish origin, born in Türkiye and one of the most critical voices against Turkish foreign policy in the Netherlands, has also condemned the planned destimations of the Koran. According to Yeşilgöz, “the tearing or burning of the Koran, as it has already happened in Sweden, would lead to an increased terrorist threat.” Europe already experienced such a potential violent reaction back in 2015 during the terrorist attacks on the satiretion magazine Charlie Hebdo in France.
The mayor of The Hague, Van Zanen, acknowledged that Wagensveld’s approach does not contribute to the respectful and inclusive approach of the city, and rather represents an unnecessary revelation and intentional injury to fellow human beings. At the same time Van Zanen sees his role as mayor in “facilitating the constitutionally defined right to freedom of expression and demonstration as much as possible.”
Wagensveld tried to burn the Koran in front of the House of Representatives in The Hague already in October and November 2022, but was prevented from doing so by the police forces.
Wagensveld, who was held in custody in Rotterdam in October 2022 for insulting and making statements against Muslims, was not found guilty and dismissed by the prosecutor’s office.
Such incidents have already led to riots in Denmark and Sweden in recent weeks, and caused reactions of Muslims in various countries around the world. Due to the unrest in the country and external reactions, the Swedish authorities last Thursday raised the security level in the security system from five to four. Needless to say, actions such as the burning of the Koran also produce an Islamophobic and anti – European rhetoric within the Muslim community and are strengthening the position of the Turkish President Erdogan, but also of the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood, which uses the word: Islamophobia as their new concept of social combat.
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