Our tolerance is an achievement of the Dutch Republic from the 16th to the 18th century. People were convinced that their own religion was the true one, and that the others would undoubtedly end up in hell. But on the streets and in commerce people considered and treated each other as equals and respected one another as human beings.
Discrimination against Muslims and other immigrants should be vigorously contested, but once people become terrorists, they should be dealt with forcefully, with the heavy hand of government. Where the violent version of Islam gains the upper hand and attains political power, it will be done and over with regarding our freedoms.
I myself have sharp memories of the Cold War, and was worried a lot during the fifties of the last century about the threat posed by Communism. In 1956, after the suppression of the Hungarian uprising, I was loudly demonstrating at the Embassy of the Soviet Union in The Hague.
Communism in Western Europe had a fertile ground among the poverty-stricken workers, but was mainly supported by intellectuals, Jean-Paul Sartre first among them, who downplayed or even denied the existence of the Gulag. A large part of the intelligentsia in Western Europe, especially in France and Italy, refused to face up to the reality of state terror in the Soviet Union. That Communism was eventually defeated, is partly due to the fact that most Socialists and Social Democrats – like those of the Dutch Labour Party, UK’s Labour and Germany’s SPD – chose the decent, democratic variant of socialism. This movement has helped to create a high degree of equality in Western societies, though inequality is increasing now back in the direction of the 19th century, as Thomas Piketty shows in his Capital in the 21st Century (2014; Le Capital au XXIe siècle, 2013). I am curious about any counter-arguments from the (neo-)liberal side.
Now we are facing politicized Islam, with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States in the role of the Soviet Union back then and Iran in the role of Mao’s China. And with the European Muslims in the role of the Socialists before it split into Communist and Social-Democratic variants. There is in Islam not yet a clear, easily distinct split between the violent, theocratic and democratic, tolerant variants. The very lack of such split, I believe, threatens our very civilization.
The debate should go about this trend (or lack of it). Afra Jalabi writes in the Dutch newspaper Trouw (Loyalty) on 9 January 9 2015 that we have to appeal to the European Muslims in their moral duty to confront the extremists within their own ranks, to marginalize them and deny them any legitimacy. The danger currently comes from two directions: the possibility that the Islamic State or Caliphate in Syria/Iraq and Nigeria can consolidate itself, and that terrorist attacks by (these) Islamist extremists continue to take place in Europe. If it this were to lead to a kind of ongoing civil war in Europe, the Muslims themselves will indeed suffer the most by it.
If my neighbor kills her husband, I do not feel directly threatened. If criminals from Amsterdam’s underworld liquidate each other, I do not feel threatened – unless
many of them shoot it out with Kalashnikovs on the street. But Islamic terrorists threaten everybody: subway passengers, journalists, infidels, and other Muslims who stray from the ‘pure’ path. Current criminal law is ill-equipped, indeed practically powerless, to effectively combat this threat. These Islamic terrorists are fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, cajoled or negotiated with. I recently read the comparison with their fanaticism and that of the Anabaptists who conquered the city of Münster around 1520 AD and tried to establish a Christian Utopia there with increasing terror.
What can we do to combat and overcome the present danger?
1. Continue bombing the so-called Islamic State (IS) – and support with arms and money the most moderate factions of the Free Syrian Army in their fight against the still barbaric regime of Assad.
2. Arm the Kurds, and even reward them with an independent Kurdistan in Syria / Iraq with borders that should now be demarcated and agreed upon by as many
countries as possible (preferably by the UN Security Council, but Russia and China are likely to sabotage this), with the presence of a sufficient number of journalists and other outside observers to discourage and curtail any war crimes by Kurdish forces.
3. Give Islamic organizations in the Netherlands some time, say half a year, to come up with a credible approach to definitely reform and enlighten Islam in the Netherlands, i.e. isolate and defeat any extremist tendencies within their Muslim communities.
4. Since we are at war with IS, the Act on the Limited State of Emergency can be invoked and activated in the Netherlands, in order to take decisive action against anyone who promotes aggressive Islam through propaganda, recruitment, or their own participation in the fight or ‘jihad’ against the civilized world. In the last analysis, religious fanatics are mentally ill. They should therefore be placed in forensic psychiatric institutions by a court decision, almost certainly in specialized sections (ordinary imprisonment will not in these cases, given the numerous cases of (further) radicalization while in
Evert van Voorthuysen
The author – a co-founder and board member of ICHI until 1 February 2015, and an ordinary member/sympathizer since then – is speaking here in a
personal capacity; his observations and opinions are not necessarily those of the committee.