Dutch expats comment on Wilders' film
Dutch expats seem fairly calm and believe the media has devoted too much attention to Mr Wilders' comments, however those living in Islamic countries say that they are already having problems as a result of comments made by Wilders.
Dutch people living abroad are worried about the effects of right-wing politician Geert Wilders' anti-Qu'ran film. In recent weeks Dutch embassies have been busy making emergency plans, a move which many people have judged as an over-reaction.
However, Dutch expats in Islamic countries in particular say that they are already having problems as a result of comments made by Wilders and that they are beginning to fear for their personal safety.
More than 1000 Dutch participants in Radio Netherlands Worldwide's World Panel - all of them living outside the Netherlands - have responded to questions put to them about the commotion surrounding the Wilders' film, which has yet to be released.
The Dutch embassies' fears of a possible violent reaction seem to have escaped the attention of the majority of the respondents. However, of those living in Islamic countries, nine percent say they had been approached by or received relevant information from their embassy.
For the rest, most of the Dutch expats seem fairly calm and believe the media have devoted too much attention to Mr Wilders' comments. Furthermore, there was no talk of any of them returning - temporarily or otherwise - to the Netherlands in connection with this issue.
Geert Wilders, leader of the new Freedom Party, has been major news in the Netherlands for weeks with his anti-Qu'ran film, even though no one has seen a single second of it and it's not yet known where and when it will be released.
For many people, though, they simply have think back to what happened following the release of Theo van Gogh's film Submission in 2004. He was killed by an extremist Muslim several months later.
Many Dutch expats are concerned about their own position and no fewer than nine out of ten believe that Wilders' has put his own life in danger too. Around half of the respondents to the RNW survey warn that Dutch firms could soon be boycotted as a result of the film.
A somewhat smaller percentage fears that there could also be attacks on Dutch targets. However, the most remarkable finding concerns the number of Dutch citizens in Islamic countries who say they are already facing problems or even danger in connection with Geert Wilders: 43 percent.
Even in Islamic countries, however, the majority of the expats who responded to the survey believe that Wilders should be able to say whatever he wants and that the Dutch government should not take action against the film. While they think that his statements are indeed polarising Dutch society and offensive to a large group of people, nearly two-thirds believe that he is only saying what most people think.
Dutch expats say the politicians in The Hague are the ones who are really responsible. At least three-quarters place the blame not on Wilders but on the larger, mainstream political parties for avoiding issues concerning foreigners and immigration.
The expats are for the most part more moderate in their opinion of ‘Islamification' than Wilders. Although even in Islamic countries there is a group of eight percent which agrees with his view that Islam is a ‘backward' culture.
A small majority of the Dutch expats thinks that the influence of Islam will become a problem for the Netherlands. However, the figure is a bit lower among expats who live in Islamic countries, and most expats do not believe that the Netherlands will become Islamicised.
They also do not agree with Wilders' controversial remark that Integration Minister Ella Vogelaar is "bonkers" for saying that the Netherlands is becoming a society with a Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Most of those questioned even think that this is plausible, although they are not quite so sure of whether they should be happy about this.
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A majority of those surveyed say that Wilders receives little media attention in the country in which they live and that they are not aware of anyone within their immediate circle who knows anything about Wilders' statements.
However where there are other people who have heard of him, he's the topic of the day: more than 70 percent then discuss the Wilders issue and fully intend to stay part of the debate. Hype or not, only a very few people are planning to avoid the - issue of the - film when it eventually appears on the internet. They would rather know what all the commotion is about.
Perro de Jong / Expatica
25 January 2008
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