Dutch Muslims fearful after far-right poll success
The Muslims of Oosterwei, a small Dutch immigrant-majority community, reacted with a mix of fear and resignation to the election success Wednesday of the far-right Party for Freedom (PVV)."I think everyone is afraid, afraid that the PVV will end up in government," 46-year-old Zeynep told AFP after polls that saw the anti-Muslim party gain 15 seats to take 24 of the 150 seats in parliament. It is now the third biggest party.
Zeynep, who declined to give her family name, is a resident of Oosterwei, a suburb of Gouda in the west, where clothes are hung out to dry on the balconies of tall grey buildings.
A housewife, she wears a veil on which Wilders has proposed imposing a "head rag tax".
"We believe in Islam and we will continue doing so," she said.
Wilders' party campaigned to stop the "Islamisation of the Netherlands", including banning immigration from Muslim countries, the burqa and new mosques.
Wilders, who calls Islam a fascist religion and likens the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf", is known abroad for his 17-minute commentary, "Fitna", which was termed "offensively anti-Islamic" by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.
He was barred from entering Britain last year to stop him spreading "hatred and violent messages."
The centre-right Liberal Party (VVD) came first in Wednesday's poll with 31 seats, followed by the Labour PvdA with 30 -- meaning the PVV cannot be ruled out of coalition talks.
In Gouda, nearly 16 percent of the 71,000 inhabitants voted for the PVV.
"I voted for the PVV because I hope that things will change, mostly that the penalties for crime will become tougher," a 31-year-old indigenous Dutch resident of the area said.
A switchboard operator, she declined to give her name "so as not to have any problems in the neighbourhood".
"It is better to stay home at night," she insisted, adding she had recently bought a dog "to feel safer".
Wilders' party proposes stiffer penalties for crime, the creation of urban commando units, and promises to send repeat offenders of foreign origin back to their countries of origin.
"He (Wilders) is right, there has to be less crime, but that has nothing to do with Islam," Rachid Dighadouid, 30, said from behind the counter of his bakery in Oosterwei.
"One can't do anything, the people have chosen," sighed 39-year-old Hamid Sabbat, who works for the Gouda municipality.
Born in Morocco, he has lived since the age of eight in the Netherlands, where about 20 percent of the population is of foreign origin.
"It remains to be seen if other parties will align with him. If that happens, I hope just one thing: that people will realise that his party has nothing, no real programme apart from its anti-Islam stance."
"After these elections, one thing is sure: a group of people is against us," said Aicha, a 29-year-old Muslim of Moroccan origin.
"If Wilders was here, I would have asked him one simple thing: 'Leave us in peace."
AFP/ Nicolas Delaunay/ Expatica