The west is a danger for Islam
Islam is not a danger to Europe and the West, but the other way around. At least according to Frits Bolkestein, former leader of the free-market liberal VVD party and now one of the Netherlands' elder statesmen.A politician who has always fancied himself an intellectual, Mr Bolkestein has been making the rounds promoting his latest book, The Intellectual Seduction: Dangerous Ideas in Politics.
Death of multiculturalism
At a reading in Amsterdam, he was typically blunt. He disparaged cultural relativism, claiming that Western culture is superior to other cultures. He called for leaders in Europe to stand up for fundamental Western values such as freedom of expression and individualism. He says he doesn't need French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, or British Prime Minister David Cameron to tell him that the multicultural society is dead (as they all did within the past 12 months). Mr Bolkestein himself claims to have kicked off the debate on multiculturalism when he said the same thing in the Netherlands twenty years ago.
These sentiments are shared by Dutch populist Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who emerged as a young politician under Mr Bolkestein's leadership. But the elder statesman now has some fundamental disagreements with his former protégé.
Wilders' theme is 'nonsense'
For one thing, Mr Bolkestein believes the integration of non-Western immigrants in the Netherlands has passed an important threshold, and is now going well. One example: women from Turkish and Moroccan origin now have fewer children, on average, than native Dutch women.
But Mr Bolkestein was the most dismissive of Geert Wilders' central theme, that Islam poses a threat to Western civilisation.
'I think that's nonsense. To the contrary, it is us with our ideas, our ideals of individualism and secularism which constitute a danger to Islam. That's why they react so strongly.'
Mr Bolkestein says the attacks in New York, London and Madrid were acts of desperation, not shows of force. They demonstrated the Islamic world's current weakness in the face of Western culture. While the Islamic world at one time was powerful and prosperous, that is no longer the case. Young Muslims now look to the West for inspiration and want to study and live in Western countries.
Who we are
Mr Bolkestein also dismisses the idea that resentment for the West in the Islamic world has its roots in military campaigns such as the US-led war against Iraq, or support for Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.
'The ill-feeling from the Islamic world for the West is not for something we have done, but for who we are, and we can't change that.'
Copyright Radio Netherlands World