Islam in Europe: In the Casbah of Rotterdam
circulating around the Dutch mosques, "The path of the Muslim," in which he explains that the heads of homosexuals should be cut off and "hung from the highest building in the city." Next to the al Nasr mosque, we sit down at a cafe for men only. In front of us is a halal Islamic slaughterhouse. Ephimenco is the author of three essays on Holland and Islam, and today is a famous columnist for the leftist Christian newspaper "Trouw." He has the best perspective for understanding a city that, perhaps even more than Amsterdam, embodies the tragedy of Holland.
"It is not at all true that Wilders gets his votes from the fringes, everyone knows that, even though they don't say it," he tells us. "Today educated people vote for Wilders, although at first it was the lower class Dutch, the tattoo crowd. Many academics and people on the left vote for him. The problem is all of these Islamic headscarves. There's a supermarket behind my house. When I arrived, there wasn't a single headscarf. Now it's all Muslim women with the chador at the register. Wilders is not Haider. His positions are on the right, but also on the left, he's a typical Dutchman. Here there are even hours at the swimming pool set aside for Muslim women.
This is the origin of the vote for Wilders. Islamization, this foolishness with the theater, has to be stopped. In Utrecht, there is a mosque where they provide separate city services for men and women. The Dutch are afraid. Wilders is against the Frankenstein of multiculturalism. I, who used to be on the left but am no longer anything, I say we've reached the limit. I feel the ideals of the Enlightenment have been betrayed with this voluntary apartheid, in my heart I feel the death of the ideals of the equality of men and women, and freedom of expression. Here the left is conformist, and the right has the better answer to insane multiculturalism."
One of the professors at Erasmus University in Rotterdam is Tariq Ramadan, the famous Swiss Islamic scholar who is also a special adviser for the city. Some of Ramadan's statements against homosexuality were uncovered by Holland's most famous gay magazine, "Gay Krant," directed by a talkative journalist named Henk Krol. On a videocassette, Ramadan calls homosexuality "a disease, a disorder, an imbalance." On the tape, Ramadan also has comments on women, "they should keep their eyes on the ground when they're on the street." Wilders' party asked for the city council to be disbanded, and for the Islamic scholar from Geneva to be sent packing, but instead he was renewed in his post for two more years. This was happening while across the sea, the Obama administration was confirming the ban on Ramadan entering United States territory. The tapes in Krol's possession include one in which Ramadan tells women: "Allah has an important rule: if you try to attract attention through the use of perfume, or your appearance or gestures, you do not have the correct spiritual orientation."
"When Pim Fortuyn was killed, it was a shock for everyone, because a man was murdered for what he said," Krol tells us. "That was no longer my country. I'm still thinking about leaving Holland, but where can I go? Here we have been criticized by everyone, by the Catholic Church and by the Protestants. But when we criticized Islam, they answered us: you are creating new enemies!" According to Ephimenco, the street is the secret of Wilders' success: "In Rotterdam, there are three enormous mosques, one of them is the largest in Europe. There are more and more Islamic headscarves, and an Islamist impulse coming from the mosques. I know many people who have left the city center to go to the rich, white suburbs. My neighborhood is poor and black. It is a question of identity, on the streets Dutch is not spoken anymore, but Arabic and Turkish."
Let's meet the man who inherited Fortuyn's column in the newspaper "Elsevier." His name is Bart Jan Spruyt, a robust young Protestant intellectual, founder of the Edmund Burke Society, but above all the author of Wilders' "Declaration of independence," and his coworker from the beginning. "Here an immigrant no longer has to struggle, study, work, he can live at the expense of the state," Spruyt tells us. "We have ended up creating a parallel society. The Muslims are in the majority in many neighborhoods, and are asking for sharia. This isn't Holland anymore. Our use of freedom has turned back against us, it is a process of self-Islamization."
Spruyt was one of Fortuyn's close friends. "Pim said what the people had known for decades." He attacked the establishment and the journalists. It was a great relief for the people when he went into politics, they called him the 'white knight'. The last time I spoke with him, one week before he was killed, he told me he had a mission. His killing was not the act of a lone madman. In February of 2001, Pim announced that he wanted to change the first article of the Dutch constitution, on discrimination, because in his view it kills freedom of expression, and he was right. The following day in the Dutch churches, which are mostly empty and used for public meetings, the diary of Anne Frank was read as a warning against Fortuyn. Pim was truly Catholic, more than we think, in his books he spoke out against modern society without fathers, without values, empty, nihilist."
Chris Ripke is a well-known artist in the city. His studio is near a mosque in Insuindestraat. Shocked in 2004 by the murder of director Theo Van Gogh by an Dutch Islamist, Chris decided to paint an angel on wall of his studio and the biblical commandment "Gij zult niet doden," thou shalt not kill. His neighbors at the mosque found the words "offensive," and called the mayor of Rotterdam at the time, the liberal Ivo Opstelten. The mayor ordered the police to erase the painting, because it was "racist." Wim Nottroth, a television journalist, camped out on the spot in protest. The police arrested him, and his film was destroyed. Ephimenco did the same in his own window: "I put up a big white sheet with the biblical commandment. Photographers came, and the radio. If you can no longer write 'do not kill' in this country, then you are saying that we are all in prison. It is like apartheid, whites living with whites and blacks with blacks. There is a great chill. Islamism wants to change the structure of the country." For Ephimenco, part of the problem is the de-Christianization of society. "When I arrived here, during the 1960's, religion was dying, a unique event in Europe, a collective de-Christianization. Then the Muslims brought religion back to the center of social life. Aided by the anti-Christian elite."
Let's go for a stroll through the Islamized neighborhoods. In Oude Westen there are only Arabs, women clothed from head to foot, ethnic foods shops, Islamic restaurants, and shopping centers with Arabic music. "Ten years ago, you didn't see all these headscarves," Ephimenco says. Behind his house, in a flourishing middle class area with two-story houses, there is an Islamized neighborhood. There are Muslim signs everywhere. "Look at all of those Turkish flags, over there is an important church, but it's empty, no one goes there anymore." In the middle of one square stands a mosque with Arabic writing outside. "That used to be a church." Not far from here is the most beautiful monument in Rotterdam. It is a small granite statue of Pim Fortuyn. Beneath the gleaming bronze head, the mouth saying his last words on behalf of freedom of speech, there is written in Latin: "Loquendi libertatem custodiamus," let us safeguard the right to speak. Every day, someone places flowers there.
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Chiesa is a wonderful source on all things Catholic in Europe. It is skillfully edited by Sandro Magister. SANDRO MAGISTER was born on the feast of the Guardian Angels in 1943, in the town of Busto Arsizio in the archdiocese of Milan. The following day he was baptized into the Catholic Church. His wife’s name is Anna, and he has two daughters, Sara and Marta. He lives in Rome.
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