Netherlands: Minister Warns Islamic Law Could Happen Via Democracy
In a bizarre statement made today, the Netherlands' Justice Minister, Piet Hein Donner, has suggested that Sharia law could become possible via democratic procedures. Donner is from the Christian Democrats, and his comments conflict with those made by the party's leader last year and this year.
Expatica reports that in abook published today called Het land van haat en nijd (Land of hate & malice) Donner (pictured) had said in an interview: "Muslims, just like Protestants and Roman Catholics, have a right to the perceptions of their religion, even if that included dissenting rules of behaviour such as imams refusing to shake hands with women."
The book is written by two journalists, Margalith Kleijwegt and Max van Weezel who write for the weekly Vrij Nederland.
Donner continued in the published interview: "It must be possible for Muslim groups to come to power via democratic means. Every citizen may argue why the law should be changed, as long as he sticks to the law. It is a sure certainty for me: if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist. Could you block this legally? It would also be a scandal to say 'this isn't allowed!'. The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy."
According to NIS News, Donner also said that "a tone that I do not like has crept into the political debate. A tone of: 'Thou shalt assimilate. Thou shalt adopt our values in public. Be reasonable, do it our way'. That is not my approach."
He was referring indirectly to an incident last year when Rita Verdonk, the Immigration and Integration Minister criticized an imam of a mosque when, on her visit, he refused to shake her hand. On June 3 Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands had visited the Mobarak Mosque in the Hague, to commemorate the building's 50th anniversary. As well as removing her shoes, the Queen refrained from extending her hand to the male Muslims present. According to the book, Donner approved of the Queen's decision not to shake hands. Today, a copy of the book will be handed to Rita Verdonk.
Earlier this year, Maxime Jacques Marcel Verhagen, head of the Christian Democratic Party (CDA) had said: "We call for Islamic schools and Islamic parties as long as they adhere to Dutch law and Dutch values and norms. But we cannot tolerate Islamic lawmaking alongside the Dutch." As we reported in April, Verhagen had called for a ban on any parties which advocated Sharia law in the Netherlands.
Donner's comments have created hostile reactions from Holland's politicians. Geert Wilders of the Freedom Party said that the justice minister should be upholding the values and principles of Dutch society and resisting what he termed "barbarous Sharia Law". Wilders said the minister would be faced with a vote of no confidence if he stuck to this notion.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, an MP from the PvdA (Labour party), the largest opposition party, said: "The Minister for Justice must invest his energies in opposing these sorts of opinions rather than signalling that such ideas can form part of our democracy."
Donner has been defending himself from such complaints. He said: "People are now trying to suggest I am for the introduction of Sharia. That is not the case," and confirmed that aspects of Sharia conflicted with the Dutch constitution. But he said that if enough people wanted Sharia, then the Constitution wold have to change.
If he seriously thinks any aspect of Islamic law should be acceptable in a Western democracy, he is supporting an abandonment of all the principles Holland lives by. Even at its mildest, in "family law" issues, sharia is deeply sexist and "unconstitutional". Would any democracy allow women to be stoned to death for adultery?
In the coalition government which was reformed after the Hirsi Ali/Verdonk fiasco, the CDA's partners are the Liberal Party (VVD). Frans Weekers of the VVD said that his party did not want to make more of the statements than was necessary.
The Greens, in the form of MP Naïma Azough were contemptuous of Donner's observations. She said: "I don't think any Muslim has gone to Donner to ask for Sharia Law. His words were totally hypothetical and actually inane. They don't add anything to the debate."
UPDATE: Reuters states that Geert Wilders has called for an emergency parliamentary debate tomorrow morning, to discuss Donner's comments. Holland has a population of 16 million, with 1 million of these (6%) being Muslim. The figure is expected to rise to maybe 8% in 2020 according to a study published in the Netherlands, but not to rise much more than that. It will never reach the magical "66%" that Donner is talking of.
Immigration minister Rita Verdonk said: "Our democracy is much more than the might of the majority. People fought for years for fundamental values. These jar with Sharia. I trust in the fact that we will stick by fundamental values such as the equality of man and woman in our democracy."