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Anti-Islamists, anti-racists, clowns and police perform on Dam Square

Alex van Veen

26 January 2008 - Forty protestors who had come to express their dissatisfaction with Islam, eighty persons who had come to protest against the anti-Islam protestors, and over one hundred policemen to guard the public peace. A group of vague clowns frolicked merrily about.

As usual, Dam Square was full of street performers this afternoon. A wide circle of onlookers followed the performance of a fire eater slash juggler. Nearby, citizens were protesting against racism, also being watched by interested passers-by and a few journalists.

However, most attention was drawn by an isolated group of at most forty protestors who, standing by the wall of the palace, were surrounded for security reasons by a cordon of some fifty policemen of the peace detachment (a specialised unit for dealing with mass protests), a dozen mounted policemen, a few dozen under cover agents and an estimated sixty journalists, photographers and camera crews. And as if this was not yet enough, the group’s flanks were defended by two platoons of riot police.

One might almost suspect (right-wing politician) Geert Wilders to be among the protestors, but not really; it was a group of concerned citizens who have their own ideas about the danger presented by the ‘Islamisation of society’. ‘No sharia in the Netherlands’, ‘No racism, no Islamism’, and ‘SIOE Netherlands: Stop Islamisation. Enough is enough’ were among the slogans written at the signs as well as a few banners.

SIOE stands for Stop Islamisation of Europe, a new international ‘network’ founded in Denmark by the far-right politician Anders Gravers. The initiative was a response to the Mohammed cartoons controversy in the Danish media. The SIOE is a one-issue protest movement, specifically targeting the growing influence of Islam. Its main objective is to prevent the Islam becoming a dominant political force in Europe.

The latter cause, which almost anyone who values freedom will agree with, of course attracts far-right types. However, there were hardly any signs of this at the Dam, apart from the presence of Ben van der Kooij, member of the National Alliance. Meanwhile, SIOE wants nothing to do with this kind of people, as earlier newspaper interviews with the founders made clear. At the website, racism is rejected as ‘the lowest form of human stupidity’, whereas ‘Islamophobia’ is seen as ‘the culmination of common sense’...

The club is yet another product of the Fortuyn movement: it expresses the discontent felt by many in society, even though only a few actually turn out to protest. However, by systematically emphasising the criminal practices performed by Muslim fanatics in this country, fed by fear and perhaps anti-Arab and nationalist sentiments, a basis for extreme tendencies is being created. But one can hardly say that this club poses a threat.

The ‘Stop the Witch Hunt Against Muslims’ committee (no, for once not the International Socialists, although one might think so after reading the pamphlet they handed out) was launched this week with the purpose of taking a stand at the Dam against SIOE’s ‘manipulative populism’. “We don’t think that fanning an irrational fear for a minority that is still being oppressed across Europe is the way to arrive at a constructive answer to society’s problems in a globalising world”, the committee states.

The committee further finds that the ‘over-simplified views of SIOE contribute to polarisation, intolerance and fanning feelings of fear that create support for the continuation and expansion of wars in the Middle East”. Suggesting that the SIOE contributes to polarisation is giving this marginal club too much credit. Without the counter manifestation the press, of course expecting a riot, would not have turned up in such massive numbers.

When the SIOE manifestation reached its end (ever seen such a ramshackle ‘sound’ system?), suddenly a dozen clowns turned up, making a striking argument in favour of waging wars, like the one against ‘Absurdistan’. Were we expected to make the connection between anti-Islam and war? I don’t know. The clowns, part of the RebelAct group, wanted to join the SIOE protestors, but policemen prevented that. In the end, the clowns held a ‘bed in’ and fell asleep holding on to pillows in the arms of bewildered policemen. A cute scene.

This article was written originally for Ravage Digitaal. Indymedia, SIOE, Ravage Digitaal, RebelAct


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