Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia announced possible sanctions against The Netherlands allegedly because of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam sticker that he launched in December 2013. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the stickers blasphemed the Saudi flag and Islam. AFP/Reuters reported:
A royal decree, made public by the Mecca chamber of commerce, bans “Dutch firms from taking part in future projects in the kingdom, whether directly or through sub-contracting”.
It also reduces to a minimum the number of visas “for Dutch companies and investors who are not part of vital projects in the kingdom.”
And it orders an end to visits by trade delegations between the two countries.
Bilateral trade was about US$5 billion in 2010 and the Netherlands was among the largest investors in Saudi Arabia, making up nearly 4 per cent of foreign direct investment that year, said the Dutch government.
In addition to trade in oil and gas, the Netherlands exports a wide range of products and technology in agriculture, machinery, chemical and petrochemical sectors to Saudi Arabia.
A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said the government was trying to contact Riyadh regarding the matter. The stickers were first printed in December.
“The cabinet strongly distanced itself from the insults Wilders first made to the Saudi flag and the religion in December,” said the spokesman. “It still does now.”
Mr. Wilders, in reaction to possible trade measures by Saudi Arabia, said the Netherlands “should have boycotted that country a long time ago”.
The controversial sticker uses the green and white colors of the Saudi flag . That flag is emblazoned with the Islamic profession of faith, the Shahada and the sword, the symbol of Jihad. The inscription on the sticker was translated into Arabic and read: “Islam is a lie. Mohammed is a crook. The Quran is poison”. The Dutch newspaper, Z 24 wrote:
Following a complaint by the National Council of Moroccans at the time of the PVV sticker campaign launch Google blocked the e -mail address where people could order the sticker. Then Wilders made a new account with another Internet company.
Deputy Premier Lodewijk Asscher called it ” a disgusting sticker with the sole purpose to hurt .” Wilders, said the intention was not to hurt, but to shock. It is not clear why Saudi Arabia would take action just now.
Perhaps Saudi Arabia is taking the action because Wilders and the Freedom Party (PVV) are tied in the lead position as the European Parliamentary elections are about to held later this week , May 22 to 25. Clearly, the Saudis are endeavoring to intimidate the Dutch electorate to desist from casting a ballot for the PVV MEP slate. That may also be a message to voters in other countries where Euro skeptic parties have Anti-Muslim immigration positions akin to those of the PVV and Wilders.
The Economist in a forecast of the upcoming European Parliamentary election noted the rise of these –Euro skeptic or “populist” parties:
To add to the drama will be the presence in the parliament of so many populist parties, most of them anti-European. These range from far-left, like Syriza in Greece and the United Left in Spain, to far-right, such as Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Golden Dawn in Greece. Britain has the UK Independence Party, Italy has Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement and the Northern League. Most central and eastern European countries have populist parties, some nastily racist. The latest polls suggest that the number of MEPs who could be classified as anti-European may rise after the election from about 140 now to more than 200, well over a quarter of the total.
The delayed Saudi reaction to the PVV anti-Islam sticker campaign launched five months ago is all about imposing a Blasphemy code. The Wahhabist Saudi government is trying to silence criticism of Islam threatening the free speech of Wilders and the liberty of those Dutch voters who are inclined towards his message. A message the PVV propounds that Muslim mass immigration in Holland harbors the seeds of homegrown terrorism on a significant scale. Soeren Kern presented that reality drawn from a Dutch intelligence report in the Hague Parliament last Month in a Gatestone Institute article, Dutch Jihadists in Syria Pose Threat to the Netherlands. He wrote:
More than 100 Dutch Muslims travelled to Syria in 2013 with the intention of taking part in jihadist activities there, and at least 20 battle-hardened jihadists have since returned to the Netherlands, posing a significant threat to national security, according to a new report published by the Dutch intelligence agency AIVD.
The AIVD annual report for 2013 was presented by Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk and AIVD head Rob Bertholee in The Hague on April 23. In contrast to previous years, when the main security threat was deemed to be a cyber-attack, the principal concern in this year’s report is the mounting threats posed by the returning jihadists, as well as by Muslim hate preachers who are using the Internet to radicalize young Dutch Muslims and incite them to violence.
The report warns that the presence of European fighters in Syria provides the jihadist groups active there with an “excellent opportunity to recruit individuals familiar with our region to commit acts of terrorism here.” In addition, returnees could “exploit their status as veterans to radicalize others in the Netherlands.” Overall, AIVD’s primary concern is about the radicalizing influence that Dutch jihadists will exert on Muslim communities in the Netherlands.
Against this evidence Wilders has attracted an increasing following among non-Muslim Dutch voters. If the PVV MEP slate comes out on top in the coming elections this week that could be a harbinger of a PVV led coalition in a future Hague parliamentary election.
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EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.