Source: Huffington Post
The fascinating case of Joram van Klaveren.
Irony is a cruel prankster. It turned a far-right politician from the Netherlands, Joram van Klaveren, from a virulent Islamophobe, who had made it his political mission to rid his country of Islam, into an unlikely convert to the religion. Van Klaveren’s epiphany occurred while he was working on a book that started off as an anti-Islam polemic but morphed into a defense of the faith.
Worse or better still (depending on your perspective), van Klaveren had not so long ago been the right-hand man of Geert Wilders, the godfather of Dutch far-right extremism. For those unfamiliar with him, Wilders is the Dutch Donald Trump.
Or more accurately, Trump is actually the American Wilders, as the Dutch anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim politician with the eccentric peroxide-blond hair who helped pioneer the brand of outrageous, publicity-seeking, substance-free “populist” far-right politics that Trump perfected. Wilders has gone from demanding the banning of the Koran, supposedly in the defense of free speech, to calling for a “head rag tax,” the complete banning of mosques, hijabs and Islamic schools, and a halt to Muslim immigration.
Wilders now lives under permanent police protection following death threats from Islamic extremists, so he was bound to view the conversion of his former “crown prince” as a betrayal. Admitting that he had “no words” to describe his dismay, Wilders colorfully likened van Klaveren’s decision to a “vegetarian working in an abattoir.”
Similarly confounded, Jan Roos, who co-founded the far-right party Voor Nederland (For the Netherlands), likened van Klaveren’s leap of faith to a “black man joining the Ku Klux Klan,” dismissing it as a “PR stunt to promote his book.”
This is nonsense. In the current political atmosphere in Europe and the United States, van Klaveren is far more likely to sell a book bashing Islam and Muslims than defending them.
And van Klaveren does run real risks. Some commentators fear that his conversion could make him the target of violence and hate crimes from neo-Nazis and the increasingly radicalized violent extremes of the far right. Moreover, his harsh criticism, now from within Islam, of how Islamist extremists twist and exploit their faith could make him a target of their violent ire, as well. And if this were an opportunistic publicity stunt and Van Klaveren were later to renounce his newfound faith, he could be the victim of death threats from fanatical Muslims who reject so-called apostasy.
But although van Klaveren’s conversion strikes his former allies as inexplicable, it is not as bizarre or surreal as it appears. He hasn’t rejected religion, after all; he’s merely changing one strain of it for another. Rather than being like a vegetarian who suddenly becomes a carnivore, van Klaveren’s change of heart is more akin to a committed soda drinker switching from Coca Cola to Pepsi.