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  • Fortuyn, Van Gogh, Hirsi AliWhy the Unholy Trinity Was Driven Out of the Netherlands
  • Henri Beunders (bio)

“Vulnerability” and “tolerance” are pretty vague notions. A lot of suggestions, images, and good intentions cling to them, while scientific clarity is virtually absent.

The same goes for the Netherlands. Abroad, my country had the image of a tolerant, liberal, and free society, a place where things could be said and done that were forbidden elsewhere. So the question is: how on earth did this country turn into a battlefield due to a clash of civilizations almost overnight?

I will try to explain to you how and why in the past decades the Netherlands became so vulnerable that in 2002 a political revolt broke out quite unexpectedly, a revolt that lasted for years and still is not over yet. The crisis resulted in two people becoming victims of political killings, while a third had to flee the country. Because all three of these people were liberal individualists who criticized two types of religion—the political-cultural left, or “Red Church,” and fundamentalist Islam—I will refer to them as the unholy trinity, an unholy trinity that had to be exorcized to restore the peace.

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are key factors in the Dutch crisis. Cultural wars and mimetic rivalry are other factors. Americanization and the advent of the multicultural society are the forces profondes. [End Page 201]

I: Tolerance and the Dutch Constitution

Let us talk briefly about tolerance first. Everybody seems to be in favor of it, except when we collectively decide we must not tolerate things, like drunk driving, smoking in public buildings, and so on.

In the present Dutch constitution, created in 1983, article 1 begins with these sentences: “All persons in the Netherlands shall be treated equally in equal circumstances. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, belief, political opinion, race, or sex or on any other grounds whatsoever shall not be permitted.”1

In essence, the constitution states that a colored Dutchman has the right to be treated in the same way as a white one. This has, however, nothing to do with tolerance. Tolerance means that a dominant group permits a nondominant group to have opinions or lifestyles that seem to deviate from the usual order. If we ask natives to be tolerant toward exotic immigrants, this implies hierarchy. There is a group that tolerates, and there is a group that is tolerated. In the strict sense of the word, tolerance implies discrimination and is therefore hostile to the constitution.

As a Dutch historian once remarked, every philosopher who thought about these things, like John Locke, Mirabeau, or Thomas Paine, knew that the notion of religious tolerance is useless if you assume all men by nature to have inviolable rights anyway, like those of freedom of thought, expression, and religion.2

Of course, a nation-state has to be intolerant sometimes, for instance, when freedom of religion is used to undermine the state, when, for example, the state is promoting violence, which in democratic societies is the monopoly of the state. This is a matter of principle. The rest is a matter of political debate.

At this point we have to conclude that trying to give meaning to a word such as tolerance can be very complicated and confusing, and that such a word has to be used very carefully. The same goes for all those other container words, like racism, fascism, populism, and so forth, that have been used so frequently in recent decades to label and scapegoat people and things that are feared or simply disliked. But words are important.

The idle and gratuitous manner in which container words of this kind are used to denounce “the enemy” represents the other side of the so-called liberal, “tolerant” society of the Netherlands. All this name calling definitely keeps you from researching and facing the things that are really going on. During the 1990s, this name calling resulted in the dominance of political correctness, a phenomenon that leaves no room for doubt as to who the angels and devils are in society, and it implies that there is no need to look...


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