Former anti-Muslim Dutch politician converts to Islam
LONDON - Former anti-Muslim Dutch MP Joram van Klaveren announced he had converted to Islam, becoming the second former member of the Netherlands’ far-right Party for Freedom (PVV) to embrace the religion the party railed against.
Van Klaveren said he converted to Islam last October while researching an anti-Islam book.
“I thought, ‘If everything I have written so far is correct -- if I believe all that -- then I am de facto a Muslim’,” he told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad.
“In previous years I developed a great aversion to Islam. If you then conclude that you are not right, that is not fun but, as a God-seeker, I always felt a certain unrest and that gradually disappeared,” he said.
“It [converting to Islam] felt a bit like coming home, in a religious sense.”
Van Klaveren told of his conversion ahead of releasing a book titled “Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in the Time of Secular Terror.”
As an MP for Geert Wilders’ far-right PVV, van Klaveren was an outspoken critic of Islam. He said he felt bad for promoting divisive discourse about Islam during his time with the party, which he left in 2014 to form his own political group.
He quit politics in 2017 after his group, which was also on the far right, failed to win a seat in the country’s parliamentary elections.
“I have contributed to creating and maintaining that bad image of Islam but you cannot imagine how preconceptions work until you have to deal with them yourself,” he said.
In comments to Algemeen Dagblad, van Klaveren said: “I only looked politically at faith, not religious and, yes, that was polarising, that is regrettable afterward.”
Van Klaveren is the second high-profile former PVV member to convert to Islam. The Hague City Councillor Arnoud van Doorn announced his conversion in 2013.
Van Doorn welcomed van Klaveren’s conversion, posting on Twitter: “I never thought that the PVV would be a breeding pond for [Muslim] converts.”
Anti-Muslim sentiment is entrenched in many European countries, including the Netherlands. Wilders’ populist anti-Muslim PVV was second in the 2017 elections, winning 13% of the vote.
The Dutch Central Statistics Bureau said approximately 5% of the country’s population of 17 million say they Muslim.
Van Klaveren denied that his conversion was PR stunt for his new book. “You do not set aside your faith to sell a book,” he said.
Many Muslims were quick to praise van Klaveren’s announcement.
“This should encourage others to self-study on Islam,” posted a Dutch Twitter user, who mentioned both van Klaveren and van Doorn’s conversions. “The image being promoted of Islam in the West by the PVV does not correspond to the true image found in authentic sources.”
“Wow. Great news from the Netherlands. Slap in the face for Geert Wilders and his followers,” tweeted another.