Tuesday

19th Mar 2019

Dutch PM tells people to 'act normal, or go away'

  • Dutch PM Rutte is hoping to secure an election win on 15 March but is facing stiff resistance from Geert Wilders (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The prime minister of the Netherlands has asked people to respect Dutch values or to leave the country.

In an open letter published on Tuesday (23 January) in major Dutch newspapers, Mark Rutte said that residents and citizens should "act normal, or go away."

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He said, in comments aimed at Muslims, that Dutch society had been made uncomfortable by attacks against homosexuals and women in short skirts.

"We feel a growing unease when people misuse our freedoms to spoil everything, when they have come to our country for freedom," he said.

Rutte had made similar comments earlier in the week in an interview with Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad. He told the newspaper that people who do not respect Dutch values had the choice to leave.

"If you don’t like it here, leave the country, go away. That’s a choice you have, isn’t it?", he told the paper.

The tough statements are seen as part of a larger strategy to woo voters away from the anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant Freedom party (PVV) ahead of elections on 15 March.

Rutte's liberal VVD party is hoping for a third term in government, but is trailing in polls behind the PVV.

The PVV is led by Geert Wilders, a divisive figure who was convicted by a court last month of insulting and inciting discrimination against Moroccans.

Wilders wants to impose a ban on publication of the Quran and to dismantle the European Union in favour of nation states with hard borders.

Despite his views, he claims that some people from Turkish diaspora and other Muslims support his party.

"A growing amount of Turkish Islamic people vote for my party because they feel enough is enough," he told reporters over the weekend at a far-right rally in Koblenz, Germany.

He said some 100,000 Muslims, or 10 percent of the Muslim population in the Netherlands, were ready to resort to violence to defend Islam.

"That's twice as much as the army of Holland, which is 50,000 people," he said.

Wilders is likely to find it difficult to form a coalition even if he wins the election, however, with Rutte refusing to form a government with the PVV.

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