It emerged that earlier that day al-Haddad had refused to let a woman sit beside him on a TV show. Asked now about women’s rights, al-Haddad insisted that men and women, being different, have different rights; that obliging women to wear headscarves is not an act of oppression any more than parking rules in Britain are; and that “women’s rights” need to be viewed in context. A woman in the audience was given an opportunity to express her own shock at al-Haddad’s views on women: “I am really amazed at the way you think!” For a while, Albrecht gave up his seat onstage to her. “Who gives you the right,” she asked al-Haddad, “where do you get the right, to discuss women’s rights?”
I was shocked too. I was shocked that in the year 2012, these Dutch infidels – intellectual infidels – professed to be shocked, and indeed gave every indication of being sincerely shocked, when they heard a recognized Islamic authority spell out basic facts of Islamic belief. These are the same basic facts that Geert Wilders has been talking about for years. It was for daring to speak these facts – for, in effect, reporting on the same barbaric beliefs and practices that al-Haddad was now not only describing but defending – that Wilders had been hauled into court on charges of having insulted al-Haddad’s faith. Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wilders – all of them had been reviled around the world as Islamophobes for stating these same facts. But on that evening at De Balie it was almost as if none of these critics of Islam had ever opened their mouths.
By the end of the evening, al-Haddad had made it absolutely clear that he supported the gradual implementation of sharia law in the West – starting with relatively innocuous-seeming stuff like divorce tribunals and Islamic finance, then moving bit by bit into ever more serious territory. One particularly depressing development was that after an hour or so of listening to al-Haddad, Dibi admitted that he had caught himself feeling that al-Haddad, being a scholar, must be right about Islam after all. I’ve often felt that a major reason why less observant, essentially secularized Muslims like Dibi are so hesitant to speak out against the likes of al-Haddad (aside from sheer terror) is that some small voice deep inside whispers to them that he’s the real thing – the good Muslim, a man whose pious certitude, and unwavering devotion to the Prophet shame their own co-optation by infidel decadence.
It was at around this point that Geert Wilders and the Freedom Party entered the discussion – indirectly, to be sure. “Some people in Parliament,” said Dibi, “I don’t want to name the party again, think that men like yourself are slowly colonizing the West – they’re pretending to be nice, pretending to be intellectuals, but secretly they are trying to take over.” Al-Haddad asked Dibi if he had allowed himself to be brainwashed by such silliness. “No,” Dibi was quick to insist, “I don’t believe that” – even though he had just spent over an hour listening to al-Haddad confirm these very warnings. Dibi’s next question suggested that he was, indeed, after the evening’s workout, a torn, confused, and, yes, cowed young man: “Are you slowly, step by step, trying to implement sharia as a scholar?” “Yes,” the scholar replied, “if the people request it.”
Certainly the audience at De Balie that evening was packed with sharia fans. They cheered al-Haddad’s attacks on the West; they applauded his praise of Islamic law. Every outburst of boisterous support for the imam’s ugly sentiments only reaffirmed things that Geert Wilders has been saying for years. But nobody at De Balie that evening – including Bessems, who from beginning to end made clear his utter hostility to al-Haddad’s views – even wanted to mention Wilders’s name.
Note: The author apologizes for misspelling Kustaw Bessems’s name and for accepting indications online that he is connected to the Labor Party. The piece has been corrected accordingly.
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