Death in Rotterdam: Tolerance Takes Its Toll

Chuck Colson | Chairman of Prison Fellowship Ministries | Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Death in Rotterdam: Tolerance Takes Its Toll

Pim Fortuyn, a controversial Dutch politician, was recently assassinated as he left a radio interview. Fortuyn's murder left the Netherlands, which prides itself on being the most "tolerant" society in the world, in a state of shock.

Fortuyn was controversial for his publicly stated misgivings about the cultural impact of Islamic immigration. In fact, he wrote on the subject in a book titled "Against the Islamicization of Our Culture." While Fortuyn had called Islam a "backward religion," he denied that he was either anti-Islam or anti-immigration.

Instead his concern was the effects on Dutch society caused by continuing to admit, as he wrote, "millions more immigrants from rural Muslim cultures that don't assimilate." He questioned the compatibility of Islam with western political and social values. Holland has recently seen Muslim immigrants burning down synagogues and marching through Dutch streets holding signs with anti-Semitic slogans. Fortuyn rightly saw this as a rejection of western democratic ideals.

Fortuyn's writings, a sin against political correctness, caused him to be labeled a "neo- fascist" and to be lumped together with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the French extremist. In fact, Fortuyn was an openly gay man who would be considered very liberal here. He favored gay rights, drug legalization, and euthanasia.

While Fortuyn was wrong about many things, it's clear that, unlike most European elites -- and American elites -- Fortuyn understood the challenges posed by the Islamic worldview. He referred to himself as the "Samuel Huntington of Dutch politics," a reference to Huntington's book The Clash of Civilizations. Huntington, a Harvard professor, argues that this century's great conflicts will be between civilizations, like Islam and the West.

Europe is particularly vulnerable in this clash of civilizations for both economic and cultural reasons. Economically, Europe's low birth rates and its aging population make it dependent on Islamic immigrants to maintain its standard of living, and this economic dependence is reinforced by Europe's reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

Western Europe's vulnerability is compounded culturally by its spiritual and social condition. Europe's post-Christian culture has embraced postmodern ideas, like relativism and multiculturalism to a greater extent even than we have.

This makes it difficult for Europeans to critique and criticize Islamic ideas even when those ideas threaten treasured values, like democracy and tolerance. As a result, it's not Islamic radicals, but Fortuyn and those like him who are treated as pariahs because of a crushing fear of appearing intolerant.

While American culture hasn't reached this point, we're on the same trajectory. After giving a speech in which I pointed out the theological differences between Islam and Christianity, I found my remarks being called dangerous and intolerant in the national press.

In the clash of civilizations, the West seems bent on unilateral disarmament -- that is, unless people are willing to risk being ostracized by their neighbors who have a badly misshapen notion of tolerance. But that's exactly what Christians are called to do - speak the truth in love.

While I would never suggest Fortuyn is a role model, certainly not for Christians, there is a lesson here to be learned: Doing what's right often requires saying precisely those things our neighbors can't or won't hear.

For further reading:

  • Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Touchstone, 1998).
  • Pim Fortuyn, Against the Islamicization of Our Culture (A. W. Bruna, 1997).
  • BreakPoint Commentary no. 020430, "Truth in the Closet."
  • David Brooks, "The 'Fascist' and the 'Activist,'" Weekly Standard, 20 May 2002.
  • Rod Dreher, "Murder in Holland," National Review Online, 7 May 2002.
  • "Dutch far-right leader shot dead," BBC News, 6 May 2002.
  • Kirsty Lang, "Pim Fortuyn: Maverick Dutch right-winger poised for success," London Guardian, 8 May 2002.

Copyright 2002 Prison Fellowship Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Visit the Breakpoint website at http://www.breakpoint.org.

For more information about Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship Ministries, visit http://www.prisonfellowship.

 


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