The populist politician Geert Wilders failed to score victory for his far-right party in this week’s Netherlands elections, but that hasn’t stopped Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu from lumping all Dutch parties into the same category and declaring “wars of religion” are looming in Europe.
“Many parties have received a similar share of votes. Seventeen percent, 20 percent, there are a lot of parties like this, but they are all the same,” Çavuşoğlu said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya on Thursday, Reuters reported. “There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands.”
According to the Turkish official, “they all have the same mindset” and that mindset is propelling Europe towards “wars of religion” in the very near future.
Wilders’ second-place to center-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy on Wednesday was perceived as a triumph for European progressives fearing a far-right domino effect. But it seems to have done little to simmer growing tensions between the two countries.
Last weekend Dutch officials, citing “security concerns,” prohibited Çavuşoğlu from entering the Netherlands to attend a pro-referendum rally in the largely immigrant city of Rotterdam.
President Tayyip Erdoğan too has made his criticism of the Dutch government well-known, accusing them of behavior akin to “Nazi remnants” at a recent rally. He also condemned the European Union for failing obligations regarding visa-free travel for Turks. However, senior EU officials have stated that Turkey is not delivering sufficiently on reforms to meet the terms of a migration deal that would allow Turks visa-free travel into the European Union, falling short specifically in the realm of appropriate terrorism legislation.
Europe’s Muslim population is steadily increasing, from four to six percent between 1990 and 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Turkey – a Muslim majority country – is formally secular. Yet Erdoğan – who founded and heads the Islamist-based AKP Party – has endeavored to bring religion back into the focus of public life.