Students fact check Wilders' anti-Islam statments

Geert Wilders
Geert Wilders. Wouter Engler / Wikimedia Commons

In an interview with WNL over the weekend PVV leader Geert Wilders claimed that "we are losing the Netherlands". As examples he said that "schools often only serve halal food. Our holidays, Christmas and Easter, we're not allowed to celebrate anymore, according to some people". A group of Journalism students in Leiden decided to fact check these two statements and concluded that they are nonsense, RTL Nieuws reports.

The students contacted 114 high schools, a sixth of all high schools in the Netherlands, and asked about what food they serve in the canteens - non-halal, both halal and non-halal or only halal. The schools that participated were from all over the country and on all high school levels (practical, VMBO, HAVO and VWO)

The results were that 67 schools don't serve halal meat at all, 35 schools serve both and only one school serves only halal food. There were also 11 schools that don't have a cafeteria and 11 that did not respond to the questions. The statement that "schools often only serve halal food" is therefore untrue. What exactly Wilders meant with "often" is up for argument. But the students conclude that 1 out of 114 likely doesn't apply.

While Wilders' statement about Christian holidays did not expressly refer to schools, the students decided to quiz the schools about the topic while they were busy. 99 of the 114 schools celebrate Christmas every year.. Easter is less popular, with 66 schools celebrating it. This may also have to do with the age of high school students, who likely don't find hunting for Easter eggs fun anymore.

Newspaper NRC also decided to fact check two of Wilders statements. The first came from the same WNL interview. Wilders claimed that over the past five years more than 100 thousand people from Islamic countries entered the Netherlands. "A toxic combination of mass immigration and Islamization", he added. 

NRC checked the validity of that statement based on Statistics Netherlands migrants records for 2010 to 2015. In that period 343,059 people from non-Western countries moved to the Netherlands and 685,009 people from Western countries. As not all countries in Africa and Asia are predominantly Muslim, NRC checked the Statistics Netherlands figures against the 57 mostly Islamic countries that are members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Nine countries appeared on both lists. Adding the immigrants from those countries together, NRC concluded that between 2010 and 2015 a total of 111,379  migrants from Muslim countries came to the Netherlands. Making Wilders statement that more than 100,000 people from Muslim countries came to the Netherlands in five years true. Though the figures can draw no conclusion about the Netherlands being "Islamized" by immigration. 

Another statement NRC checked is Wilders saying that "the PVV has strong support from Dutch Muslims". In an interview with Rick Nieman, Wilders was asked whether Dutch Muslims are frightened by the PVV's message. "You'll be surprised how much support my party has in that group", Wilders said. "We are the fist party among Antilleans, second among the Surinamese, and I even believe the third among Turks and the fourth among Moroccans."

NRC decided to check a number of polls. A poll published by research firm Kantar TNS in December showed results consistent with what Wilders said. This poll was done among 1,900 people. And researcher Tim de Beer warns that the poll was not fully representative of the four groups Wilders mentioned. "We can't be as certain as Wilders based on our figures, but it is true that the PVV does something among Turkish and Moroccan Dutch", he said to the newspaper.

The "Ethno Barometer", done by two professors and based on unrepresentative interviews with people on the street, shows the PVV as the eight party among Turkish Dutch with 2 pct of those votes, seventh among Moroccan Dutch (2 pct), fourth among Antillean Dutch (9 pct) and indeed second among Surinamese Dutch (14 pct).

I&O Research does not publish a breakdown of the background of those polled. But researcher Peter Kanne was able to give NRC a breakdown. "With Surinamese and Antillean Dutch the PVV is in the top two behind the SP", he said. "Among the Moroccan Dutch only 2 percent would vote PVV, the Turkish 0 percent."

The validity of Wilders' statement about support from Muslim groups in the Netherlands therefore depends on what poll you look at. NRC therefore concluded that it is half-true. 

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