Dutch politicians rejected Turkish accusations of racism on Wednesday with social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher saying the criticism was “ill-informed and inappropriate.”
Opposition parties were even less ceremonious in their response. The Christian Democrats said the Turkish accusations were “bizarre.” Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam politician who advocates a Dutch withdrawal from the European Union, fulminated that the criticism was “unacceptable” and called on foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders to demand an explanation from the Turkish ambassador in the country.
Earlier in the day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry had put out a statement that expressed concern about what it described as “aggressive and racist accusations toward Turks that are part of Dutch society.”
“We have difficulty in understanding why these racist attacks, which are incompatible with our long history with the Dutch nation, have been on the agenda recently,” said Tanju Bilgiç, a spokesman.
The criticism came after Asscher announced he would step up monitoring of Turkish interest groups in the Netherlands which he worries do little to promote the integration of the European country’s 2 percent Turkish minority. Instead, their priority is “strengthening Turkish-Islamic identity,” he said, which could lead Turkish immigrants and their descendants to “distance themselves from Dutch customs, norms and values.”
Polls show citizens of Turkish descent are less likely to share the country’s liberal values on gender equality and gay rights than are native Dutch.
Earlier this month, one study also found that 87 percent of Dutch-Turkish youngsters approved of the Islamic State militant organization when just a month earlier, the Netherlands had joined an international coalition to fight the group in Iraq. Turkish interest groups in the Netherlands, some of which are financed by the Turkish state, questioned the study’s methods.
Two Labor parliamentarians, who shared that skepticism, were expelled from the party last week after criticizing Asscher’s policy.
Dutch-Turkish relations were earlier rocked when Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the adoption of a Dutch-Turkish boy by a lesbian couple last year. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party said at the time the Turkish outrage over the adoption showed the country wasn’t ready to join the European Union.
In 2012, the Netherlands deployed Patriot missile defense systems to NATO ally Turkey’s border with Syria. Conservative Dutch media have called on Rutte’s government to withdraw those systems.