Dutch former anti-Islam MP says he’s become a Muslim

Joram van Klaveren, left, with Geert Wilders at the Dutch parliament in The Hague, says he has converted to Islam. (AFP)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Dutch former anti-Islam MP says he’s become a Muslim

  • For years Joram van Klaveren fought a relentless campaign in the Lower House against Islam in the Netherlands
  • The 40-year-old Van Klaveren said he had changed his mind halfway through writing an anti-Islam book

THE HAGUE: A Dutch former far-right MP and right-hand man of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has set tongues wagging in the Netherlands after revealing he has converted to Islam, news reports said Tuesday.
For years Joram van Klaveren fought a relentless campaign in the Lower House against Islam in the Netherlands as a lawmaker for Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV).
At the time, the “hard-liner pleaded for banning the burqa and minarets, saying ‘we don’t want any Islam, or at least as little as possible in the Netherlands’,” the daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad (AD) said.
But the 40-year-old Van Klaveren said he had changed his mind halfway through writing an anti-Islam book, which he Tuesday told the respected NRC daily “became a refutation of objections non-Muslims have” against the religion.
“If everything I wrote up to that point is true, and I believe that, then I am a de facto Muslim,” he told the NRC.
Van Klaveren converted to Islam on October 26 last year, the NRC added in the interview piece ahead of the release of Van Klaveren’s book titled: “Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in the Time of Secular Terror.”
The former politician who grew up in an orthodox Protestant Christian environment said of his conversion that he “has been searching for a long time.”
“It feels a bit like a religious homecoming for me,” he told Dutch newspapers.
Van Klaveren could not be immediately reached for comment on Tuesday.
“His conversion has surprised both friend and enemy,” the AD newspaper said.
Van Klaveren split with Wilders in 2014 after the PVV leader’s controversial comments that year when asking supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and the Netherlands.”
Wilders in 2016 was found guilty on discrimination charges. The sentence is currently being appealed.
Van Klaveren then went on to form his own far-right party called “For Netherlands” (VNL) but left politics after failing to win a single seat in the 2017 elections.
“If this really isn’t a PR stunt to promote his book, then it really is an extraordinary choice for somebody who had a lot to say about Islam,” his former VNL co-founder Jan Roos told the AD.
“But we have religious freedom in the Netherlands. He can worship whomever he wants,” Roos added.
Said Bouharrou, who serves on the Board of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands, praised Van Klaveren.
“It is great when somebody who has been so critical of Islam... realizes that it is not so bad or perverse,” he told the AD.
“It is brave that he’s prepared to do it in public,” Bouharrou said.
Around five percent of the Dutch population of 17 million people or some 850,000 are Muslim, according to the Dutch Central Statistics Bureau (CBS).
But despite Wilders’ objections, the religion is growing, with experts expecting that number to double by 2050.
The Netherlands also last year introduced a partial burqa ban from some public places such as schools and hospitals, ending years of discussions on the hot-button issue.
Van Klaveren is not the first high-profile PVV member to convert to Islam, and follows in the footsteps of Arnoud van Doorn, a former Hague-based PVV city councillor who switched in 2013.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.