This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of March, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: Several incidents throughout March
Media outlet: Social media, Twitter and Facebook
Politician: Sam van Rooy, member of parliament for the Vlaams Belang party
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Sam van Rooy is a politician belonging to the Vlaams Belang party. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook, on which he has 14,300 and 3576 followers respectively. This month he posted several pieces of content which included anti-Muslim sentiments. On March 11th, van Rooy shared a video on Facebook from a parliamentary discussion, using it to push the ‘truth’ about mass-immigration and Islamisation. On March 20th, he shared a video on Twitter which showed migrants at the Greek border. Along with the video he wrote: "Look at all these poor Syrian families, at the Greek border of Europe, ready to Islamise West-Europe." One day later on Facebook, the politician shared an article from Dutch newspaper Telegraaf, which explains how in the suburbs of Paris, some people are not following government guidance in regard to the coronavirus. Whilst the article does not detail any information regarding the specific people not following these rules, van Rooy states: “It is Allah who rules there, not the government. Islamization.”
Myth debunked: There is a very clear and worrying theme to van Rooy’s posts: consistent anti-Muslim sentiments and claims about Islamisation in Belgium, and Europe in general. In far-right circles, Islamisation refers to the supposed expanding Muslim population gaining control of Europe, resulting in a Muslim take over. These ideas are often linked with birth rates and mass-immigration, and are often the foundation for anti-Muslim hate. The ideas themselves are extremely worrying, but what is even more so, is that they are coming from an influential politician. Van Rooy’s influence has recently grown in the political sphere, as he was promoted to spokesperson of the Antwerp branch of Vlaams Belang and member of the Flemish parliament, as well as in the Flemish media. In January, Get The Trolls Out! highlighted how van Rooy was given a platform in Flemish newspaper De Standaard, and allowed to say things like “Van Rooy, nicknamed ‘Sam Islam’, places the Koran on an equal level with Mein Kampf, calls mosques" barracks of jihad, and predicted a religious war in his book,” without any context or criticism. It seems that van Rooy has moved from more extremist blogs, like Doorbraak.be, to mainstream platforms. With this switch comes a mainstreaming of his ideas, making terms like ‘Islamisation’ appear normal and accepted as the truth. His followers see him use these narratives time and time again, and with his increasing prominence, this can become very dangerous. It is therefore vital to continue to monitor this politician. The situation is critical as this exposes how the standards in Flanders of tolerance and respect for minorities are dropping, which in turn undermines pluralism - a necessary feature in a well-functioning democracy - in Flanders.
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