A former far-right Dutch lawmaker and right-hand man of notorious anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has announced his unexpected conversion to Islam.
The 40-year-old Joram Van Klaveren said he had changed his mind and views halfway through writing an anti-Islam book, according to news reports on Tuesday.
The former politician told a Dutch radio program he came across many things “that made my view on Islam falter.”
“During that writing, I encountered more and more things that shook my vision of Islam,” he said.
Van Klaveren who grew up in an orthodox Protestant Christian environment said he “has been searching for a long time.”
“It feels a bit like a religious homecoming for me,” he added.
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). He served as a member of parliament for the PVV from 2010 to 2014.
Van Klaveren resigned after PVV leader Wilders’ racist remarks about Moroccans and set up his own party called “For Netherlands” (VNL), but he abandoned politics in 2017.
Van Klaveren is not the first high-profile PVV member to convert to Islam. Prior to him, Arnoud van Doorn, another former PVV member, also became a Muslim.
In a recent post on Twitter, Van Doorn praised van Klaveren, saying he never thought that he would see so many converts from his former party.
Van Klaveren’s conversion to Islam deals a blow to Wilders’ policies who has also expressed firm support for anti-refugee campaigns across Europe.
Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders once again stirs tensions through a move that targets Islam and Muslims.
In the video released in both Dutch and English, he urged the Dutch government to shut the country’s borders to all “asylum-seekers from Muslim countries.”
According to the Dutch Central Statistics Bureau (CBS), around five percent of the Dutch population of 17 million people or some 850,000 are Muslim.
But despite Wilders’ objections, the religion is growing, with experts expecting that number to double by 2050.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise across Europe in recent years in the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe. The attacks were carried out by the Daesh sympathizers or the terror group’s members who returned home following their defeat in Iraq and Syria.
Muslim leaders in Europe and around the world have reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, there are fears that Europe’s Muslim minority is facing increased persecution as some fail to differentiate between Muslims and those who join or support terror groups such as the Daesh.
The French parliament on Thursday voted to extend the state of emergency until November.
France — which is home to about five million Muslims — has shut dozens of mosques in recent years. Several European countries have also taken a series of punitive measures against Muslims by banning Islamic veil and other religious Symbols.