Joram van Klaveren spent several years serving far-right and anti-Islam politics in the Netherlands. But van Klaveren, once a right-hand man to Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, took the world by surprise when he announced his conversion to Islam on October 26, 2018. Van Klaveren was a lawmaker for PVV, led by the Dutch populist Wilders, from 2010 to 2014. He was seen as Wilders’ right-hand man and was also the party’s spokesperson on Islam.
“I favoured Wilders’ policies especially on economy because he promised very low taxes, a smaller government, etc. Of course, he was critical of Islam, I was too. Because in 2004 an artist, Theo van Gogh, was killed by the people who called themselves Islamists. 9/11 and other attacks added to that. Also, in my studies Islam was taught very superficially, thus I developed a wrong view on Islam. I was thinking all Muslims wanted to kill Christians,” he said, recalling the time he joined the PVV.
Van Klaveren fought a relentless campaign against Islam for many years. “I studied comparative religion at university, that’s why I took that position, but I was the spokesperson of the party on Islam. So after Wilders I was the main person who could talk about Islam. That had lasted seven-eight years.”
But his views drastically changed during a party rally in 2014.
“Wilders asked supporters ‘do you want more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands?’ Then the crowd shouted back ‘fewer, fewer, fewer.’ Wilders smiled and answered: I’ll make sure that it will happen. Then I thought it’s not about political ideology anymore, but the idea of getting rid of an ethnic group. A lot of people thought he sounded like the Nazi [Joseph] Goebbels. I thought he was crossing a line. Then I left the party,” he said.
Van Klaveren, 40, said he had changed his views halfway through writing an anti-Islam book, which morphed into a defence of the religion.
“While I was writing the book, I started to make researches, then I wrote to Timothy Winter from Cambridge University, who got the name Abdul Hakim Murad after he converted to Islam. I thought he would not answer me because I was a far-right politician. But he did. After some conversations, he said: ‘The Islam you think you know is more like Wahhabism.’ I asked him: ‘What is real Islam then?’ He gave some book names that he wanted me to read; he sent me some other books. He answered my questions and opened the gates for me. I started re-writing my book,” van Klaveren added.
He said that all the stereotypes he had about Islam, including how they treat women “badly” or wanted to take over the world through terrorism, vanished in the months he read about Islam.
He said he discovered that many anti-Islam stories had no basis at all. “Then I started reading about Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his life. I discovered another Prophet Muhammad who was very gentle, very helpful, very understanding towards people who were not Muslims at all. Then I thought what I knew was not the real Islam,” he said.
“When I started socialising with imams in the Netherlands, they said that I slowly turned into a Muslim, ‘believe it or not you are a Muslim,’ they told me after several conversations,” van Klaveren, who grew up in an orthodox Protestant Christian environment, said.
Joram van Klaveren who for seven years in the Lower House of Netherlands did hard anti-Islam politics on behalf of the PVV. This man is now Muslim himself. He is converted. “Because that is actually what you do,” he explains, “If you pronounce the Shahadah – La ilaha illa llah, Muhammad Rasoolu llah” (There is no God but Allah and his Prophet is Muhammad). He speaks the creed from memory. But that evening in October, at his publisher’s home, Imam Mhamed Aarab, he spoke the words and said after him. He wrote only one sentence about what you felt when you made the creed: “I noticed a certain personal joy and peace.”
It is heartening to hear this former confidant of Geert Wilders pronounced the Shahadah. This is the man who used to say ‘Islam is a lie’ and ‘the Qur’ān is poison’. Who did not get tired of repeating that Islam is an ideology of terror, death and destruction. He initiated the so-called ‘Moroccan debate’ in the House of Representatives, calling attention to the high proportion of Moroccan-Dutch boys to crime. He finally broke up with the PVV in 2014 when Wilders made his notorious ‘less, less, less’ statements. “I thought that went too far.” He remained, in the very anti-Islam politicians – Van Klaveren / Bontes Group. He sought to amend laws in order to ban the Qur’ān and Islamic education, and even to completely eradicate Islam from the Netherlands.
When asked how his family reacted to his decision, he said: My wife accepts that I am a Muslim. If you are happy about that, she finds, I do not stop you. Incidentally, she never felt the repugnance I felt for Islam. She was not so happy that I was with the PVV. But it is your journey, she said. She does not feel the need to go with that. My daughters are still too young to talk about this. Some thought I went crazy. But my brother and my wife said that they feel happy for me. My grandfather is very religious. He is in sick bed now that’s why I hesitated. But he woke up one day and I was all over the news. He was in shock. Old political friends were not happy. Wilders told me that he sees me as ‘a vegetarian working in a slaughterhouse.’
Van Klaveren has written a book about his journey, titled: Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in times of secularisation and terror. This book is a co-publication by ‘t Kennishuys and Sunni Publications and is now available at Amazon. The turning point in his journey from being a critic of Islam to becoming Muslim took place when Van Klaveren began writing a book that was critical of Islam. “As I was writing, I increasingly encountered matters that challenged my views of Islam.”
This publication includes forewords by the renowned scholars Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Mark Hanson) and Professor Abdal Hakim Murad (Timothy Winter) and is an important enrichment to ‘t Kennishuys’ and Sunni Publications’ collection of books about Islam. “With this book we hope to help clear up the many misconceptions about Islam and prevent the polarisation within our society,” states Mohamed Ben Hammouch (chairman of ‘t Kennishuys).