the Netherlands

Image via RNS/Screenshot from CNN

With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.

Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.

Image via RNS/Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Dutch Muslims are breathing a sigh of relief after the worse-than-expected performance of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders in this week’s election.

“We have trust in the future” of this traditionally welcoming country, said Rasit Bal of the Muslims-Government Contact Organization, an advocacy group, which feared a victory by Wilders’ PVV party would strengthen the anti-immigrant sentiment in the Netherlands.

Kim Hjelmgaard 2-21-2017

Image via RNS/Reuters/Michael Kooren

“Dutch values are based on Christianity, on Judaism, on humanism. Islam and freedom are not compatible,” populist politician Geert Wilders, 53, said in an interview with USA Today. “You see it in almost every country where it dominates. There is a total lack of freedom, civil society, rule of law, middle class; journalists, gays, apostates — they are all in trouble in those places. And we import it.”

Image via RNS/Reuters/Marko Djurica

According to two extensive recent opinion polls, majorities across Europe are deeply concerned about Muslim immigration and support an immediate end to it, even as Europeans vastly overestimate the actual Muslim populations of their countries.

Voters in several countries back a complete immigration ban at levels notably higher than those in the United States. Anti-immigration politicians in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere are gaining ground in Western Europe.

Cathleen Falsani 12-06-2011
Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") in a holiday parade in Holland, 2

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") in a holiday parade in Holland, 2006. Photo via http://bit.ly/4rt3nE

Happy Sinterklaas?

Today marks a traditional winter holiday in Holland and other parts of the European Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Lille and Arras, predominantly) featuring Sinter Klaas, the forerunner of our Santa Claus, who is traditionally accompanied by a helper named Zwarte Piet (aka "Black Pete") — a young man in black face with curly black hair, thick red lips and dressed as a courtisan with a velvet jacket and frilled shirt.

Sinterklaas — who also goes by Sint Niklaas or De Sint in Holland and environs — was a stranger to me until a few years ago when Dutch-American friends introduced him to me. In my friends' home this morning, the children will awaken to wooden shoes filled with goodies.

Sounds like a charming holiday tradition from the old country. But is it simply that?

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