Arnoud van Doorn: from anti-Islamic film-maker to hajj pilgrim
Why is a former member of Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic Party for Freedom – who made a film claiming Muslims are violent – tweeting from Mecca? Name: Arnoud Van Doorn Age: 47. Appearance: White robes, white hat. Nice. Is he some sort of Dutch medical orderly? Nope. These days he also sports a beatific smile. He could be a happy medical orderly. He isn’t. He’s a happy Muslim. Good for him. Why is that? Because he is currently doing the hajj. Is that like the Netherlands‘ hokey-cokey? Again, no. It’s the pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are expected to perform at least once in their lives. Ah. Been saving up for a long time, has he? About six months. He only converted from Christianity toIslam in April. Fancy that. Well look, I’m very glad a middle-aged Dutchman is enjoying his religion, but I’m quite busy, so unless there’s anything else … He is not just any middle-aged Dutchman, mind you. Oh no? Until his conversion, he was a member of the city council in The Hague, and a leading figure in Geert Wilders‘ anti-Islamic Party for Freedom, responsible, among other things, for producing the film Fitna, which argued that Islam, and Muslims generally, are violent, intolerant and bent on world-domination. Quite a conversion then. Indeed. “According to some people I am a traitor,” he told al-Jazeera at the time, “but according to most others I have actually made a very good decision.” Pretty much the same as before then? Yes, but with the people swapped around. How on Earth does a professional Islamophobe end up converting to it anyway? Very gradually, Van Doorn says. He started by reading the Qur’an and was then persuaded to visit a mosque, where he was surprised to find himself made welcome and ended up staying all day. “I had a warm feeling, and I was really a bit confused,” he says. Perhaps he needed the loo? He says it was more than that. “It felt like a warm blanket … The more I learned about Islam, and the more I talked with other Muslims, the more I felt this is me.” He now plans to launch a party to represent Muslims in Europe in a more positive light. How sweet. And how’s his hajj going? Fine. He’s tweeting it, actually. So far it’s mostly camel milk. Through suffering we learn. I suppose so.