A former anti-Muslim campaigner and MP for a hard-right Dutch party has converted to Islam.
Joram van Klaveren spent four years representing Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Dutch parliament but left in 2014 after his former boss’s anti-Moroccan rants.
Mr van Klaveren has previously described the Quran as “toxic,” deemed Islam a “lie” and urged for the burqa and Dutch mosques to be banned. His conversion drew comparisons with Arnoud van Doorn, another ex-PVV member who joined the Islamic faith in 2012.
In late 2014 Mr van Klaveren set up a rival conservative political party with a number of allies called VNL or “for the Netherlands”. It closed in 2017 after failing to win a single seat at the general elections and suffering from financial issues.
According to the Dutch daily NRC, he converted on October 26 last year, remarkably as he was researching an anti-Islam book. Halfway through, he told the newspaper he changed his beliefs.
“I thought: if everything I have written so far is correct, if I believe all that, then I am de facto a Muslim,” he told NRC.
“In previous years I had developed a great aversion to Islam. If you then have to conclude that you were not right, that is not fun. But as a God seeker I always felt a certain unrest. And that gradually disappeared. It felt a bit like coming home, in a religious sense.”
He has been forced to reject claims his conversion was a sales ploy to boost the sales of his book ‘Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in the Time of Secular Terror.’
The change has not been seamless. While his wife, who used to disagree with his Islamophobic views, has been accepting, his brother and sister have been “positive to indifferent” and his mother “not very happy with it”. Mr van Klaveren also expects some abuse from the local press.
He has not changed his name and his still learning the Quran from a book intended for ten-year-olds. The former MP said he would not push his religion on his children and cited British theologian Abdal Hakim Murad, also a convert, as particularly supportive.
“If this really isn’t a PR stunt to promote his book, then it really is an extraordinary choice for somebody who had a lot to say about the Islam,” said VNL co-founder Jan Roos.
“But we have religious freedom in the Netherlands. He can worship whomever he wants,” he told the Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad.