Former far-right Dutch MP speaks at RIS about his conversion to Islam
Thousands of Muslims gathered in Toronto from across North America and around the world for the 18th Annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) Convention from December 20 – 22 and they were addressed by many prominent speakers.
However, former Dutch politician Joram Van Klaveren’s address was one of the highlights of the convention. He converted to Islam a couple of years ago after holding anti-Muslim views.
Van Klaveren was a lawmaker for the far-right Party of Freedom (PVV), led by the Dutch populist Geert Wilders and was also the party’s spokesperson on Islam.
“I was anti-Muslim 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,” he said. “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.”
However, his views on Islam would change as he was writing a book against Islam.
“While I was writing the book I started to make researches, then I wrote to Dr. Timothy Winter – Abdul Hakim Murad from Cambridge University,” Van Klaveren added.
“I thought he would not answer me because I was a far-right politician. But he did. He gave me 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.”
He said he discovered that many anti-Islam stories had no basis at all.
“Then I started reading about Prophet Mohammad and his life. I discovered another Prophet Mohammad 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.
“Beauty is to live like you see God and if you cannot see God live as He can see you. That is a beauty to me.”
The Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention was first launched seventeen years ago by Muslim youth to tackle the backlash on Islam and Muslims after 9/11 and to build a bridge of understanding with non-Muslims.
The event has become a staple in Toronto’s downtown core during the Christmas holiday season and an estimated 20,000 attendees are expected from all over North America and around the world, adding a boost to the local economy.