U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for ambassador to the Netherlands is causing some consternation in the famously liberal country. Pete Hoekstra, some in the Netherlands claim, is a renowned gay rights opponent who has claimed that Muslims in Europe were waging a "secret jihad."
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In some ways, Hoekstra seems to be a good pick for the position: he was born in the Netherlands and immigrated to the U.S. with his parents when he was three. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993 to 2011, representing Michigan's 2nd district, which is home to one of the highest concentrations of Dutch immigrants to the country, according to The Washington Post. During his eight terms in Congress, he even established the Dutch Congressional Caucus.
However, despite his familial and professional connections to the first country to approve same-sex marriage, Hoekstra's political history makes him a somewhat difficult pill to swallow for the country that prides itself on its progressive positions. His congressional voting record reflects his opposition to abortion and LGBT rights, even refusing to adopt a policy of nondiscrimination against LGBTQ employees in his own office, the Post said.
This is enough to make the Dutch wary of Trump's pick, who is also one of the founding members of the conservative Tea Party Movement. Moreover, the comments he made in the past about "chaos" in his native Netherlands being due to "secret jihad" are especially incendiary in a country that has a relatively open immigration policy. "Cars are being set on fire. Politicians are being set on fire,” he reportedly said at a panel discussion of Muslim migration to Europe. “Yes, there are no-go zones in the Netherlands," he said, though he presented no evidence to support the claim.
Hoekstra also came under fire for what was seen as a racist political attack ad that he broadcast in Michigan during the 2012 Super Bowl in his unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate.
The spot, opening with gongs and showing a rice paddy, shows an accented woman of Asian descent riding a bicycle and thanking the Democratic candidate, Debbie Stabenow, for borrowing money and sending jobs. While no country is named, the clear implication is that the woman is supposed to represent China.
A Michigan branch of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote group termed the ad "very disturbing," saying in a statement that the campaign "chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment," as quoted in CBS News.
A Dutch member of the European Parliament, Sophia in 't Veld, who is vice-president of the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT Rights, cautiously welcomed Hoekstra, whose appointment must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and the Dutch government.
"We are looking forward with interest to cooperating with Mr. Hoekstra," she said. "We will certainly remind him his roots lay in a country that values tolerance, equality and inclusion.
"We are proud of being the first country worldwide to have legislated for same-sex marriage. We are proud to have the lowest abortion rates in the world, and it is safe and legal. We are proud in our country that people of immigrant origin can be mayor of a big city or speaker of a parliament. We expect the representative of our friend and ally the United States to fully and wholly respect our values and to show that respect in his all his acts and words."
The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant commented that Trump had "put a Dutchman in the Netherlands – but it is a Dutchman from the Netherlands of the 50s."