Scores of Dutch citizens have come out in support of practising Muslims in their country, after a prominent anti-Islamic lawmaker reinstated his desire to seal mosques in the country if he wins the election.
About 200 people, concerned about the rise in hate attacks and escalating polarisation based on religion in the country, massed at an Amsterdam mosque to show their support.
Far-right MP Geert Wilders, who has spewed incendiary comments about Islam in the past, reiterated his plan to shut down all mosques.
Speaking to a posse of mediapersons at an industrial suburb of Amsterdam earlier on Sunday, Wilders said: "Closing mosques may be more difficult but you can do it."
There are 10 days to go to the elections. Wilders has stuck to his anti-Islam poll plank even as his poll ratings have dipped
"You have to change the Constitution. It takes time, certainly in Holland...but I am a lawmaker and if anyone can change the constitution and propose this, it's me," the controversial lawmaker said.
Wilders has stuck to his anti-Islam poll plank even as his poll ratings have dipped with just ten days to go for the prime ministerial elections.
The latest collated polls by the Dutch website Peilingwijzer (Poll indicator) from seven different agencies on Saturday showed Liberal party's Mark Rutte would now win 23 to 27 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament, with the PVV set to garner 22-26 seats if elections were held today.
Wilders's repeated attacks on the country's Muslim population, especially targeting the Moroccans, has drawn sharp faultlines in the country and has made other countries in Europe sweat over the election result.
'We are victims too'
There are roughly 840,000 to 960,000 Muslims, roughly 5 per cent of the population, in The Netherlands.
There has been alarming spike in hate attacks in the country, with Ineke van der Valk, a researcher at the University of Amsterdam, saying there were 54 such attacks involving mosques since 2015.
"There has been a worrisome rise in this kind of activity in our country," Van der Valk said at the solidarity meeting at Al-Kabir Mosque in Amsterdam.
"It's very important that we make our voice heard. We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society," said Najem Ouladali, one of the organisers of the meeting which also included members of Amsterdam's gay and lesbian community.
"In fact, we are victims too of Islamic extremism," added another speaker, Abdou Menebhi, who chairs a Moroccan organisation in The Netherlands.
Wilders' view about Islam
Besides calling for complete shutdown of all mosques and banning the Koran in the country, Wilders has repeatedly launched scathing attacks against the religion.
In recent days, he has called Islam a "totalitarian ideology" rather than a religion, and has expressed that Islam and freedom are not "compatible".
"Dutch values are based on Christianity, on Judaism, on humanism. Islam and freedom are not compatible," he had said recently.
He also called Moroccan immigrants in the country as "scums" and has pledged to make The Netherlands "ours again".
“If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home again, than you can only vote [for the Freedom party]. Please, make the Netherlands ours again.”