A Dutch former far-right deputy and right-hand man of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders announced on Monday that he has converted to Islam.
For seven years Joram Van Klaveren fought a relentless campaign in the Lower House against Islam in the Netherlands as a lawmaker for Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV). At the time, the "hardliner pleaded for banning the burkha and minarets, saying 'we don't want any Islam, or at least as little as possible in the Netherlands'," the daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad (AD) said.
But the 40-year-old Van Klaveren said he had changed his mind halfway through writing an anti-Islam book, which he told the respected NRC daily "became a refutation of objections non-Muslims have" against the religion. "If everything I wrote up to that point is true, and I believe that, then I am a de facto Muslim," he told the NRC.
Van Klaveren converted to Islam on Oct. 26 last year, the NRC added in the interview piece ahead of the release of Van Klaveren's book called, "Apostate: From Christianity to Islam in the Time of Secular Terror."
"His conversion has surprised both friend and enemy," the AD newspaper added.
Van Klaveren split with Wilders in 2014 after the PVV leader's controversial comments that year when asking supporters whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans in your city and the Netherlands." Wilders in 2016 was found guilty on discrimination charges.
Van Klaveren then went on to form his own far-right party called "For Netherlands" (VNL) but left politics after failing to win a single seat in the 2017 elections.
"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," his former VNL co-founder Jan Roos told the AD. "But we have religious freedom in the Netherlands. He can worship whomever he wants," Roos added.
Said Bouharrou, who serves on the Board of Moroccan Mosques in the Netherlands praised Van Klaveren.
"It is great when somebody who has been so critical of Islam... realizes that it is not so bad or perverse," he told the AD. "It is brave that he's prepared to do it in public," Bouharrou said.
Van Klaveren's about-face follows in the footsteps of Arnoud Van Doorn, another former PVV member who converted to Islam.
Van Doorn praised Van Klaveren on Twitter, saying he never thought that he would see so many converts from his former party.