Belgium’s Zuhal Demir, the Flemish Minister of Justice, Environment, Energy and Tourism, issued a statement on Monday condemning the spread of American ‘wokeness’ into Belgian politics.
Demir criticised those who “beat others with the woke-stick,” saying that people use the term to intimidate those who think differently from themselves in the pursuit of moral superiority.
“What began as a term among black Americans to ‘wake up’ to racism has since been rapidly hijacked by mainly left-wing activists to push their one-sided agenda - in science, in politics, in the whole of society,” Demir wrote in a statement shared on Facebook and in a press release.
“Woke, woker, wokest. That's what it's all about these days,” the minister wrote.
She quoted KU Leuven rector Luc Sels, who in an interview with De Standaard said that polarisation was hurting academia.
“I am the first to sign up as long as ‘woke’ stands for awake, for more awareness,” Sels told the Dutch-language newspaper, saying that the political movement has had success in prompting important conversations on issues like racism and discrimination.
“But it has taken on an activist, militant side that makes me feel very uncomfortable. For the extreme groups, you are either woke or you are a paragon of ‘white weakness’ or ‘colonialist rationality.’ That's problematic, because then there's no debate.”
Demir echoed the sentiment.
“Just last week an ‘old white straight man’ was not allowed to have an opinion on climate,” she wrote. “What are we doing?”
She said that conflicting opinions and free speech serve as the backbone of a healthy society, in addition to academia.
“Painful issues are put on the agenda and discussed. We listen to each other's opinion and put each other to the test. But for many woke moralists, that has to stop,” Demir wrote.
“They hold the truth and refuse to budge from their path. Listening to your counter arguments? Dirty racist!”
Demir expressed concern that American ‘woke culture’ threatens to creep into Belgian society, saying that people are afraid of having a different opinion and subsequently being outed as “not woke enough.”
Demir, whose parents are of Turkish-Kurdish descent and came to Belgium as guest workers, recalled memories of her own childhood.
“Do you know what I used to hate? The moments when I was told time and again that I was different. That I was not a local child,” she wrote, saying that “woke terror ensures that children and students of other origins are constantly and increasingly bombarded with this information.”
She said that this isn’t a solution, “but just part of the problem of intolerance and polarisation.”
“A society in which everyone has to think, do and want the same thing is called a totalitarian society,” Demir wrote. “Terrifying. We don't want to live in such a society, do we?”