Sunday, August 14, 2011

Amid Rise of Multiculturalism, Dutch Confront Their Questions of Identity

Steven Erlanger
The New York Times
August 13, 2011.

AMSTERDAM — Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian who admitted to mass killings last month, was obsessed with Islam and had high praise for the Netherlands, an important test case in the resurgence of the anti-immigrant right in northern Europe.

The sometimes violent European backlash against Islam and its challenge to national values can be said to have started here, in a country born from Europe’s religious wars. After a decade of growing public anger, an aggressively anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim politician, Geert Wilders, leads the third-largest party, which keeps the government in power.

In Slotervaart, a majority immigrant neighborhood in southwestern Amsterdam, Maria Kuhlman and her friends watched Muslim families stroll by on a Ramadan afternoon, some of the men in robes and beards, the women wearing headscarves. A large blond woman shouted, “Go Wilders!”

Mr. Wilders’ Freedom Party, which combines racist language with calls for more social spending, won 15.5 percent of the vote in June 2010. He was recently acquitted of charges of hate speech for comparing the Koran to “Mein Kampf” and calling mosques “palaces of hatred.” He wants all immigrants and their children deported and warns of the supposed Muslim plot to create “Eurabia.” He declined repeated interview requests.

While many Dutch recoil at his language, he touches on real fears. “Sometimes I’m afraid of Islam,” Ms. Kuhlman said. “They’re taking over the neighborhood and they’re very strong. I don’t love Wilders. He’s a pig, but he says what many people think.”

Now, after Norway, the Dutch are taking stock. The killings frightened everyone, said Kathleen Ferrier, a Christian Democrat legislator born in Surinam, who had objected to her party joining a Wilders-supported government. “Norway makes it clear how much Dutch society is living on the edge of its nerves,” she said. “Wilders says hateful things and no one objects. We have freedom of speech, but you also have to be responsible for the effect of your words.”

Taboos about discussing ethnicity and race — founded in shame about delivering Dutch Jews to the Nazis — are long gone.

Ms. Kuhlman has lived in the Slotervaart neighborhood for 36 years but says, “I no longer feel at home.” Built in the 1950s, Slotervaart is now about 60 percent immigrants or their children, most from Morocco or Turkey. Crime rates are high, especially among the second generation.

She remembered sunbathing topless on her balcony in the 1980s. “It’s inconceivable now,” she said. “Now my next-door neighbor doesn’t even greet me in the hallway, he can’t look at me, and it’s been 28 years,” Ms. Kuhlman said.

Then she laughed bitterly. “He doesn’t work; I work. I work all shifts. I pay taxes. I work for them!”

Willem Stuyter, nursing a beer, broke in. “It’s already too late,” he said. “In 10 years this will be a Muslim state.”

Read the rest here.

Comment: Those of us who are the descendants of slaves the Dutch brought to Suriname and South Africa have let them get away with too much.  There is no movement to hold the Dutch responsible for their role in slavery in South Africa.

Where is our reparations and restitution movement?

That aside, it is almost laughable to read the Dutch anxieties about the presence of the Other on their native soil.  What did they think would be the outcome of their imperial history?

I have a nephew born and raised there and he has just released his newest hip hop video.  His name is Ridwaan (like mine but with an extra "a") and his moms, Anisa, calls him Riddy too (like Ridi ... you get the drift ne).

He was not named after me but I wish he was.  I am proud of the little brother.  I don't understand the code they call a language over there but Anisa tells me the lyrics are a protest by Other brown skins.

Translate for us Riddy.  Salaams little brother.


Update (August 15): Anisa sent me a text today saying that Riddy reminded her that he was in fact named after me.  Cool!  I can't be more happy and honored.

Ridwaan and Ridwana are fist cousins for those of you keeping track here.  And I am their Uncle Ridwan :0)

Life is good.


Kabir said...

tell me something. when all other religions (and faiths) are willing to accept criticism, why does Islam project itself as the unquestionable religion? why is fatwas called against people who even draw the prophet?

maybe in more ignorant time Islam could escape its responsibilities but in our world now we demand that Islam accepts it problems. and if you say there ain't any problem then please do look at the history and the contemporay times and the effect it is having on people.

no matter how you try to sweep all under the carpet, tell me why Islam is seen as a threat throughout the world. read Quran and study the life of Muhammmed.

Ridwan said...

Kabir you are setting up false straw man arguments.

Which religions are you referring to and what problems in Islam are you fingering?

How and where does Islam "project" itself as "unquestionable"?

And who is the "we" you include yourself inside of?

Whom do you represent and what power do you have to ask Islam to accept its supposed "responsibilities" - what are these by the way?.

Islam is not a monolithic religion you must know so why paint it with such a broad brush?

And what about the Qur'an and the last Prophet (pbuh) explains contemporary global problems?

The US uses drones to hunt its constructed enemies and kills innocents and would you say this is a problem of Christianity?

That racist who killed innocents in Norway, is he all Christianity?

Hitler was a Christian. Should Christianity be held "responsible"?

Would you say Judaism is to be blamed for the oppression of Palestinians? Or is it the racist politics of Zionism?

Should all Hindus and Hinduism be blamed for the recent massacre of Muslims in Gujurat?

Should we ban the Bhagavad Gita?

And what of the role of the Church in the near extermination of Indians in North and South America?

Does the Bible have to be blamed for genocide, slavery, and apartheid?

Of course not. These are not sane positions to take.

So why then lump Islam into racist and prejudicial categories that defy logic and blur reality?

If we could get all brown/black immigrants in Europe (the West) to reject Islam would racism toward them disappear?

How do you explain the racism directed at black Christians in the London riots/uprising?

Keep in mind Britain is primarily a Christian nation-state.

Surely you can't be as uninformed and naive as your comment comes across.

Your questions are nothing more than half-baked intolerant nonsense.

You seem so bent to blame Islam that it has disfigured any logic of the real politics at play, anywhere.

You gonna have to do way better to step up here.

Nonetheless, try again.


Kweli said...

This is the new European racism. We have seen in Frances with Marie Le Pen. It is something along the lines of: I don't agree with Le Pen (you can insert Wielder here), but he touches on true we should tighten immigration and profile Muslims.

So in effect Le Pen/Wielder/The Right set the racist tones and moderate politicians or those on the Left DO something about it (make life tougher for immigrants) on the basis that the concerns of the Right are real concerns of the general populace. This is how Europe practices racism now: with an ironic distance towards their racist acts ("you know, if we don't do something, the population might be driven to riots by the Right, so we are doing this for the immigrants, to keep them safe").

Ridwan said...

Hey Kweli:

Thanks for your comment. I think you are absolutely right.

In South Africa whites excused their racism by pointing to the roads, hospitals, airports, etc., they built.

"If the blacks take over the country will go the way of Africa," was an excuse used often.

The centrality of white agency never ceases because it is all-knowing.

You are so right to show this updated version of whiteness insanity and its ever evolving racism.

Peace brother,

Anonymous said...

Slm :)

Your update on August 15 brought tears to my eyes and I just felt compelled to comment. We are honored to know you and be a part of your life.You are a wonderful role model and an inspiration to all of us.
Ridwana was named after Ridwaan ,which just confirms the bond we share.

You are very special to all of us, and in Ridwana's words " Totally awesome!"

My apologies to go 'slightly' off track on the comments :)

Much love

Ridwan said...

Salaams Anisa:

Thank you kindly for your complimentary words. I am very proud to be part of your life and the kids.

No apologies needed. This is your blog as much as it is mine - you are its most faithful follower!

I wish you well as you get ready to embark on your next chapter.

"And still we rise," huh?