Dutch liberalism stares into a troubled future as anti-Muslim backlash grows
Dozens of arson attacks after Van Gogh's murder
Ian Traynor in Uden, the Netherlands
Saturday November 13, 2004
Kneeling in the sodden, charred remains of the primary school, Hari Boukameans took a Stanley knife to a melted computer. He twisted and he gouged - trying to recover the hard drive, hoping to salvage a little bit of the precious Dutch culture of live and let live from the flames of hatred that consumed his workplace.
The Moroccan gave up. He slumped in the smelly, black mass of ashes. "This is really evil," he groaned. Spray painting a white cross and White Power slogans on to the grey brick walls of the Muslim school the previous night, Dutch racists had set the place ablaze. The fire gutted the school and traumatised this comfortable town of 40,000 in the middle of the Netherlands.
"We never used to have problems here. Now everything is destroyed," said the computer engineer as teachers embraced in tears and strangers arrived from neighbouring towns bearing flowers and cards.
Uden is in mourning for the loss of its only Islamic school. And the Netherlands is in mourning for the loss of its innocence and optimism after the murder by a Moroccan Islamist of the film-maker and Muslim-baiter Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam 10 days ago. "Normally you see this sort of thing on the television, from Amsterdam or from a foreign country," said Jacques Bonnier, 39, a financial adviser in the town. "Now it's come to your own town and to your own life. What comes next?"
When thousands assembled to grieve for Van Gogh in Amsterdam this week, they pleaded to no one in particular: "Give us back our old Holland." But Mr Boukameans fears that the old Netherlands he has enjoyed for 31 years lies buried among the cinders of Uden, where 120 Muslim under-12s no longer have a school to go to.
The Netherlands is grappling with its worst epidemic of ethnic and religious violence and is struggling to come to terms with what it means for a country that prides itself on liberalism, openness and tolerance. "These fires and attacks are revenge for the murder of Van Gogh," said Stefaan, an 18-year-old student. "Ordinary people are looking for revenge, educated people are saying that's not the way we do things here. We prefer to make deals. But times are changing. It's a kind of war."
From marijuana cafes to euthanasia, prostitution to immigration, the Netherlands has long been Europe's pioneer liberal, secure in a political culture that shuns confrontation and prizes consensus. But political violence first shook the system two years ago when the maverick populist politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated. The murder of Van Gogh, who revered Fortuyn, shared his contempt for over-generous Dutch hospitality, and specialised in verbal hooliganism against Muslims, has come as an even bigger jolt and triggered a national bout of agonising centred on the question: "What's wrong with this country?"
The centre-right government which came to power following the Fortuyn killing thinks that the fabled fairmindedness of the Dutch has become part of the problem, that tolerance is no response to fatwas and fanaticism, that something must be done.
Over the past 10 days there have been some two dozen arson attacks on mosques, churches and schools - a scale of violence unheard-of here - as well as government and intelligence revelations about the menace of alleged Islamist terrorism in the heart of the Netherlands.
In the biggest security operations seen here in decades, 13 suspects have been arrested - mostly Arabs but including two teenage brothers of mixed Dutch-American parentage who converted to Islam - in connection with the Van Gogh murder and other alleged terrorist plotting.
Yesterday at the parliament in The Hague there was traditional Dutch consensus between government and opposition on tougher measures to combat terrorism and racism and to crack down on immigration. Dozens of the country's 500 mosques may be closed down. It was proposed that only Dutch-trained imams be licensed to run mosques. The security and intelligence services are to be expanded. Police powers of search and arrest are to be expanded. Websites and broadcasters inciting hatred could be censored.
"It's better to have 10 possibly innocent people temporarily in jail than one with a bomb in the street," said Maxime Verhagen of the governing Christian Democrats.
The prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, characterised the last 10 days of violence and tension as simply "un-Dutch". It is also "un-Dutch" to speak out provocatively on matters of race and religion. But Fortuyn and Van Gogh made their mark by breaching the taboos of political correctness. Others are following suit.
The influential former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein is repeatedly warning of the impact of Muslim immigration. Compulsory "integration" of Muslims is becoming the government's watchword.
The Muslim population, mainly from Morocco and Turkey, is almost 1 million, or 6%, commonly double that in the big cities. If nothing is done, according to Mr Bolkestein, cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht will have "non-European" majorities within a couple of generations. "The most common first name registered at birth these days in Amsterdam is Mohammed," he recently told the International Herald Tribune. "This, they say, is the Europe-to-be."
Ismael Taspina heatedly contests that view and says that such outspokenness is dangerous. The director of the Uden school and of a further seven Islamic schools in the central Dutch region of Brabant argues that freedom of speech may be very well. "But when we have all these different backgrounds, maybe we should have limits on what you can say. I am from Turkey. But I feel Dutch, I think Dutch. I dream Dutch. I am Dutch. I'm a Dutch Muslim."
To his admirers, Van Gogh is a martyr to freedom of speech. To his many detractors, Van Gogh was a loudmouthed racist hungry for attention and himself a victim of the hatred he helped to foment.
In the school in Uden, the arsonists also spray painted "Theo RIP" alongside their White Power taunts. "We're not going to accept this. Things will get worse," said Suleiman Sinan, a Turkish teacher at the school.
"It's not just one incident," said Mr Taspina. "This has been developing for years and now it is escalating. It's very deep."
[quote][i]Originally posted by Riggins44[/i]@Nov 13 2004, 08:12 PM
[b] [quote][b]The Netherlands is grappling with its worst epidemic of ethnic and religious violence and is struggling to come to terms with what it means for a country that prides itself on liberalism, openness and tolerance.....
...The influential former EU commissioner Frits Bolkestein is repeatedly warning of the impact of Muslim immigration.[/b][/quote]
Thanks for the article [b]JetMo[/b].....Every American should read and understand this story, but they won't...Hey, forget that, the American media tells us Brittney Spears is the real story--is Brittney pregnant or not ??? :rolleyes:
I've been following this story and other such "travesty's" unfolding in Europe for quite a while....This is already common place in most Western-European nations and will get much worse, as they grapple with losing their language, borders and culture.
Liberalism run rampant, too much openness and ultra-tolerance?
Does this sound familiar?
I think they forgot lust for "cheap labor", which is one of the reasons all these Muslim extremist' entered Denmark in the first place :wacko:
I think the hispanics are assimilating more rapidly than you want to acknowledge. This past election demonstrates that. They are showing the same patterns that the Europeans showed- At first, voting in blocs, and showing a pattern, but then being unpredictable.
They went against predictable behavior in this election. It means they are assimilating.