The End of Tolerance in Amsterdam: Moroccan-Born Mayor Dispenses Tough Love to Immigrants

By Erich Wiedemann For one Amsterdam mayor, the Netherlands’ famous tolerance has gone too far. Morrocan-born Ahmed Marcouch is taking the tough cop approach in a rough Amsterdam neighborhood, pushing his fellow immigrants to integrate. But some consider him a traitor. A street festival is in full swing in Amsterdam’s Slotervaart neighborhood. The occasion is the dedication of a new community center for Christians and Muslims designed to foster interaction between the two groups. As the crowd listens to music, munches on fish snacks and Arab pastries and drinks fruit juice, Ahmed Marcouch, the district’s 38-year-old mayor, holds a speech. He talks about progress and mutual understanding between different ethnic communities. At the end of his talk, Marcouch poses for pictures with an attractive young woman wearing a headscarf. The festival and the speech are nice gestures, but atypical. Normally life in Slotervaart isn’t nearly as convivial as the speakers paint it. Crime and unemployment are significantly higher than the national average, and one in three of the neighborhood’s young people are high-school dropouts.