Update: bilingual campaign controversy continues in the Netherlands

Controversy over the use of non-Dutch campaign materials for upcoming local elections continues throughout the Netherlands. Radio Netherlands Worldwide this week published an overview of the debate, sparked by posters and brochures published in Arabic, Turkish and Chinese promoting candidates from several parties. The overview juxtaposes comments from integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan stating that materials go against integration to Dutch society with politicians and university professors who support bilingual materials as an important way to keep non-Dutch speakers informed and involved in their local political process.

Dutch Muslims send divorce text messages

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that at least two Muslim men in the country have attempted to obtain divorce through digital means, according to comments by Shaikh Amer, a lecturer in Shari’a Studies at Rotterdam’s Islamic University. Amer notes cases in which men repeat the word “talaq” three times in an email, msn or text message. Critical Islamic scholars doubt whether the use of electronic media is secure enough. And under Islamic law, the paper notes, divorce is not legal until confirmed by a judge or imam.

Profile: Dutch conversion to Islam

Radio Netherlands Worldwide runs an article this week exploring conversion to Islam in the Netherlands. The article profiles a couple in Rotterdam who converted to Islam over a decade ago. Defending their “beautiful belief”, the couple notes that their conversion to Islam makes some people frightened or anxious, which they attribute to a lack of information. “Here in the Netherlands we just don’t know the simple basics about Islam. That’s also true within the government and the police and security services. I think that’s so sad. That’s how you make people afraid”.

Amsterdam theatre group promotes multiculturalism

Radio Netherlands Worldwide this week features a story on Jong Rast, a theatre project aimed at integrating youth in the multicultural Amsterdam West neighborhood.

The project holds auditions and recruits students from 15-24 years old from local schools, with the goal of finding “promising young actors from various cultural backgrounds who can relay their own experiences from different perspectives.” Sufyen, a participant in the program explains, “Everyone here has one passion: acting. We don’t care if people are black or white, what kind of clothes they wear or if a girl does or does not wear a headscarf.”

Tensions erupt between Moroccans and Moluccans in Culemborg, Netherlands

A series of confrontations have erupted in recent weeks between Moroccan and Mollucan communities in the central Netherlands town of Culemborg.

Conflict between youths of the two communities began on New Years Eve and have continued, with police making several arrest, erecting physical barriers between the communities, and banning public gatherings of over three people for a period of two weeks.

Although tensions continue, the city held a march of reconciliation on January 7, which was attended by 250 people.

News reports address a number of sources for the conflict. NRC assigns the responsibility for the “race riots” to competition among young men, while Radio Netherlands Worldwide stresses ethnic divisions, though also noting that most Moluccans in the Netherlands are Christian while the Moroccan community is predominantly Muslim.

Internet video imagines Netherlands without Moroccans

An internet video launched on October 20, 2009 envisions a world in which everyone of Moroccan descent has left the Netherlands. The 8 minute film, titled Kop of Munt (Heads or Tails), appears on the website www.munt.nu. The film’s creators describe themselves as “socially engaged Dutch-Moroccan young people bursting with energy and creativity”. But exactly who they are remains unclear, as the makers of both film and website remain anonymous.

In the world of Kop of Munt, Rotterdam has no mayor, taxis are stranded without drivers, and newspapers go undelivered. “Worst of all”, as Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports, “in a country with no Moroccans at the center of controversy, the Dutch press is struggling to fill its pages. An empty newspaper opinion page desperately appeals to its readers for material.”

The makers claim to show that “Moroccan Dutch people are an integral part of society.” However a poll conducted on right wing news website geenstijl.nl in reaction to Kop of Munt was rushed by respondents welcoming the idea of a “100 percent Moroccan-free” Netherlands.

Excision Case Opens in Haarlem

A 30 year old Dutch man of Moroccan is on trial for genitally cutting his six year old daughter. The public prosecution has requested the sentence saying that the girl has been permanently mutilated by the man. The charges came after the girl told foster parents that her father cut her. Female circumcision is a criminal offence in the Netherlands, but victims often remain hidden, because the cutting takes place in a closed family setting.
The accused man denies the charges and pleads not guilty. His defense lawyer sees the five-year-old daughter’s statement as highly questionable and has applied for a second opinion from a legal psychologist. The girl and her sister have been taken into care.

In coverage of the case Radio Netherlands Worldwide includes a discussion with cultural anthropologist and midwife Dineke Korfker, who says that female circumcision is not originally a Muslim practice. “People often see it as being Islamic and think it’s prescribed by the religion, but the highest Islamic body, the Al-Azhar University in Egypt, has officially distanced itself from the practice and calls on people not to do it.” Korfker also notes that the practice is not found in Morocco.

A verdict for the case, and possible sentencing, is due on September 17