Last Tuesday about a hundred people joined to reflect on the attacks in Paris. Lody van de Kamp, member of the initiative Salaam-Shalom arranged the meeting. Mayor Eberhard van der Laan held a speech, during which people all held up the peace-sign with their fingers. The Mayor said: “We fight too, but with words. And even though we may be divided, in the first place we’re all inhabitants of Amsterdam.”
Via a Skype connection a rabbi and a member from a mosque in Paris joined the meeting and could see how Muslims and Jews in Amsterdam are in solidarity with the French people. The Rabbi hopes to see more of these initiatives in European cities.
According to deputy prime Minister and Minister of Social Affairs Lodewijk Asscher the meeting is a sign from people who refuse to see each other as enemies. He further stated that the Netherlands remains a country where people are allowed to believe what they want, were they can wear signs of their religion such as a headscarf. And democracy is not to be defended with weapons, but with words and courage. Youth should be protected against those who try to seduce them to participate in a jihad.
In Rotterdam there was a similar meeting between Muslims, Jews and Humanists.
Amsterdam’s city council plans to spend 400,000Euros encouraging ethnic minorities to vote in the upcoming local elections. Turnout in local elections is usually 50% and the city council wants to see an increase to 65%. To do this the city is planning a ‘specific approach to target specific groups’, says mayor van der Laan. Some parties oppose the move, and D66 campaign leader Jan Paternotte commented “City council money should be used to reach all Amsterdammers, not just ethnic minority voters.” The campaign has been spearheaded by a member of the Labour party, which has a high level of support among people with Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese backgrounds.
Amsterdam saw several demonstrations around controversial anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on October 30, 2010. The radical right wing English Defence League travelled to the Netherlands to rally in support of Wilders. While the rally was initially to be held on the central Museumplein, mayor Eberhard van der Laan claimed that he had evidence the organizers were seeking confrontation with both he police and anti-racist demonstrators. The demonstration was moved to the western port area. Several anti-racist interventions were held in response in the city.
Intercultural communications advisor Jihad Alariachi faced criticism from Amsterdam’s mayor for her comments supporting the rejection of “religious-type” holidays including birthdays. Alariachi defended a parent making the argument with respect to his children’s school. Van der Laan said that Alariachi may express her personal opinions, but is not to mention her ties to the municipality, noting that the municipality does not share Alariachi’s point of view.
Islam in Europe (English)
Parool (Dutch) – http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/5/POLITIEK/article/detail/1013686/2010/09/08/Gemeenteraad-stelt-vragen-over-Meid-van-Halal.dhtml
Tags: immigration and integration; interfaith and multicultural engagement
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.
Several candidates running in the Netherlands’ March 3 local elections have published campaign material in languages other than Dutch, sparking criticism from other campaigners. Turkish and Arabic-language election posters have appeared at various places in the country, as Labour (PvdA), the Christian democrats (CDA), centre-left D66, the Socialist Party (SP) and the leftwing Greens have posters up on which Islamic candidates are seeking their ethnic group’s voting support. The materials were printed by candidates without the permission of their party executive, and other parties have been reluctant to criticize the poster because they also have candidates publishing non-Dutch material.
Nonetheless, Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan has called on all parties to stop producing election campaign posters in other languages because they ‘do not fit in with the message’ that immigrants should learn Dutch. But the city’s Labour party has refused to withdraw leaflets in other languages, Dutch News reports. ‘The reality is that not everyone in Amsterdam speaks good Dutch. But these people should be able to vote as well,’ campaign leader Lodewijk Asscher said.
The integration of immigrants into Dutch society is improving but segregation is increasing in some neighbourhoods and in schools, integration minister Eberhard van der Laan told MPs on Tuesday. The minister (Labour) sent an annual report with integration statistics and a letter with the government’s vision to parliament.
Claiming immigrants should have the desire to participate in society and speak the language, van der Laan envisions more effort to encourage older immigrants to take integration courses. And in education, efforts will be made to decrease segregation in schools, by using double waiting lists, changing registration procedures and better information for parents.
Throughout his speech and the accompanying documents, Van der Laan used the words nieuwe (new) Nederlanders to describe immigrants, rather than allochtoon (alien). Dutch News reports that he did so because “using allochtoon refers to your origins. Nieuwe Nederlander shows you belong in the Netherlands”.
Geert Wilders’ PVV party is an ‘extreme right-wing’ grouping and a threat to social cohesion and democracy, according to a report leaked by Volkskrant. The report, which has yet to be finalized, was created by three academics for the home affairs ministry and looks at polarization and radicalism in the Netherlands.
Ministers and the researchers are still discussing the final changes. Volksrkant notes that as it now stands, the report describes the PVV as an “extreme right-wing party which is mobilizing anti-Islam sentiment and hatred of governmental system”.
Media coverage around the leak has tracked responses to the report throughout the week. Wilders responded furiously to the report, calling Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan and D66 leader Alexander Pechtold, who had publicly responded to the report, “accomplices” of Mohammad B., Theo van Gogh’s murderer.
Meanwhile, a poll conducted in the aftermath of the report found 50 percent of the Dutch think the PVV is on the extreme right of the political spectrum and 66 percent think Wilders is stimulating a fear of Islam. A further 46 percent think Wilders is encouraging a hatred of the government.
A protest demonstration against party leader Geert Wilders was held Monday evening in the city of Arnhem. 200 protestors marched peacefully while the PVV met behind closed doors.
Debate continues in Dutch parliament regarding the request by the Freedom Party (PVV) to undertake a study of the impact of non-Western immigrants on the nation’s budget. Integration Minister Eberhard van der Laan refused, saying the government does not compile figures on specific groups in society. Van der Laan is accused of making his refusal to name a figure partly a political decision, thus dodging his constitutional obligation to provide information.
But while the government has an obligation to supply information, what preoccupied many MPs in the parliamentary debate was the intention behind the Freedom Party’s request in the light of its anti-Islam and anti-immigrant political agenda. Freedom Party MP Sietse Fritsma would say no more than that “the tax payer has a right to information”.
The Dutch government has decided to deny the Freedom Party (PVV) request to calculate the precise cost and benefit of immigration. The party requested accounts from each ministry regarding the cost and benefit of immigrants, but Minister of Integration Eberhard van der Laan says ministers will only give figures that are already available in the budget. The Freedom Party says it is astonished that Dutch voters are not allowed to know how much mass immigration costs.