Sunday, August 14, 2011

Muslims and Dutch multiculturalism

by Salman Hameed

We have been trying to understand the reception of evolutionary biology and modern science in different Muslim societies, including Muslims in Europe. From an academic standpoint, the European landscape is equally fascinating and complex as that of the Muslim majority areas from Morocco to Indonesia. Last month I had posted a link to an excellent article that looked at adjustment issues for Muslims in UK and Germany. Today there is another article in NYT that looks at multiculturalism in the Netherlands. Here is the key bit from the article:
If part of the Dutch anxiety is about identity, there are similar concerns among Muslims here. There are two parallel sets of identity crises, said Ahmed Marcouch, 42, son of an illiterate Moroccan immigrant and now a Labor member of Parliament. Most Muslims came from poor, less educated parts of Morocco and eastern Turkey, and clung to traditional values and the mosque as bulwarks against a secular society that promoted individualism, gender equality and gay rights.
“They didn’t speak Dutch, they didn’t know Holland, and they saw the sexual revolution, feminism and youth anarchism as a provocation, as part of a decadent society,” Mr. Marcouch said. He remembers his father saying with contempt, “Women are the bosses here.”
Their children, fluent in Dutch but not readily accepted, were even more at risk. A significant number, he concedes, turned to crime. They had their own identity problems, Mr. Marcouch said, asking: “Who am I? Where am I really from? Can I be Dutch?” He described his own son, 22, discussing these questions with his 10-year-old sister. “They won’t recognize you as a full citizen,” his son told her.
At the same time, Mr. Marcouch said, Dutch politicians were promoting economic integration — language training, job training. “They didn’t understand the importance of religious identity among the immigrants,” he said. They dismissed it as backward even as they failed to understand the anger a growing immigrant population was creating. “The fear,” he said, “is on both sides.”
While similar identity issues are playing a prominent role in several European countries, the way they manifest themselves are dependent on the policies of the host countries - and these policies can vary quite drastically from one country to another. It gets further complicated by the fact that some of these immigrants are from former colonies (for example, Pakistanis in UK), and in other cases, they have been part of the crucial post WWII work force (for example, the Turks in Germany or Algerians in France). Unfortunately, this article in NYT does not address the policies of the Dutch state clearly, but towards the end it does bring up an interesting issues of one of the former colonies and the question of the Dutch identity in general:
In the United States, citizenship once granted is never questioned, said Mr. Overbeek of VU University. “But in Europe it’s never quite established, no matter how long you’ve been here. Here it’s still, ‘When did you get here, and when are you going back?’ ”
East of Amsterdam, in Almere, the youngest city in the Netherlands, 30 percent voted for Mr. Wilders.
Shopping in the city center, Raihsa Sahinoer, 24, born here of Surinamese immigrants, was not surprised. “Wilders says we all have to go back even if we were born here,” she said. “It’s not only about Muslims, it’s about colored people, too.”
She lives as the Dutch do, she said. “But they tell us if you’re colored, you’re not Dutch.” Does she feel Dutch? “No,” she said, then paused, then asked: “What is Dutch?”
Read the full article here.        

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