Netherland's Halal girls
By Nasreddine Djebbi
Thu. Jan. 17, 2008
THE HAGUE They call them the Halal Girls.
They are three young sisters of Moroccan origin who
have become TV stars in the Netherlands with a show
that braves taboos and projects the true face of
"We are Dutch of Moroccan roots but we are above all
proud Muslims," Esmaa Alariachi, 28, the elder sister,
Esmaa and her sisters Jihad, 24, and Hajar, 23, began
their talk show, The Halal Girls, on channel TV 5 two
"It all began when Jihad applying for a screen test at
TV 5," Esmaa recalls.
"I was impressed to see hijab-clad girls with
excellent communication skills, sharp minds and great
sense of humor," Yam Coimann, the director of the
show, remembers his meeting with the trio after
The channel then made the sisters an offer to host
their own talk show tackling various social issues.
Since then, they have become the Netherlands's TV
During the past parliamentary elections, the sisters
stole the limelight with their covering of the polls.
Their De Meiden van Halal was named one of the best TV
shows in the Netherlands in 2007.
However, the sisters' journey was not all rosy.
Right-wingers were not so impressed with the idea of
three Muslim girls making a hit show.
"It was not easy at all for a devout hijab-clad girl
to appear on TV," Esmaa, who was before the show an
English language teacher, told IOL.
"But it's all behind us now."
During their journey to TV stardom, the girls had to
wash away many taboos about Dutch Muslims.
"From the beginning, we were determined not to take
part in anything that clashes with our religious
beliefs," Esmaa said.
Yet, she added, they discussed almost everything, from
drugs and crime and from sexual deviation to
"We are not afraid of speaking about anything," says a
"Our faith supports free speech and instructs us to
have dialogue with our opponents."
The sisters believe their biggest success would be to
dispel myths and misperceptions about Muslims,
numbering one million of the country's 16 millions.
"Our show offers a chance to change people's
perception of Islam which was deeply distorted after
the murder of Theo Van Gogh," Esmaa says.
Filmmaker Van Gogh was killed by Dutch-born Mohammed
Bouyeri in 2004 after making a controversial
Following the crime, immediately and vehemently
condemned by Dutch Muslims, the country adopted a
flurry of Europe's toughest entry and integration
Many media outlets rushed to paint Muslims, all
Muslims, as extremists or conservative recluses.
"Our aim is to show that Islam has nothing to do with
extremism," Esmaa says.
"Extremists exist in every religion. Muslims are not
all Bin Laden and Bouyeri.
"We are Muslims too."
Dutch government ready for fallout over planned
21 hours ago
THE HAGUE (AFP) The Dutch government is ready for
any possible fallout of a planned film by far-right MP
Geert Wilders that attacks Islam as an "inspiration
for murder," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said
"We are ready to react quickly, it is our role to be
prepared for calamities," Balkenende told journalists
at his weekly press briefing.
Earlier on Friday Dutch media had reported that the
government had compiled a secret document on how best
to deal with reactions to the film.
Wilders, the head of the far-right Freedom Party,
announced in November that he planned to release a
10-minute film this month that will show that Islam's
holy book, the Koran, "is an inspiration for
intolerance, murder and terror".
Observers say Wilders might burn or tear up the Koran
in the movie. In February last year the MP called on
Muslims to "tear out half the pages of the Koran and
throw them away".
The Hague fears a repeat of riots when thousands took
to the streets in Muslim countries to protest cartoons
of the prophet Mohammed that appeared in a Danish
newspaper in 2005.
The protests left some hundred people dead, Danish
embassies were attacked and Danish goods were
Balkenende said he could not comment on Wilders's film
project because he had not seen the actual movie but
stressed the government would not censor anything
"The Netherlands has a tradition of freedom of
expression and freedom of religion but also a
tradition of mutual respect, and provocations do not
fit into that. I call on everybody to take their
individual responsibility," he said.
According to the De Volkskrant newspaper and RTL-news,
the government has already prepared for a possible
evacuation of Dutch embassies and citizens from the
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Rijs told AFP
Friday that there were no special emergency measures
for Wilders's film in place at the moment.
"We always have scenarios for possible calamities at
our embassies, consulates and other Dutch
representations abroad. They are regularly updated,"
"There is no reason to believe the Dutch government is
now implementing an emergency scenario and there is no
reason now to evacuate anybody," Rijs stressed.
Wilders, whose party holds nine of the 150 seats in
parliament, insists he will go ahead with his movie
despite the uproar.
"Now that everybody is already in a state (over the
film) I see it as a confirmation that I should go
ahead. I would not be worth a button if I were to
capitulate now," he told the HP/De Tijd magazine.
Wilders is known for his harsh anti-Islam stance and
has been under round-the-clock protection since the
November 2004 murder of outspoken Dutch columnist Theo
van Gogh by a radical Muslim.
Van Gogh was killed after he directed a controversial
film written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former political
ally of Wilders, that examined the subordination of
women in Islamic society.
Wilders has received a number of death threats.