ARE THE DUTCH BECOMING MORE AND MORE XENOPHOBIC?
- Are the Dutch Becoming More and More Xenophobic?
Adrienne McPhail, worthington90@...
Saturday, 12, February, 2005 (03, Muharram, 1426)
What is happening to Holland that once stood as the shining light of
tolerance and religious freedom? A country that the entire world
admired for its courageous protection of Jews and other persecuted
people during World War II?
It would appear that Holland has forgotten its own history.
In a series of attempts to discourage immigration from Third World
countries, the Dutch have introduced a legislative proposal that
would require some potential immigrants to take an examination to
prove that they have an understanding of the Dutch language and
culture. This applies to individuals who marry a Dutch citizen or
who have family members already living in Holland.
It does not apply to people from the European Union, Switzerland,
Norway, Iceland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or the United
This exam will require 350 hours of study and will cost each
One of the most disturbing elements of this program is a video that
these individuals must watch. The video describes the essence of
Dutch life. In the video are images of windmills and tulips but
there are also scenes of a homosexual wedding and topless women
sunbathing elements that are clearly offensive to Muslim people.
There are about one million Muslims living in Netherlands. This
represents six percent of the total population. They migrated to
Holland mostly as "guest workers" from Morocco and Turkey from the
1960s through the 1990s.
According to Andre Krouwel, a political scientist at Amsterdam's
Free University, Holland encouraged these workers to maintain both
their linguistic and cultural identities. The Dutch governments
assumed these workers would eventually return to their native homes.
Some did but many did not. It was in essence a miscalculation.
Now, the Muslim population in Holland is trying to become part of
that country with all the rights and privileges the Dutch enjoy.
However, there are a number of native Dutch who are against the
absorption of these immigrants into their society. A recent poll
showed that 50 percent of the voters support tighter restrictions on
immigration and asylum and some elected officials are using this
issue for political gain.
One such official is Parliamentarian Geert Wilders.
Wilders is building his political strength on a platform of anti-
immigration and what many observers call bigotry. He calls
immigration the biggest problem that Dutch society faces today. "We
have been so tolerant of other's culture and religion," he says. "We
are losing our own. Europe is losing itself. One day we will wake up
and it will be too late. Immigration will have killed our country
and our democracy".
He calls mosques "houses of terror and recruitment" for jihad. He
describes Islam as "dangerous" and "fascist".
He warns the Dutch about not learning from the lessons of Pim
Fortuyn, an anti-immigration activist who was killed by a deranged
animal rights activist in 2002.
What is dangerous is that many of the people in Holland are
listening to Wilders.
After the assassination of Pim Fortuyn his political party went on
to win 26 of 150 seats in the Parliament.
Last November, when the anti-Islamist crusader Theo van Gogh was
killed by a Dutch citizen of Moroccan descent on a street in
Amsterdam, the sentiment against Muslim immigrants rose sharply.
Wilders who had been isolated in the Parliament suddenly had 19
other members of that body supporting his ideas on immigration
issues, such as a five-year moratorium on all non-Western
Just a few days after the Van Gogh killing, Fortuyn was named one of
the most important persons in Dutch history, outpolling Vincent van
Gogh and Rembrandt, two world famous Dutch painters.
Wilders' rhetoric is inflammatory and often inaccurate. He claims
that the immigrant population has grown from 160,000 to 1.6 million
a 1,000 percent growth.
What he does not say is that the number includes second and third
generation children of immigrants, children born in Holland, who are
He excites his audience by stating that 90 percent of the prison
population is foreign. The Netherlands' Central Statistical Office
shows that number to be about 50 percent. While this is a high
percentage in relation to the total population, as Andre Krouwel has
stated, Holland increasingly finds itself divided into two
societies, a relatively affluent and educated Dutch "in-group" and a
mainly Muslim under-skilled "out-group".
Disenfranchised members of any society are often found in higher
percentages among prison populations. The underlying elements that
men like Wilders and Fortuyn appeal to are dangerous and inhumane.
With Dutch women having 1.7 children and their population living
longer, economists predict their extensive social-welfare network
will go bust without the influx of new, young workers.
True, some Dutch express concerns about losing their culture, about
their disappearing heritage.
The answer should be in managing their immigration system, not in
dismantling a major part of it. It is a shame that this country has
reached such a sad state of affairs that they are looking at the
ethnic background or religionist beliefs of would-be immigrants.
Perhaps, they should reflect upon the idea that the complexion of
the Dutch people is changing, which is inevitable as it is for most
Western nations. Their Muslim population can make great
contributions to this new Holland, if they refuse to hear the voices
of anger and prejudice.
Adrienne McPhail is an American journalist located in Yokosuka,