Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Dutch are reconsidering

As the article in the International Herald Tribune says, what a difference two years make, especially if they are full of unpleasant events.
Two years ago, the Dutch could quietly congratulate themselves on having brought what seemed to be a fair measure of consensus and reason to the meanest intersection in their national political life: the one where integration of Muslim immigrants crossed Dutch identity.

In the run-up to choosing a new government in 2006, just 24 percent of the voters considered the issue important, and only 4 percent regarded it as the election's central theme.

What a turnabout, it seemed - and whatever the reason (spent passions, optimism, resignation?), it was a soothing respite for a country whose history of tolerance was the first in 21st-century Europe to clash with the on-street realities of its growing Muslim population.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, the Netherlands had lived through something akin to a populist revolt against accommodating Islamic immigrants led by Pim Fortuyn, who was later murdered; the assassination of the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, accused of blasphemy by a homegrown Muslim killer; and the bitter departure from the Netherlands of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali woman who became a member of Parliament before being marked for death for her criticism of radical Islam.

Suddenly, there is criticism of the failed policy from the Left.
Two weeks ago, the country's biggest left-wing political grouping, the Labor Party, which has responsibility for integration as a member of the coalition government led by the Christian Democrats, issued a position paper calling for the end of the failed model of Dutch "tolerance."
….
The paper said: "The mistake we can never repeat is stifling criticism of cultures and religions for reasons of tolerance."

Government and politicians had too long failed to acknowledge the feelings of "loss and estrangement" felt by Dutch society facing parallel communities that disregard its language, laws and customs.

Newcomers, according to Ploumen, must avoid "self-designated victimization."

She asserted, "the grip of the homeland has to disappear" for these immigrants who, news reports indicate, also retain their original nationality at a rate of about 80 percent once becoming Dutch citizens.

Instead of reflexively offering tolerance with the expectation that things would work out in the long run, she said, the government strategy should be "bringing our values into confrontation with people who think otherwise."
And so it goes. The paper insists that immigrants must engage with Dutch life and Dutch values; their best way out of their ghetto is through working; and criminality or anti-social behaviour has to be prevented or punished.

What is so depressing is that we all, including John Vinocur, the author of the article, should find it surprising that self-defined members of the Left should actually speak up against those who try to undermine the liberal values that they are supposed to hold dear: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, equality before the law, protection for the law-abiding, equality between the sexes and so on.

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