Dutch labour losing confidence in 'too soft'-integration Minister

Discussion in 'Politics & Law' started by Bjarki, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. Bjarki

    Bjarki Registered Member

    You know there's change in the air when even the social democrats urge for a tougher stance.. :cute:

    I should include a column by one of the most famous blog writers in the Netherlands: Willem de Zwijger (William the Silent), an anonymous local left wing-politician with 'politically incorrect' views. :-o

    Here's my 4 am translation:

    It's hard to tell where it goes from here. It's still uncertain which way the new minister of integration will go, but I do think he's going for the "hard"-line of his party leader Wouter Bos. Knowing just how opportunistic and weak the policies of the social democrats are, that probably doesn't mean much.. but the resignation of Vogelaar seems to predict the final collapse of the 'old left' view on integration, assimilation and immigration. It remains to be seen whether or not it can save the SD from total collapse in the polls and whether or not it can appease the crowd enough to save it from falling into the hands of the real hardline-radicals like Verdonk and Wilders.
    Sim likes this.

  2. Sim

    Sim Registered Member

    Thanks very much for this interesting insight into Dutch politics.

    But a few things make me wonder: I agree that immigrants should embrace their new country, integrate and participate. But does that necessarily mean they have to give up all their roots and heritage? Of course I agree they have to accept the constitution and Dutch law, without any exceptions. But apart from that, why should they assimilate?

    In America, the different immigrants kept much of their traditions and roots. There are Irish Americans who brought Halloween, various immigrants who brought their denominations and churches, there are Chinatowns in many American cities and so on. German Americans brought breweries and Oktoberfest, African Americans often emphasize African culture, some even "black power" thoughts.

    Is a "tough" policy that demands immigrants to give up their heritage and not just to integrate, but to assimilate, really a policy that will encourage immigrants to integrate -- or is it just populism aimed at improving the votes among xenophobic native Dutchs?

    I am worried that when you demand immigrants to call their kids "Jan" and "Marlijs", to wear wooden boots and to love tulips (sorry for the clichés here ;) ), to give up the headscarf and to forget their roots -- you will accomplish nothing regarding integration. On the contrary, they will even cling more radically to their identity (which IS a mixed identity) and perceive Dutch culture a xenophobic racist culture that will never accept them, so they will not even try.

    The French tried that when the first Arabs arrived, in the 50s: They tried to "Frenchify" the immigrants, by giving them new French names and so on, Mahmoud became Jean, but now you have the problem you have a violent youth among third generation immigrants who are trapped in between the cultures, they are neither Arabs nor really French, there is nothing they can identify with -- but they are united by rejecting French mainstream.

    When you want to foster integration, maybe you need a policy of "carrot and stick". But something tells me, when you just use the stick, but there is no carrot, you will not be successful. When you give immigrants the impression you don't even want them, that they are undesired aliens, why should they even try?

    Maybe you are interested in the German approach. Two years ago, our Minister for Internal Affairs gathered an "Islamic Integration Conference". He met with representants of the Muslim communities in Germany. Goal was the establishment of Islam as an official, state-recognized religion within Germany, just like several Christian churches and Jewish communities are recognized already. The conference agreed on the installation of Muslim religious education classes in German schools (just like there are Christian ones already) for Muslim pupils, but they have to be in German language and the state controls they do not violate the Constitution. The conference also issued a common declaration, where the representants of the Muslim communities said they turn against anti-Constitutional behavior, that they condemn mistreatment of women, forced marriage and things like that. In turn, the German Interior Minister (conservative Wolfgang Schäuble, CDU) declared "Islam is a part of Germany".

    I think that conference was a success. You need a give and take, and a dialogue. What do you think about that?
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2008
  3. Bjarki

    Bjarki Registered Member

    A group, a society, a nation is based on the principle of shared values and shared experiences. There need to be basic, though fundamental beliefs that all members of the group share in common, otherwise it will quickly fall apart.

    In the case of America for example, you see a nation build on the principle of diversity and tolerance. And as much as Americans like to see its society as a 'melting pot', the different ethnicities tend to live apart from each other. After more than 200 years of history there are still white, black and hispanic neighbourhoods. Yet all these different races, religions and etnicities are unified by a basic set of ideals that they all share in common: the idea of America as a beacon of freedom and tolerance, build by their forefathers from scratch as a shining alternative to the repression and intolerance of Europe.. and defended in countless wars against tyrants, communists and fascists. There is no nation on earth where the flag and national anthem are treated with as much respect as they are in the US. And this is just the basis of a complete America-cultus. And this is also why it's so hard for Americans to get rid of their guns.. obviously it hurts their society, but it stands for so much more: freedom, the ability to defend ones possession and freedom from oppressors, etc. Guns are part of the American identity and it's therefore unthinkable to get rid of them.

    In Western Europe we are still living in a post-Auschwitz time where the praise of national culture is seen as something dangerous and prone to lead to excesses similar to those of world war I and II. When the first immigrants arrived we therefore gave them all the room they wished for to practice their own cultures and hold on to their own values and beliefs. People were not even asked to learn the Dutch language.
    After the murder of Van Gogh and the debates that followed, it became clear that the newcomers thought very differently about things and that even the basic set of beliefs we hold dear in the west are alien to them. The seperation of church and state, the freedom of expression (in religious matters), the equality of men and women, the approval of homosexuality, the individual's choice to marry whoever he or she wants. These are all fundamental ideas that society is build upon and that everybody must abide to, otherwise it leads to excesses we see in the news on a daily basis: homosexuals being beaten up; female circumcisions; seperate classes for men and women; dutch girls called whores for not wearing scarves, etc. etc.
    I'm not even talking about taking an interest in Dutch history and culture here.. I'm talking about not sharing the fundamental principles of freedom and tolerance that the Netherlands is known for in the rest of the world and that every society in Western Europe is build upon.

    Both factors come into play. The social democrats are very opportunistic, and when they saw their seats being halfed in polls, they knew it was time to reconsider their message. On the other hand, the SD have been in charge for long. They too are aware former policies have failed. They put Vogelaar in control of integration to get a break from the 'hard line' of Verdonk, but now they too have to admit that not only was Verdonk's policy way more popular, it was also much more fruitful than Vogelaar's. In the past one and a half year, under Vogelaar, nothing was accomplished whatsoever, which can both be blamed on Mrs.Vogelaar herself, but also on the soft line of the policy.
    I mean, how can you serve integration, when integration and assimilation is not what you aim for in the first place?

    That is true. You see this in the youth of the Netherlands as well. And to be honest, I see no solution for this issue. Not a hard line, nor a soft line will accomplish much in this respect.
    Sooner or later you have to win these kids over for your case, for your country and for your culture and values. You can allow them to have their mosques, neighbourhoods and passports, but as such they will always be 'Moroccan muslim men' and not considered to be Dutch, not by us, nor by themselves.
    I think the policy that works best is to encourage a similar national cultus the US has. We put way too much money in 'rap-clubs' and other forms of immigrant cultural expressions. This money should be used to encourage Dutch culture.

    The carrot would be full participation in Dutch culture and this is why I'm urging to put money on celebrating and expanding the native culture. If you can impress the immigrants with your own civilization, they will feel less need to cling onto their own one.
    Teach Dutch history in schools, build grand and monumental buildings, subsidize churches, subsidize Dutch literature, Dutch theatre, Dutch music, Dutch dances, basically everything that is Dutch. And show them how awesome our society and our liberty is and how much opportunities they will have when they become a part of it.

    I think it will have a good chance of success. Not only because the immigrants will gain more respect for our accomplishments, ideals and values, it will also appease the natives who no longer have to worry about losing the dominant position of their own culture and their own identity.

    It's not a bad policy.. but I have some concerns:
    1) How does this work in practice? I know the Turkish radical islamic organization Milli Görüş controls many churches in germany. They tried to finance the build of a mosque in Amsterdam as well, but their participation was blocked because of their radical views. The movement has often been described as a 'sheep in wolves' clothes'.. there could be a real possibility that these mosques, although appearing to the outside world as tolerant, modern and western show an entirely different face to its followers. There needs to be tight control, not just an annual prescheduled visit, to keep these mosques in check. I have my doubts that this happens.

    2) I know you will probably not agree with me, but a religion whose values conflict with western values and ideals on so many levels should not be cherished as an enrichment. Its presence must be acknowledged, but its hold on immigrants should not tighten. Teaching Islam in schools to Muslim children is not a good idea I think.
    Here in the Netherlands a lot of 'Muslims' never visit the mosque and are hardly familiar with its doctrines. I personally consider this a healthy development. Teaching them the lessons of Islam in school will keep them inside the mosque and provides them with an alternative to western values and society. When things go rough on them (being turned down for a job), they may fall back on Islam and in their disappointment with western society opt for radical opinions.

    And 3) of course: how does the native population feel about the Islam becoming part of their nation? I personally wouldn't feel too enthusiastic about that.

    Edit: Oh, by the way, the blog article I posted doesn't completely reflect my ideas on the issues. I posted it as an example to show how the resignation of Vogelaar is generally received. Here in Holland the old media (tv, paper, radio, etc.) are all leftish. The blogs and forums on the internet are all centres of rightish criticism on the official policies.
    The influence and importance of these blogs cannot be underestimated. Particulary weblog Geenstijl is incredibly influential. It has a very big influence on the political agenda and the debate on integration. And quite a few people think Vogelaar's fall was primarily achieved by this weblog: pretty much from the start it attacked Vogelaar's ideas and after a completely messed up interview with geenstijl.tv (she refused to say a word to them) her public image was done with and she became a burden for her own party. The weblog also has its own video upload service like youtube, so it's very popular among young people as well (who would otherwise not visit a politically inclined weblog).
    The blog I posted, that of William the Silent, is often quoted because it so often hits the nail right on its head. The essays are somewhat longer though and it's a simple blogger-account, which attracts less visitors, but it nevertheless has a pretty large influence on Geenstijl-readers and as such on the political agenda as well.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2008

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