The Dutch-Muslim Culture War
June 15, 2005 5:43 AM   Subscribe

The Dutch-Muslim Culture War
The backlash against Hirsi Ali has astonished and disappointed many Dutch feminists, who continue to count themselves among her biggest fans. Margreet Fogteloo, editor of the weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, said flatly that [historian Geert] Mak is crazy. "People like him feel guilty because they were closing their eyes for such a long time to what was going on," she said. In what appears to be a Europe-wide pattern, some feminists are aligning themselves with the anti-immigrant right against their former multiculturalist allies on the left. Joining them in this exodus to the right are gay activists, who blame Muslim immigrants for the rising number of attacks on gay couples. (Via PoliticalTheory.info)
posted by jenleigh (52 comments total)

 
I saw a special on PBS about this. One thing that stood out for me: The dutch wanted to pass a law saying that the laws of the country stood above the religious practices of the citizens. The muslims went apeshit over that one. It's like, so you're going to immigrate, then you want to be the source of law in your new home, and force your views on the original inhabitants, because you have faith that your religion is the ultimate truth? Get over yourselves.

That said, I'm not one of those people who thinks muslims shouldn't have the right to practice Islam. I just don't think they should have the right for force *others* to practice Islam. But I'm silly like that.
posted by modernerd at 6:06 AM on June 15, 2005


It is the classic liberal dilemma, how far do we tolerate those who practice intolerance? A reference in the article to Susan Moller Okin brought me to a 1999 essay by her, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Okin concludes that "Establishing group rights to enable some minority cultures to preserve themselves may not be in the best interests of the girls and women of the culture, even if it benefits the men."

Someone in a earlier thread said that part of the problem for Europe is that some Middle Eastern countries, Turkey in particular, have been suppressing the religious radicals, driving many of them to emigrate. So we end up with European Islamic communities that are in some cases far more extreme than the majorities in their home countries. Can anyone confirm that?
posted by LarryC at 6:33 AM on June 15, 2005


Being cautious or critical about Ali inciting hate and violence as a weapon against hate and violence doesn't strike me as necessarily "closing their eyes... to what was going on." It is possible to debate the solutions to a problem without denying that there is a problem.


Karima Belhaj is the director of the largest women's shelter in Amsterdam. She's also one of the organizers of the "Stop the Witchhunt!" campaign against what she sees as anti-Muslim hysteria. On the day we talked, she was despondent. Arsonists had set fire for the second time to an Islamic school in the town of Uden. A few days later a regional police unit warned that the rise of right-wing Dutch youth gangs potentially presents a more dangerous threat to the country than Islamist terrorism. "The rise of Islamism is not the problem," Belhaj said. "The problem is that hatred against Arabs and Muslims is shown in this country without any shame." With her message that Muslim women must give up their faith and their families if they want to be liberated, Hirsi Ali is actually driving women into the arms of the fundamentalists, said Belhaj: "She attacks their values, so they are wearing more and more veils. It frightens me. I'm losing my country. I'm losing my people."


"They mistreat their women" has been an excuse for intervention since the colonial period. One might argue that the intervention was justified if it actually addressed the mistreatment women faced; however, it rarely did, and never without a direct benefit to the interveaner. Ali seems to be just the next in a long line of people using the very real difficulties that women face to promote her own adgenda. One has to wonder, if she had a genuine concern for women, would she suggest that they chose between their faith and their life of abuse? Would she incite violence against Muslim children? What does having your school burned teach you as a child: that women are valuable and equal, or that you are on your own in hostile territory and must band together and protect yourself / family / values?

Culture is heterogeneous, historically situated, and fluid. It is a constant debate among many voices. But making yourself an enemy of a set of cultural beliefs, which Ali seems to be doing, is a very poor way to affect change. How much more difficult will it be for women to assert themselves from within when she has positioned herself as an assertive women against Islam from without? Ali's actions should be judged not by whether they "fit" with Dutch values, but by whether they provide a good solution to the problem she claims to address, and, as with all issues of violence against oppressed groups, whether they cause harm to the people they claim to help.
posted by carmen at 6:43 AM on June 15, 2005


how far do we tolerate those who practice intolerance?

Not very. Not very far at all. Certainly when "intolerance" is defined to mean actual infringement on other people's rights or actual attempts to subvert the laws of the land. There is no such thing as absolute freedom and the argument should be about which freedoms we think are worth fighting for and which we think are worth fighting against. But to refuse to recognise that some "freedoms" are bad things which should be fought is to be unreasonable and unrealistic.

Hard liberalism deals with the liberal dilemma by grasping the horns, and saying "Liberalism does not mean being endlessly tolerant of everything. Sorry. If you try to practice things we deem to be oppressive, we're going to fight you right back. And frankly we don't give a fuck if you call us illiberal because of that."

It's John Stuart Mill on steroids, man. Probably.
Liberalism does not have to be woolly.
posted by Decani at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2005


I've said it before and I'll say it again, if you want to move to a country with a very different culture, you'd damn well better be prepared to adopt its laws and social mores. Pim Fortuyn was right on about a lot of this. The Wikipedia article I linked to sums it up nicely for me:

"I don't hate Islam. I consider it a backward culture. I have travelled much in the world. And wherever Islam rules, it's terrible. All the hypocrisy. It's a bit like those old Reformed Protestants. The Reformed lie all the time. And why is that? Because they have norms and values that are so high that you can't humanly maintain them. You also see that in Muslim culture. Look at the Netherlands. In what country could a leader of such a large movement as mine be openly homosexual? It's wonderful that that's possible. That's something that we can be proud of. And I'd like to keep it that way."
posted by Scoo at 6:52 AM on June 15, 2005


Decani: Amen, and I love that phrase, "hard liberalism." Who coined it, and where can I read more?

Jenleigh: Thanks for PoliticalTheory.info! I may accomplish nothing again today.
posted by LarryC at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2005


Geert Mak and his sort are utterly no surprise. It is the first article of faith of multi-culti fundamentalism that brown people can do no wrong, therefore if a particular practice appears in a brown-person culture it can't be wrong and opposing it must be racist.

The Guardian: We must be free to criticise without being called racist

Last month, the website of an organisation called the Islamic Human Rights Commission made me [Polly Toynbee] the "winner" of their "Most Islamophobic media personality" award. It has caused me a bombardment of emails of both extreme pro- and anti-Islamic poison, each one more luridly threatening than the last. The occasional note of reason from moderate Islamic groups is so weak it hardly makes itself heard. I had challenged the legitimacy of the idea of Islamophobia and warned of the danger to free speech of trying to make criticism of a religion a crime akin to racism.

To give a flavour of the Islamic Human Rights Commission awards, Nick Griffin of the BNP won the most Islamophobic British politician award, Jacques Chirac and Ariel Sharon shared the international Islamophobic politician award and Islamophobe of the year was George Bush. That's the company I found myself in.

The [UK] government wants to make incitement to religious hatred a crime, caving in to a vociferous Muslim campaign.... To reassure outraged rationalists, ministers say that only a couple of people a year are expected to be prosecuted under it. So, why bother? That will inflame the religious even more as they refer case after case, expecting the law to protect their right not to be offended by mockery or criticism. They want religion placed in a realm beyond ordinary argument - and it is beginning to happen.


Guardian again: Ayaan Hirsi Ali-Danger woman

What Hirsi Ali found herself confronting was the central feature of social organisation in the Netherlands, known as "pillarisation". It is a principle that dates back to the 17th century when Amsterdam was Europe's busiest mercantile centre and when common sense dictated that, if business were to thrive, religious differences had to be set aside and antagonistic groups kept physically separate. Article 23 of the Dutch constitution, which established rights for the setting up of separate schools and institutions, is itself a central pillar of the Dutch system, and, in the 1960s, was conveniently reinterpreted as the standard of a new multicultural orthodoxy - officially expressed as "integration with maintenance of one's own identity". It was in this respect that Dutch society found itself in seeming harmony with the new Muslim populations who began to arrive from the 1970s - partly from the former colony of Surinam, but mostly from Morocco and Turkey. Muslims wanted their own schools and mosques, and the Dutch government happily provided for and funded them. Just as there had been Catholic, Protestant and secular "pillars" in the Netherlands, there could now be a Muslim one too.

Hirsi Ali's recommendations to the Labour policy unit were blunt and radical: close all 41 Islamic schools, put a break on immigration and change article 23. Jaws hit the table. The reaction she got indicated how badly she had started trampling on taboos. Job Cohen, who would emerge as one of the key bridge-builders in Dutch-Muslim relations, suggested that Hirsi Ali focus on integration. Influenced by the events of September 11, however, she began to publish articles arguing that Islam was not capable of integrating into a society that was itself not very good at integration. Furthermore, she concluded, if you looked into the condition of women in Muslim communities you found an intractable problem, one which liberals and multiculturalists refused to address. "I called it the paradox of the left," she says. "On the one hand they support ideals of equality and emancipation, but in this case they do nothing about it; they even facilitate the oppression."


Cathy Young, Reason: When is it politically correct to beat gays and kill women?

"There's still an extraordinary degree of racism in Dutch society," Long opined to the gay news service PlanetOut. "Gays often become the victims of this when immigrants retaliate for the inequities that they have to suffer."

Welcome to Politically Correct World, where acts that would merit unequivocal condemnation if committed by white males are viewed in a very different light when the offenders belong to an "oppressed group."

A German-Turkish women's group has documented 40 "honor killings" since 1996—murders of women and girls by family members as punishment for besmirching the "family honor." In February, 23-year-old Hatin Surucu was shot to death in Berlin, allegedly by her three brothers. The young woman had divorced the cousin she had been forced to marry at 16; she had also started dating German men, given up her head scarf, and enrolled in a training course to become an electrician. What made headlines, Der Spiegel reports, was not the murder itself but a letter from a school principal reporting that some Turkish boys at his school had mocked Surucu as a "whore" who "got what she deserved."

Even feminists often balk at breaking the multicultural faith. A 2001 article in Labyrinth, a feminist philosophy journal, lamented that concerns about the oppression of women in the Third World could perpetuate "the stereotype that 'brown' men abuse 'brown' women more than white men" and cause "Third World" people to be perceived as "more barbaric" than Westerners.

(The referenced Labyrinth article is here.)
posted by jfuller at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2005


I predict more violence and harsh words being exchanged, and that's just the thread.

On topic, I am always surprised by this, I live in a muslim area that's mainly Pakistani and Somalian (I am probably one of about 4 white people on my block) and I have never felt in any way concerned about the way that my neighbours act - we are all respectful of one another, smile and nod and shop at the same shops etc. I'd be surprised to hear of any racial violence in my particular area (one of the cheaper and more "gritty" parts of Sheffield) as we all get on just fine.

To me, it just seems strange that someone would seek to inflict violence on someone else because of race/religion etc. and most of my neighbours would agree. The huge Catholic church down the road from me that has avoided vandalism despite the fact that it is surrounded by those who do not worship there. The only time I see violence is from young men with no respect fighting other young men. That crosses all races/religions/cultures and is hardly a cause for more concern than normal.

One concern I do have is the colonisation of specific areas by specific ethnic group - it happens everywhere but it's really obvious near me. You have a Chinese area, a Pakistani area, Somalian, Greek etc. I have lived in all different places and it doesn't bother me but most of these people will not associate outside of their boundaries, creating little towns where people do not take on the host culture in direct exchange but become villages of people who refuse to mix with "outsiders".

I wish I knew why it's possible for me to make friends across these cultural divides just fine but that each little group stays to themselves. It only breeds hatred between them and does nothing to help them blend in to the culture around them.

Ah well, when the rest of the world grows up I am sure it'll all be grand.
posted by longbaugh at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2005


Absolutely, Scoo. If you accept that women are equal to men, then you must conclude that - at least in the area of sexual politics - Islam is a backward religion and/or culture (the lines get blurry, of course). The fact that certain types get squeamish about saying so doesn't alter the fact that the logic is inescapable if you accept the premise of equal rights.

Those who claim to be liberal and non-sexist yet who do get squeamish about criticising sexist cultures, religions and societies need to have a bit of a hard look at themselves, I think.

LarryC: I coined the term "Hard Liberalism". If someone did it before me I'm not aware of it. I got tired of having interactions with other liberally-minded folk which basically involved them saying "Absolutely, Decani, couldn't agree more, you clearly have a strong sense of human rights and fairness and there's a good liberal, aren't we nice and....WHAT? YOU CAN'T CRITICISE ISLAM! You can't say that about Christianity! You have to recognise that female circumcision is acceptable in that culture! FASCIST!"

I'm exaggerating a bit, of course. But not much.

Where can you read more? Well... let me know if you find out, won't you? :-)
posted by Decani at 7:05 AM on June 15, 2005


Meanwhile, Hirsi Ali focused her broadsides more and more plainly on Islam itself. She wrote that the Prophet Mohammed was a "despicable" individual who had married "the 9-year-old daughter of his best friend." "Mohammed is, by our Western standards, a perverse man," she wrote. "A tyrant. He is against free speech. If you do not do what he says, then you will have an unhappy ending.

Those sorts of comments do lend support to the opinion of some who accuse her of stirring up Islamophobia. It is wrong to allow the religion to control women and take away their rights, but attacking the very foundation of that religion goes too far and merely ends up stirring hatred and resentment. She obviously hates Islam and wants everyone else to hate it too.

[by the way, great post jenleigh]
posted by caddis at 7:16 AM on June 15, 2005


Part of the problem with this problem is the left is largely incapable of approaching the issue with any kind of open mind. There is a refusal to even accept that some problem may actually exist.

Immigrants come, they form ghettos. Natives walk/drive through the ghettos, and notice all these people that "don't look like us". They are uncomfortable, maybe afraid. Perhaps they resent changes in shops, or a mosque where once was a church.

The immigrants are likely working at lower paying jobs. Some may be put down for being who they are, or perhaps only feel that they are. Young males develop attitude over this sort of thing. Next thing you know, they make trouble, and that, of course, makes things worse.

Even in the small town on the German border, where I used to shop regularly, the Islamic folks were very visible. And yes indeed, there were those visibly involved in criminal activity. Or the legal merchants who kept shops, but not the orderly shops of their Dutch neighbors.

Its so easy to point fingers and make judgements against the stranger. Its easy to paint with the broad brush or racism/nationalism, the more different the strangers, the easier it becomes. It even feels right.

I've thought a lot about this. I am fascinated by those that are different. I'm a white guy from a white town that learned some useful things from my early exposure to African Americans. I am inclined to wonder what other useful things I could learn from other different cultures, and that encourages me to be more accepting of difference (helps that I'm gay, too, no doubt).

My solution is that folks have got to get to know folks. Their weird! I say, "Kewl"! At the very least they may have some interesting cuisine to offer. Who knows what else. Of course, they have to open up to the culture into which they've come as well. It has to work both ways.

Some today worry about cultural assimilation, or one group loosing its "identity". Which group is loosing? Is learning something new a net loss? Or is it simply change? Things change, regardless of what we do. Might as well encourage change in positive, useful directions.

Please place your tin foil hat on your head:

At some point when dubya took over America, it occurred to me to be concerned with exactly how the bushreich would influence Europe. Since that time, I have seen both the Netherlands and Belgium experience a strong surge into anti-muslim, anti-immigrant territory. I can't help but wonder about this.

Surely Europe can't be allowed to continue as a happy liberal democracy while America chases hatred down the sewer pipes of the proverbial toilet. Surely there are those who would feel the need to drag all they can right down with them.
posted by Goofyy at 7:18 AM on June 15, 2005


Even though fire was set to a Mosque in Rotterdam by some right wing idiots yesterday, I refuse to discuss this topic with terms like 'war'. There is enough false rhetoric on this already.

part of the problem for Europe is that some Middle Eastern countries, Turkey in particular, have been suppressing the religious radicals, driving many of them to emigrate.

Morocco and Tunisia have expelled mullahs and imams because of their extreme views, and some of them ended up preaching in Dutch mosques indeed.

But, there is another side to this problem, of a far more social than religious nature.

A bulk of the immigrants from Turkey or Morocco came from rural backwaters, are/were often illiterate, and would even have had problems to make a career in their own country. A huge problem is that these people grew up in societies so radically different than the Netherlands offer, integration or assimilation would even have been difficult had they had the intelligence, schooling, or resources alot of those people lack now.

Instead it is easier for them to choose for isolation within the own immigrant community, watch only satellite TV from the home countries, and hear the radical imams in the mosques.
posted by ijsbrand at 7:34 AM on June 15, 2005


I think that there's a lot of sense in some of these comments about the problems that some kinds of liberalism have with addressing issues (of oppression) within groups that have been seen to be vicitims of oppression themselves. But I also think that there's a kind of blinkeredness to the rhetoric which seems to suggest that liberalism has this problem sui generis, and that diagnosing it is somehow also showing what's wrong with liberalism in general. The liberal response to 'oppressed minorities' is, in fact, itself a response to rightist excesses that have tended to demonize immigrants, people of color, gays and lesbians, etc. To begin to talk about this as if the problem is that liberals or liberalism are unwilling to face the harsh facts is to elide the history of the right in the 20th and 21st century, the right's stridently xenophobic stances and policies, and the literal horrors and orgies of blood that have resulted. It isn't simply a failure to face harsh facts, there is a serious political question about how to face harsh facts without becoming xenophobic bigots like the right.

Which is not to suggest that there does not need to be a strong response from liberalism and liberals to the kinds of oppression of women seen in some Dutch Muslim communities. On the contrary, the response needs to be strong precisely so that the demagogues on the right, whose goals are highly suspect given the history of the right in Europe, do not become the only viable means of addressing people's concerns.
posted by OmieWise at 7:43 AM on June 15, 2005


I don't see this as one issue, I see this as two issues:

1. Reactionary islamophobia and xenophobia which I disagree with and,
2. Homophobia and mysogeny with the Muslim community which I also disagree with.

Personally, I don't see the two as contradictory views. I can welcome Muslims and any other immigrants into my country but I can also disapprove if those immigrants are themselves bigotted. That does not mean I want them out of the country. It would be nice to get rid of every group I disaprove of but I appreciate that people have dissenting views and it is better to engage in debate with such individuals rather than revolt against them completely... this seems, to my mind, to be the liberal position.
posted by axon at 7:49 AM on June 15, 2005


[how far should we tolerate intolerance]

Certainly when "intolerance" is defined to mean actual infringement on other people's rights or actual attempts to subvert the laws of the land.

Well, what if the laws infringe on people's rights?
posted by delmoi at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2005


Please make a distinction between "condemnation of hatred of 'the Other'" and "celebration of their 'right' to chop off their daughters' clitorises and kill them because a stranger smiles at them, and to sequester, rape and beat their wives". Of course if we have so many women saying you can't be "progressive" unless we allow these things, what'd be so freaking wrong with me abusing the human rights and personal dignity of the females around me? If the issue is that their religion tells them it's proper, why is it okay to deny me my right to be a chauvanist asshole just because I'm an atheist? Or maybe it's that "Western" feminists think "non-Western" women don't deserve the same kind of decent treatment they insist on for themselves; might mother tongue and/or skin color be trumping principle and conscience yet again?

I have an idea: let the Quranical four "enlightened, progressive, multicultural" European (-descended) women convert to Islam with me and marry me, so that I can treat them like shit because Allah tells me it's okay. If you don't want to do that, at least have the basic decency to convert to Islam yourselves, give up your dipshit double standards, and yourself become the punching bags of those "exotic, macho" foreigners whose prerogatives you defend. Maybe you could work out a fair and equal exchange: you could volunteer to live out your masochistic fantasies under the veil of "Islamic culture", and in return they will release those of their women who don't want to put up with that shit anymore.
posted by davy at 8:22 AM on June 15, 2005


The problem isn't that muslims are attacking non-muslim dutch, (Pim Fortuyn was killed by an Animal Rights activist for supporting fur cultivation, remember) its things like honnor killings and whatnot.
posted by delmoi at 8:26 AM on June 15, 2005


The facts are not clear on Fortuyn's murder. His murderer was an animal rights activist but denied that that was his motivation. The murderer said he killed Fortuyn for his anti-immigration, and anti-muslim views and actions.
posted by caddis at 8:38 AM on June 15, 2005


Every law infringes upon a right.
The question, as always, is how to preserve a balance that protects the most rights for the most people.
And as for this being a "liberal" problem? Well, see, "liberalism" exists to protect the rights of the minority from the majority (there's your JS Mill, muthafucka). In the US, we further have the problem of protecting the rights of the majority from a vocal minority faction. (In the extreme, this is what leads to fascism).
I guess the inherent problem for liberalism is that because of its veneration of rights, it inherently treads a balanced path. It's easier to demogogue for anything when you ignore the need to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of society, in either direction.
posted by klangklangston at 8:39 AM on June 15, 2005


klangklangston writes "I guess the inherent problem for liberalism is that because of its veneration of rights, it inherently treads a balanced path. It's easier to demogogue for anything when you ignore the need to balance the rights of the individual with the rights of society, in either direction."

Very well put.
posted by OmieWise at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2005


delmoi- Theo Van Gogh was killed by a muslim radical, and Ms Ali is being threatened by same.

Mostly because they criticise(d) things like honor killings and whatnot.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:47 AM on June 15, 2005


Moroccans, Turks rally against Dutch immigration plans
Moroccans, Turks rally against Dutch immigration plan
Moroccan and Turkish groups in the Netherlands have set up a new action committee named "Genoeg is genoeg" (enough is enough) to organise a campaign against the Dutch government's tough immigration and integration policies.

The group says there should be no difference between the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims.It argues that the Cabinet's integration plans as well as limitations on family reunification and dual nationality hits at the principle of equal rights for all dutch citizens. "We don't want a separate policy for one group as that leads to Apartheid," one of the spokesmen said.


One of the policies would change the practice of retaining duel citizenship for third generation Moroccan immigrants. Morocco is not cooperating.
posted by jenleigh at 8:51 AM on June 15, 2005


The problem isn't that muslims are attacking non-muslim dutch, (Pim Fortuyn was killed by an Animal Rights activist for supporting fur cultivation, remember) its things like honnor killings and whatnot.

As a further clarification, I would put forth Irshad Manji's thesis that the problem is that a desert tribal Arab version of Islam has overtaken the faith, imposing harsh and impractical restrictions on nearly everything Muslims say and do.
posted by gsh at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2005


The group says there should be no difference between the treatment of Muslims and non-Muslims

how dare they
posted by matteo at 9:09 AM on June 15, 2005


immigration is a huge problem everywhere. The new citizens don't necessarily share the same values as those born in that country, and if they do... they tend to be pretty conservative. This is why in Canada our Conservatives are courting immigrant communities to win support for their rightwing agendas.

The weird thing is, both groups - indigenous rightwingers, and religiously conservative immigrants are doing deals with the devil to suit their own agendas. So really... it isn't just the left who is struggling with who it aligns itself with.
posted by Rusty Iron at 9:11 AM on June 15, 2005


br br br broken record
posted by mr.marx at 9:18 AM on June 15, 2005


The thing about the current rhetorical atmosphere in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe is that a few terrible crimes are used to stigmatize an entire ethnic minority. In the U.S., we could point to sexism, domestic violence, anti-Semitism and homophobia in the black community and say, Aha! Those people are backwards and intolerant! Why can't they admit that black culture is the problem? Well, once "black culture" gets pinned as The Problem, the question then turns to how "we" (the goodhearted people of the majority, it is presumed) deal with The Black Problem - after all, we don't want such backwards, intolerant people in our cities and our neighborhoods, accosting our women, spraypainting our public monuments and so forth. Even now in some small towns in America, black people are very visible. And yes indeed, there are those visibly involved in criminal activity. Or at least, the crime of running untidy shops. When anti-Muslim rhetoric runs in this direction (and it is), it is often decried as racist -- because it is. If it's not challenged, it frames the entire discussion.

Yes, sexism and anti-Semitism and homophobia are a problem among minority communities in industrialized countries. But when you start blaming essential parts of people's identities - that part of themselves that brings meaning to their lives and clarity to their perspectives - you are not going to change anyone's minds, any more than Arab newspapers are changing any Israeli minds by blaming Judaism (or even Zionism) for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Calling the Prophet Muhammad a pervert and a child molester is like spitting on an American flag and stomping all over it -- how do you expect Muslims to listen to "liberals" who so brazenly insult them? Obviously, they are going to cling even more tenaciously to their flag, and their holy book, and the traditions of the Old Country, rather than surrender to those who hate them, curse them, and firebomb their houses of worship.

The issue, for me, boils down to this: If you were Dutch, what sort of country would you want your country to be, vis á vis the Muslims living there? Would you want them to be:
  1. nonexistent;
  2. invisible;
  3. open-minded and tolerant of other people?
The problem with the debate as it now stands is that more and more people seem to be supporting outcome #1, and making it more and more difficult to get to outcome #3. But isn't outcome #3 what we all want?

Also: regarding the statistic about 40 honor killings among the 2.5 million Turks in Germany between 1996 and, say, 2004, that works out to a rate of about (40/9 years inclusive) = 4.4/(2,500,000/100,000) = 0.18 honor killings per 100,000 (total, not just females) per year. By way of comparison, between 1995 and 2002, 339 women were killed by intimate partners in New York City. That's a rate of (339/8 years) = 42.4/(8,000,000/100,000) = 0.53 intimate homicides of women per 100,000 (again, total, not just females). That's about three times the "honor killing" rate, during a time when homicide rates in general were going down in New York. Clearly, Christianity is to blame.

on preview: ditto, matteo! ;-)
posted by skoosh at 10:33 AM on June 15, 2005


I find the reading fascinating but I daresay the realities are depressingly complex. I believe women and men are equal and should be accorded equal rights under law.
That said, I'm a little hesitant to engage here with what I regard as rhetorical and generalizing language that I've read in this thread.
Islam is an ancient religion and while of course certain practices are anathema to our western minds, not all of the problems raised in the article can be comfortably sheeted home to a strictly religious origin. The practice of female circumcision for example, discussed at some length in the blue previously, is a cultural phenomenon that crosses religious borders and is more easily demarcated geographically.

So I believe overall that it's counterproductive to paint what to a large section of this world is a noble religion as being a "backward" phenomenon. That broad axe approach only foments prejudice, hatred, hostility, and suspiciousness - ensuring an excrutiatingly difficult passage to any quasi-form of integration.
Emigrants arrive in the west under different visas and for different reasons. For those who have fled their homeland as refugees I imagine it is much harder for them to contemplate the idea of integration. For those who apply and choose to emigrate, then the problems raised in Holland suggest that education is the sane way of assisting them to breach the culture gulf. And certainly, as jfuller outlined in relation to the pillar laws, legislative changes that are fair to everyone and integrative rather than segregative in nature ought to be enacted.
I'm just not prepared to condemn a religion outright because of ancient traditions. Not every Islamic adherent is a wife beater or murderer or hyper-restrictive of their daughter's social behaviour.

I don't pretend to have answers. I'm trying to approach this rationally and it's in debates like these where we tend to consolidate our opinions. With that in mind, I would urge people to rally against injustices but not against the religion.
posted by peacay at 10:45 AM on June 15, 2005


The Dutch need immigration if their country is to survive. Either that, or they need to start getting married and having children again.

With those needs come responsibility. The Dutch have, even more then most European nations, abdicated this responsibility by bringing in large numbers of immigrants that they treated like temporary, barely existant people.

My position is, either have immigrants and work really hard to explain to them what is expected, how laws will apply to them, what the laws are, how to learn the language/culture/etc. or don't have immigration at all. The way it has been going has to stop, and the Dutch need to take responsibility for their country and not blame all the problems on the newcomers, most of whom were invited or are the children of the invited.
posted by chaz at 10:49 AM on June 15, 2005


Diversity's a bitch, isn't it?

When your society is homogeneous (and well-off), you are willing to make sacrifices for the good of your fellow citizens because you believe they are like you; they come from the same traditions and share this place as a historic and future homeland. Your society looks like a socialist utopia from the inside, but a racial enclave from the outside.

You might get high ideas of your own humanitarianism and encourage others to move into your homeland. But then you will discover -- even though you may have tried really hard to "naturalize" them -- that they are not like you, they do not share the same dreams and visions. They are a different people. Things you would do for your family you would not do for the stranger in the next apartment.

Suddenly it's much harder to be as enlightened as you thought you were. Have them kicked out while you look the other way? Or if you let them stay, why should you sacrifice so much for their benefit when 'they' are not 'you'? It's suddenly much harder to maintain the social utopia because the people who sacrifice are less likely to feel like they are pulling for the same team.

Suddenly it's much harder to be a cultural bigot in the clothing of an enlightened socialist.
posted by fleacircus at 11:49 AM on June 15, 2005


As a foreigner living in Holland (and one looking awfully like a Moroccan, with that), I largely agree with chaz. It is worth noting that the locals don't just seem to have trouble with Muslims, but with (black) people from the Netherlands Antilles, as well, despite their sharing the same passport.

Holland is a densely populated, urban country. This creates a potential for strong tensions, especially if social values and conventions are questioned. Unfortunately, some politicians have been all too quick to exploit those tensions.

Hirsi Ali is a very personable, clever, persuasive and telegenic young woman. She has made very good points regarding the defencelessness of Muslim women in Holland and the rather rosy-tinted views of some lefties regarding the "little brown ones". However, I also have the feeling she's quite the opportunist. This was notably clear when she defected from Labour to the center-right VVD, when she was offered a safe seat in Parliament by the latter. She claimed that she did that "to protect the weakest in society: the neglected women and children in Muslim families". The VVD, however, has never made itself noticed defending anybody other than the rather male and very, very white and Protestant Dutch business elite.

Some of the issues appear especially intractable by the Dutch refusal to consider that immigration has exposed some of their institutions as less-than-ideal. The matter of schooling is particularly contentious: under the Dutch system, both municipal and privately-run schools are allocated a fixed sum per pupil, as long as they adhere to the national curriculum. This is a bit like Bush's beloved voucher system, except that schools are not allowed to charge extra fees (not that they fail to look for loopholes). The result is that many Dutch children go to Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Hindu schools. Yet the establishment of Muslim schools has suddenly raised the alarm. Why? It isn't as if some of the Christian or Jewish schools had a particularly enlightened view of women's rights or homosexuality either!

Dutch society would be all the better if everybody, immigrant and Dutch, was a bit more conscious of the need for personal responsability. However, right now, witch hunts and scapegoating are the flavour of the day.
posted by Skeptic at 11:51 AM on June 15, 2005


Ayesha Imam, a Nigerian Muslim feminist, activist, and scholar, has devoted much of her attention to researching women and Islamic law. She states
Muslim laws are therefore not unchangeable law, to be accepted unquestioningly by all Muslims. In fact, the scholars after whom the four currently accepted schools of sunni Sharia were named, had no intention of making their views final and binding on all Muslims. Imam Hanbal urged "do not imitate me, or Malik, or al-Shafi, or al-Thawri and derive directly from where they themselves derived". Imam Malik, the founder of the school of fiqh accepted in Nigeria, cautioned that "I am but a human being. I may be wrong and I may be right. So first examine what I say. If it complies with the Book and the Sunnah, then you may accept it. But if it does not comply with them, then you should reject it." So in the views of the very founders of the schools of Sharia, good Muslims were precisely those who questioned and examined and trusted their own reasoning and beliefs. Furthermore, the founders also found it acceptable that the reasoning of one legal tradition might be considered correct on one issue, but that of another more correct on a different issue.
There is room within traditional Muslim teachings to change law, to adapt to new situations (including imigration to a country with secular laws) and to reject laws that harm women. The work that organizations like Baobab is doing, which includes exploring and developing the rights that women have within Islam, seems much more focused on actually helping women than Ali's program of denouncing Islam.
posted by carmen at 12:05 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]


In Judaism, there is a very strong doctrine of "dina d'malchuta dina" (roughly translated - the law of the land where you live is the law that you should obey).

There is a lot of discussion about what the exceptions might be (i.e. if kosher food is illegal, you should still try to eat it), but this is the general position.

Immigrating to another country without some basic respect for your new home seems to be a recipe for trouble.
posted by Adamchik at 12:31 PM on June 15, 2005


There is room within traditional Muslim teachings to change law, to adapt to new situations (including imigration to a country with secular laws) and to reject laws that harm women. The work that organizations like Baobab is doing, which includes exploring and developing the rights that women have within Islam, seems much more focused on actually helping women than Ali's program of denouncing Islam

That makes no sense. Would groups like Baobob exist if it weren't for denunciation and critics? C'mon. How would you have gotten rid of slavery? Inviting slave traders and overseers to tea?

Something like:

"We slaves would like to open a calm reasonable dialogue with you Masters? You know, so things won't get too heavy. We could meet in the big house? No? Ok. Howz about in our shack? You know. Have some gruel, toss around a frisbee and talk about these floggings. Whaddya say, Massa? (pause)

(whip sound)

Ow! Ow!OW!"
posted by tkchrist at 12:52 PM on June 15, 2005


Baobob is an Islamist group. They do not denounce Islam. The denounce practices by Islamist extremists. There is a difference.

To run with your analogy, how far would the slaves have gotten if the denouncers had been saying "Jesus was a goat-fucker, so drop your stupid backwards Christian beliefs including slavery?" Not very far. In fact, slave abolitionists often appealed to Christian values in order to denounce slavery. I'm pointing out that it is possible to appeal to certain Muslim values to denounce the abuse of women.
posted by carmen at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2005


At some point when dubya took over America, it occurred to me to be concerned with exactly how the bushreich would influence Europe. Since that time, I have seen both the Netherlands and Belgium experience a strong surge into anti-muslim, anti-immigrant territory.

Bush is all powerful! Get real, that is just goofy.
posted by Carbolic at 2:08 PM on June 15, 2005


The Toronto Star had a story a while back about Dutch immigration as compared to immigration in Canada, particularly Toronto: The Dutch Transformation (bugmenot). Basically they say that problems arose because of two factors: 1) The Netherlands took in unskilled labourers, whereas Canada has a lot of requirements; 2) The Netherlands has a separate school system, you don't need to learn Dutch, you don't integrate, you are not expected to stay past the 1970's economic boom.

My (Dutch) cousin doesn't think it's quite as simple as that, but those are probably some contributing factors. Immigration from the Netherlands to Canada has increased 400% in the last year, and many of those immigrants cite the increase in violence and the right-wing control of the government as their reasons for leaving.
posted by heatherann at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2005


" If you accept that women are equal to men, then you must conclude that - at least in the area of sexual politics - Islam is a backward religion and/or culture (the lines get blurry, of course)."

You obviously haven't heard of Benazir Bhutto or Megawati Sukarnoputri, both females, both muslim, and both elected prime minister of muslim countries (Pakistan and Indonesia, respectively).

Good observation though.

Metafilter may resume Islam-bashing now. Sorry for the interruption.
posted by b_thinky at 4:45 PM on June 15, 2005


Benazir Bhutto, daughter of a Harvard educated man and educated in the west not in Madrassa's, was arrested a number of times was plagued by riots, strikes, rampant corruption and spent nearly six years in prison and was over-thrown in coup once and stepped down to avoid arrest during her second term. She also assisted the Taliban to power.

Megawati Sukarnoputri's was chosen NOT by popular election but by legislature and her strongest opposition came from Islamist parties that united to oppose her partially because of her gender.

So. Er. Yay Islam?
posted by tkchrist at 6:52 PM on June 15, 2005



Inflammatory.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:50 PM on June 15, 2005


Benazir Bhutto, daughter of a Harvard educated man and educated in the west not in Madrassa's, was arrested a number of times was plagued by riots, strikes, rampant corruption and spent nearly six years in prison and was over-thrown in coup once and stepped down to avoid arrest during her second term. She also assisted the Taliban to power.

Megawati Sukarnoputri's was chosen NOT by popular election but by legislature and her strongest opposition came from Islamist parties that united to oppose her partially because of her gender.

So. Er. Yay Islam?


I know less about Bhutto, but Megawati was definitely the people's choice when she was elected president. The previous president (a male, by the way) was thrown out of office amidst public demonstrations and near riots demanding him to step down in favor of Mega.

After 4 years of inefficient government, she lost the popular election for the simple reason that she sucked as president. My Indonesian family campaigned hard against Megawati for a number of reasons, not amongst them was her gender. Seriously, where did you get that? Anyways, the new president, SBY is not from a conservative Islamist party, so your argument would be that they threw her out to instill one of their own is absurd because it didn't happen.

Bhutto's problems in Pakistan are indicative of the instability there. Musharraf has had at least 2 assassination attempts, which seem to be amongst the least of his problems. The point is, the vast majority of muslim men in those two countries had no problem having a female head of state. You can't say the same thing for the United States.
posted by b_thinky at 8:31 PM on June 15, 2005


3rd world countries, be they Islamic or not, have lots of problems. The rights of women are nowhere near equal, especially in tribal areas.

Muslims living in Western Countries, or Muslims who are allowed to pursue commerce, education, and other things Europeans and North Americans take for granted, are generally just as good at them as their non-Muslim counterparts.

The debate the whole world is going through is 3rd world vs. 1st, in various iterations. If the 1st World wants the 3rd world to improve, which it should, it should help facilitate that eventuality, rather then block it in every way that counts.
posted by cell divide at 8:46 PM on June 15, 2005


Scientology. I'm just saying.
posted by iron chef morimoto at 9:38 PM on June 15, 2005


Oh by the way, thanks very much for the post jenleigh. It stirred up a wonderful discussion. These issues aren't easy and it's interesting that the reality in Holland has actually gone counter to any notion of a usual left-right packmentality dividing line.
posted by peacay at 12:34 AM on June 16, 2005


You obviously haven't heard of Benazir Bhutto or Megawati Sukarnoputri, both females, both muslim, and both elected prime minister of muslim countries (Pakistan and Indonesia, respectively).

Umm, well, actually I have heard of them. Unfortunately I'm at a loss to see how they affect my point about Islamic cultures generally being sexist.
posted by Decani at 6:06 AM on June 16, 2005


What cell divide said. Islam is a red herring. I knew a good Muslim (Shi'ite, if that matters) who sent his daughter to Catholic school because he wanted her to get a good education. There are good people and bad people, sensible people and idiots, in every religion.
posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on June 16, 2005


languagehat writes "What cell divide said. Islam is a red herring. I knew a good Muslim (Shi'ite, if that matters) who sent his daughter to Catholic school because he wanted her to get a good education. There are good people and bad people, sensible people and idiots, in every religion."

Now who's being inflammatory? If you don't stop with the voice of reason I'm gonna have to start flagging your excessive editorializing.
posted by OmieWise at 7:18 AM on June 16, 2005


Ouch! Oh, "flagging" -- I thought you said "flogging."
posted by languagehat at 7:55 AM on June 16, 2005


I agree with fleacircus. I lived in Holland for three years (I'm originally from the UK) in a predominantly Islamic neighborhood, and from the moment I got there I felt a strong sense of "us and them".

To echo skeptic's point, I was also confused with being a Moroccan or a Turk and turned down service at post offices/banks. I know that every country has problems with racism and racial integration, but I found racism to be very prevalent in the Netherlands.

There seem to be various tiers of non-whites, with the Surinamese and Indonesians at the top and with Moroccans and Turks at the bottom. This has a lot to do with the Surinamese and Indonesians being viewed as "integrated" and the Moroccans and Turks being viewed as "non-integrated" but it's hard to separate the idea of "integration" from the concept of subjugation. I'll give one example: Sinta Klaas day falls on December 5th. Sinta Klaas gives Dutch kids their Christmas presents, and he has a helper called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete). Zwarte Piet is played by a white guy "blacked-up" with an afro wig and deliberately enlarged lips. When I first saw that I was incensed, but I was told by Dutch friends that as Dutch black people don't seem to mind then why should I? (I was later told privately by a couple of non-white Dutch friends that they found it very offensive...) Anyway, a great article...
posted by ob at 8:41 AM on June 16, 2005


SBY is not from a conservative Islamist party, so your argument would be that they threw her out to instill one of their own is absurd because it didn't happen.

Reading comprehension. During her first parliamentary election her opposition was from hard line Islamic groups. And she was not popularly elected, dude. It was a parliamentary election. You know the difference? The current president was the FIRST one to be directly elected by the people.

What threw her out... I don't know. But she faced stiff opposition from Islamic leaders her first time through.

Jeebus, people. Fucking honor killings are LEGAL in many of these places. You get that yet? But some how theey're no more sexist than anybody else? WTF?

Ok. Never mind.

Sure. We're all equal. Everything is relative. Muslims are no more sexist than anybody else. It's nobodies fault except for the mean 'ol rich white men, etc.

Please return to your regularly scheduled cognitive dissonance.
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on June 16, 2005


"Islam is a red herring. I knew a good Muslim (Shi'ite, if that matters) who sent his daughter to Catholic school because he wanted her to get a good education. There are good people and bad people, sensible people and idiots, in every religion."

Red herring suggests distraction from the real issue. What do you see as the real issue?

With respect, while it is true that good and evil can be found in men of all faiths, there are distinct and disturbing aspects to Islam that set it apart. Judaism, Christianity, and Secularists have all in recent centuries abjured slavery, polygamy, honor killing, fusion of church and state, subjugation of women, bodily mutilation of women, bodily mutilation as punishment, execution for adultery, execution for apostasy, execution for sexual variety. Islam- hasn’t.

It’s nice that your friend’s daughter went to a Catholic school, but one swallow does not springtime make, nor, I am guessing was this school in an Islamic country. (Question- how openminded would the father have been had said girl come home with a rosary and a new set of beliefs?)

You can see minarets from St Peter’s. You can’t see church spires from Mecca. Until the faith gets enough self confidence to put those above mentioned relics in the attic once and for all, Islam is going be a problem for itself and others who have to deal with it.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:21 AM on June 17, 2005


Oh for god's sake. How many times do we have to go through this crap?

Judaism, Christianity, and Secularists have all in recent centuries abjured slavery, polygamy, honor killing, fusion of church and state, subjugation of women, bodily mutilation of women, bodily mutilation as punishment, execution for adultery, execution for apostasy, execution for sexual variety. Islam- hasn’t.


Go find out what "essentialism" means. Then ask yourself what exactly you mean by "Judaism, Christianity, and Secularists" and what exactly you mean by "Islam." Hint: there are no such entities. There are all sorts of Jews, Christians, secularists, and Muslims, with all sorts of views on all sorts of issues. To pick certain people who can be shoehorned into the overarching categories people like you love to operate with and treat them as representing the whole... well, it can be called "essentialism" or it can be called uglier names, but I'll leave it at that. But it's a problem for those who operate with it and others who have to deal with it.
posted by languagehat at 3:37 PM on June 19, 2005


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