Call for boycott of Dutch products in Egypt
A popular Egyptian television programme has launched a campaign for a two-week boycott of Dutch products in protest at MP Geert Wilders' anti-Qur'an film, Fitna. But the idea of a boycott has come under fire from Egypt's moderate Muslim community. By Amira Tahawi in Cairo*
The campaign has a clear message for the Netherlands: "Muslims are furious and outraged," announced Amr Adib, the popular presenter of Cairo Today, which is broadcast by a commercial satellite station. Mr Adib says a two-week boycott is long enough to bring the message home and have a noticeable effect on the Dutch economy.
The famous actor and singer, Izzat abul-Auf and the Islamic intellectual Salim al-Awa also took part in the show. They called on Muslims throughout the Arab World and beyond to stop buying Dutch products from Thursday 10 April.
Shortly after the Cairo Today programme was aired, activists began spreading the boycott call via the digital media. Dutch dairy produce and other foodstuffs were singled out to be targeted, but products from Shell and Philips were also listed. The activists are urging that the boycott remain in force till 30 April. More than 8,000 people have received personal messages via an interactive programme asking them to take part in the campaign, and there have been over 1,200 positive responses so far.
Not everyone agrees
Not all Egyptians, however, think the campaign is a good idea. Editorial staff at Islam Online, one of the most influential Muslim websites, say the position adopted by the Dutch government in regards to the film deserves to be applauded. They point out that the stance taken by The Hague was very different from that taken by the Danish government during the crisis surrounding the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. One Islam Online editor writes:
"A campaign to boycott Dutch products confirms the allegation that Muslims respond irrationally."
Critics also say Muslims must be realistic about the effects of such a campaign.
"There's no way of controlling a boycott, which means it's less effective. Anyway, there's too little trade between the Netherlands and Islamic countries for it to be of any real impact. Dutch products are too expensive for most Muslims; they prefer cheaper goods from China and other parts of Asia."
Saad Hejres from the economics paper, Al-Aalam al-Yaum (The World Today), stresses that Islamic governments would never join a boycott. He calls campaigns against small countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands hypocritical, saying the worst abuse comes from the United States.
"In Guantánamo, they tear up the Qur'an and desecrate it, but nobody dares to call for sanctions against the US. A campaign against Dutch dairy products is simply a way of taking people's minds off the real problems facing the country."
An exhibition on paintings by the Dutch master Rembrandt taking place in Cairo has not been targeted by the boycott campaign. Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni condemned calls to boycott Dutch art. He said the idea went against Egypt's tolerant culture.
* RNW translation (mw)
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]