Cohen: depolarise debate over Islam
11 February 2005, AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen has said the debate about Muslims and extremism should be conducted "in a more balanced way" in the Netherlands to avoid further polarisation between the Muslim community and the rest of society.
11 February 2005
AMSTERDAM — Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen has said the debate about Muslims and extremism should be conducted "in a more balanced way" in the Netherlands to avoid further polarisation between the Muslim community and the rest of society.
He said the debate's aggression — in part being driven by the emergence of a real right-wing in the Netherlands — posed the danger of alienating the majority of Muslims who had integrated and "done well" in the Netherlands.
"There is a need for a depolarisation of the debate," he said.
Cohen made his comments during the recording of a special addition of Amsterdam Forum, a current affairs discussion programme on the English-language service of Dutch world broadcaster Radio Netherlands.
Clark opened the programme by recalling the turbulent events following the shocking murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh last year. The man arrested for the killing is a 26-year-old Amsterdam with Dutch and Moroccan nationality.
Cohen, who has also received death threats, recalled that he had been the guest on the first edition of Amsterdam Forum, also in the IGB club, on 6 May 2002.
"I was here in this chair, in this room, when I heard the news that Pim Fortuyn had been shot … the first political murder in 400 years in the Netherlands," he said.
Fortuyn was a rising political star who won widespread support as the first prominent person in the Netherlands to openly criticise Islam and call for a halt to immigration. He was shot and killed by animal rights activist Volkert van der Graaf, who later said he did it to "protect the weaker elements in society".
Cohen said the current situation in the Netherlands could not be seen in isolation from several important elements, including the 11 September attacks in the US, unemployment and lack of opportunity among Muslim youths and the highlighting of crime committed by young Moroccans.
The mayor said it also seemed clear that Van Gogh's murder might not have been purely the work of one person, because the suspect appeared to be part of a wider group.
He said the number of extremists who were willing to use violence was very difficult to estimate, but was certainly only a very tiny minority.
Asked by Expatica if the government was concentrating too much on security and not enough on integration, Cohen said the authorities had to take security measures to counter the threat "but that there had to be a balance".
He said it was important that the majority of law-abiding Muslims, who had "done well" in the Netherlands, were not made to feel unwanted.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch News