Islamophobia on the rise in the Netherlands
A European human rights watchdog says Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslim minorities facing increasing violence and discrimination. A report released on Tuesday by the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) not only says that Islamophobia has increased, but it also decries the tone of the debate about ethnic minorities in general within Dutch politics and media.
The report is not totally negative. The ECRI concedes that progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in its previous report in December 2000. The Netherlands has become party to several international instruments that are relevant to combating racism and racial discrimination. Work is underway for the establishment of a network of professional local anti-discrimination bureaus throughout the country.
Efforts have been intensified to record and counter discrimination within the criminal justice system. Independent research to monitor racism and racial discrimination nationwide has been commissioned and will be carried out regularly. Attention has also been given to the disadvantaged position of members of ethnic minorities on the labour market, and measures have been taken to tackle racial discrimination in access to places of entertainment.
The main criticisms
But the ECRI says that a number of recommendations made in its December 2000 report have not been implemented, or have only been partially implemented. It says that, partly as a consequence of a number of national and international events, the tone of Dutch political and public debate around integration and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities has experienced a dramatic deterioration since that report, resulting in a “worrying polarisation between majority and minority communities”. Targeting the ethnic minority population only, the integration policies adopted since ECRI's last report have not reflected an idea of integration as a two-way process. Anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and other racist materials on the Internet have continued to increase.
In this report, ECRI recommends that the Dutch authorities take further action in a number of areas. It recommends in particular that they should:
- take the lead in promoting a public debate on integration and other issues relevant to ethnic minorities that avoids polarisation, antagonism, and hostility among communities;
- take steps to counter the use of racist and xenophobic discourse in politics;
- oppose publicly and vigorously all manifestations of Islamophobia;
- review a number of policies in the light of the prohibition of direct and indirect racial discrimination.
Wasif Shadid, Professor of Intercultural Communication at Tilburg University here in the Netherlands, told Newsline's Dave McGuire that the ECRI report is an accurate reflection of what's happening:
"It's true what is said in the report. The debate about integration is a cacophony. It's not dealing with relevant aspects, and they are only shouting and looking for failure of integration by the minorities themselves, and not by society at large."
The report criticises the Freedom Party and its leader Geert Wilders for saying extreme things, but it also criticises the mainstream parties for not reacting and countering it with another point of view. Professor Shadid agrees:
"Yes, this is the problem, that it is tolerated and other political parties in the country are working with him [Wilders] instead of boycotting him as an extreme right political party".
But Professor Shadid believes that the ECRI's suggestion that integration should be a two-way process in the Netherlands is too idealistic:
"This is an old idea, which means that the migrant has to adjust to Dutch society, and Dutch society has to adjust to the cultures of the minorities. But in fact, this is more a romantic idea than a reality. We know from our research that in reality integration is a one-way process."
Professor Shadid believes there's just far too much discussion of Islam in the Dutch press and even in parliament:
"Everything in Islam is criminalised the last ten years. Everything concerning Islam is discussed daily in the newspapers and in the parliament. 150 MP's are spending days discussing banning the burka, which is worn by a maximum of 50 persons of Islamic background."
Wider problem of racism
The report says anti-Semitism is also on the rise in the Netherlands, and cites the increasing use of the word Jew as an insult. Professor Shadid feels that this demonstrates there's a wider problem of racism, not just in the Netherlands but all over Europe:
"I think the whole matter of Islamophobia or anti-Islam feelings in Europe in general, is a cover for racism in general...it is directed towards all foreigners in the country, and all other ideologies - Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. It is a fiction to think that those extreme right parties only direct their negative attitudes towards Islam and Muslims."
By RNW Internet
13 February 2008
[Copyright Radio Netherlands 2008]