So how can this happen.
I mean Amsterdam is a friendly open place.
Well, not quite. And, of course, it never really was.
There is a lot of intolerance in the air here and it is starting to get sticky.
We hear all the time about “criminal moroccans”, and how they do not work, and how they mistreat women, animals, whatever.
And also “isolationist muslim communities” that refuse to “integrate” etc.
We hear how some muslims go around proudly wearing with tshirts with the picture of Mohammed B., Theo van Gogh’s killer, on them.
We hear how “their” kids are so disruptive they are banned from classes.
Of course, we do not hear about the hundreds of Muslims that attended the funeral of van Gogh [he lived in a Muslim neighbourhood after all], or the many Muslims who own businesses and pay their taxes without complaint, or that Muslims are less likely to claim social benefits, or in fact from any moderate Muslim voices.
The press is mostly to blame with the rise of fear and intolerance in the Netherlands.
They only ever have interviews with muslim extremists, and this has created the impression that the majority, rather than the minority, of Muslims are out-to-get-us.
They have highlighted the differences in culture rather than any common ground.
And they continue to used flawed statistical analysis to support an anti-immigrant viewpoint.
Crime has actually decreased in Amsterdam since I have lived here. And there are less Muslim immigrants arriving now than ever before.
But if you listen to the radio, watch the TV, or read a newspaper, there is statistically a Marrocan around every corner about to mug me.
This twisted anti-immigrant sentiment is not a new phenomonen.
I remember being deeply shocked, as I was a naive newly arrived expat, to hear a taxi driver refer to muslim immigrants as “kanker”.
This was in 1999, long before Pim Fortuyn and his anti-immigrant agenda.
This view has always been there, just under the surface of Dutch culture, but now it has become acceptable and is being openly expressed.
Immigrants were not even given a chance to integrate.
They are pushed into virtual ghettos, created by economic reasons rather than public policy, and basically left to their own devices.
There was no attempt by the Dutch to an open dialogue with these “new Dutch” communities.
A dialogue that is necessary if common ground is to be found and built on. And necessary if the Dutch genuinely want these “new Dutch” to integrate.
I seem to be placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the “autochtonen”.
Of course it is not that simple.
There is a fundamentalist element in the Islamic community here in the Netherlands.
There is spousal abuse.
Morrocan kids are more likely to commit crime.
But the way to tackle these problems, which could have been avoided or minimized years ago, is NOT to aportion blame to the Muslim community as a whole so that the Dutch avoid seeing their own culpability.
It is also NOT to turn a blind eye to any violence commited by a Muslim because of Political Correctness.
These issues affect both communities and only together can they be addressed.
What is needed is to open a genuine and honest dialog between the two communities.
One that is not so full of acrimony and accusation.
Or to quote the victim of the gaybashing;
“A more vigorous approach to openness would make the case for a society where each individual or group is entitled to its own values, but in which no one individual or group is entitled to impose those values on others â€” whether through laws or through fists in the streets.” – Chris Cain