Posts Tagged ‘netherlands’

is the netherlands becoming a less livable place?

according to the dutchnews, which i still read occasionally, there will be further cuts in the field of education in the netherlands. the budgets of the special schools for the students with learning difficulties are being cut, and some of these schools are going to be closed. that is pity.

netherlands was used to be known as a welfare state, providing many different kinds of support for its citizens. this image is decaying nowadays. i have heard about financial cuts in social services and education. but not yet heard about any cuts in security or military. cutting the financial support of the needy, and continuing to support the most powerful sectors of the state? no this does not seem fair. this is not a citizen-friendly image of a welfare state. here, i only see a state protecting its own raison d’être. (inner voice: can any state be citizen-friendly on earth?)

few years ago, i was thinking that living in the netherlands for a couple of years, or even a decade, would be a nice idea for me. now, i would say no. no, thanks. but i could still be buitenpromovendus. thanks.


sham Turks and the real Turks

April 17, 2011 1 comment

“Hocam, what do you think of the Turks here (in the Netherlands)?”, asked one of my students during the course break. Well, of course I do think many things, but at that moment I could not come up with a general sentence. “In what sense?”, I asked. “In every sense”, said she. “But, like what?”, I insisted. “They are all awful (she used the Turkish word ‘berbat’), aren’t they? In every sense of the word.” I was a bit surprised, “what you mean?”. “They are awful, their Turkish is awful, everything is awful, isn’t it?”. “No,” I said, “I know many people, who have excellent command of Turkish, they do speak very properly”. “But mine is awful” she said. And I said “come on, your Turkish is not that awful”.  Indeed her Turkish is better than her peers, she speaks and reads really well compared to others in the class.

Then, “the ones in Turkey are real Turks, but we are sham Turks, (she uses the word ‘çakma Türk here), aren’t we?” she said. Oh? That was quite unexpected. I stopped for a moment, could not find a nice answer. Only thing I could say was, in Turkish,  “olur mu canim öyle sey?”. I do not know how to translate, it could be something like “come on, are you kidding?”. It was a weird moment. Then, she continued, “but the Turks here are more attached to their religion, aren’t they?”. Well, it is also debatable. It depends. “Maybe,” I replied “at least they look so”.

What is a ‘real Turk’, what is the difference between a ‘real Turk’ and a ‘sham Turk’, is it bad not being a ‘real Turk’? Or what it means to be more attached to the religion, how do you understand that one is attached to his/her religion, why do you think Turks here are more attached to their religion? Those were the questions that came to my mind as she was talking. But I preferred not to ask.

I have just googled the word “sham Turk” and found a very interesting document about ‘sham Turks’ in Paris. It was published in New York Times in 1878. According to that letter, you can tell “the real Turk at glance”, looking at his “scarlet fez and black surcoat”. Here is a copy of it.

banning halal and kosher

April 15, 2011 Leave a comment

The Netherlands is seriously discussing the ban of ritual/religious slaughtering of animals. This ban will also cover the importation of ritually slaughtered meat from other countries. Tough, ha?

The ban is now being debated in the parliament. The proposal of the ban first came from the Party for the Animals (Partij voor de Dieren). They argue that when animals are slaughtered without being stunned, they feel more stress and severe pain, and this is against the animal rights. Okay, there is freedom of religion in the country, but that should not violate the rights of animals, they say. Many parties are in favor of the ban. Only Christian parties are against it. The Labour (PvdA), the liberals (VVD and D66), the Greens (GL) all support it.. There is large muslim electorate in the country, I wonder why none of them take that fact into account.

Surprisingly, the PVV is divided. I am pretty sure that if this ban was only about Muslims, they would be the first to support. But, fortunately (!) Jews would also be affected from the ban. And the PVV is divided now. Some PVVers are in favor of the ban, some are against.

An MP from the PVV says that he cannot support this ban because, the first anti-Jewish measures taken in the Netherlands during World War II was a ban on ritual slaughter. What a weird political position is that? He remembers the atrocities of WWII and is clearly aware of how they began. He knows that symbolic bans and cases of discrimination led to mass killings during the war. However, he (at least his party) does not show the same sensitivity towards foreigners (or more specifically Muslims or allochtonen) in the country. His party is openly against Muslims in the country and has proposed many anti-Muslim measures. He can respond to my criticism saying that Jews are a part of Europe than Muslims, Europe has a Judeo-Christian cultural tradition etc. I don’t but that. Jews had always been excluded, they were always discriminated against, and the Holocaust was the peak of this hatred. Judaism has only become a part of European tradition only after Holocaust.

While there is a double standard in the eyes of some PVVers, Muslim and Jewish organizations came together and a signed a declaration against the ban. In the statement they claim that there are also other scientific studies showing that ritual slaughtering without stunning is less painful for the animals. So, before the ban is discussed in the parliament, they should have taken those counter evidence into account, they say. They are indeed right. But I find this position a bit problematic, especially for religiously motivated organizations. They base their arguments on scientific research, as the PvD does. Let’s assume that it is scientifically proven that ritual slaughtering is more painful for animals. What would those religious organizations say then? Would they say, ‘okay, if it is scientifically painful for animals, then we give up kosher or halal’? Muslims (and also Jews in this case) should also know how to defend their position from a non-scientific perspective.

Catholic school can ‘lawfully’ ban the headscarf

Court rules:

“the ban is in line with the school’s wish to preserve its Catholic character. The school is not limiting freedom of expression or discriminating against the girl on religious grounds”.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how a teenage girl is banned from the school because of her headscarf, despite the opinion of Equal Treatment Commision in favor of her. Then the girl went to the court. And, as you read above, the court ruled against the opinion of the commision. The school is right to ban the headscarf. We can now expect other private schools to ban the headscarf following this decision.

Today I read another news about another girl with headscarf, rejected by Aldi (one of the greatest supermarket chains in the country) when she applied for a job as cashier. When this was publicized, they withdrew their decision.

It is clear that there is a tendency to ban the headscarf all around the country (read Europe). Why? Have they just noticed that women with headscarves cannot be impartial (who is impartial? none.) or just noticed that those scarves are Islamic but not traditional? I repeat, the iidea of headscarf ban is the stupidest invention of modern, secular human minds.

That’s worrying.

PS: you can read the statement of Equal Treatment Comission on the issue here.

diversity in the netherlands and muslims

In the Netherlands, like in many other European countries, multiculturalism, diversity, pluralism, living together are the most trendy words of debates in politics and the media, especially on issues related to the non-western immigrants in the country.

In those debates about migration and integration, you can see the phrase “multiculturele samenleving” (multicultural society) very often. Samenleving, the Dutch word for “society”, literally means “living together”. This phrase is often pronounced with living in peace with differences, respecting and tolerating each other, conforming with the main rules of the society, blah blah and blah blah.. Non-western migrants (an indirect way of referring to Muslims with an immigrant background in many European countries) are often objects of those debates. They are the ones who has to respect the rules of the society, tolerate the differences and conform with the social and cultural norms in the country. They are the ones to be integrated. It does not matter if they are born and raised in this country. It is enough to classify them as migrants, if they have immigrant parents or grandparents. They still need to be integrated.

Last weekend, I attended a course organized for Muslims in a small town near Rotterdam. The program was held in a very nice mosque. It is the first and the only mosque built with state funds in the country. It is built for the Moluccan Muslim soldiers. History of Moluccans in the country is a topic of another post. Yet, I can briefly say that they are from Moluccan islands, which used to be a Dutch colony in the past. In seventies, few thousands of Moluccan soldiers working for the Dutch state were brought to the Netherlands, temporarily. You can guess the rest of story. To make it short, Bait al Rahmaan mosque was built as a gesture to the Moluccans by the Dutch state to compensate the past.

In the mosque, we were a group of thirty people I guess. Maybe a bit more. In the beginning, I knew very few people from the group, when the program ended, I became friends with many others. I will skip the content of the course, because I want to write about the participants and the diversity of the group.

There were people from various countries, with different stories. During the break time, you could hear many different languages spoken. English was the main language of communication, together with the Dutch. You could also hear Persian thanks to some Iranian friends and Turkish, thanks to me and a few Turkish friends from the Netherlands. Different dialects of Arabic were also on the air, thanks to many Arabic speaking friends with different origins, like Syria, southern Turkey, Iraq, Morocco etc. The lecturer himself was also from Syria. Some friends have parents from different countries, or from different religious sects. Here, I am not specifying the names of the countries, not to identify those people. And of course, there were native Dutch Muslims (alhamdoulillah). Also many others, I do not know much about their backgrounds.

I could not imagine a group more diverse than this one. The only thing we share was being a Muslim. How could such an “heterogenous” gathering be possible in such a small and “homogenous” country?

In this small group, nobody had a problem with the diversity throughout the day. As if everyone was trained to live together with others. Or, as if everyone was capable of living in diverse environments by birth. In Dutch sense, everyone was by default okay with “multiculturele samenleving”.

The differences I mentioned were never a subject of discussion. Nobody called that environment as “multicultural” or something similar. Nobody talked about different cultures. The differences in the environment were taken for granted by all. Probably it was only me, as a semi-outsider or semi-stranger, who is impressed by this diversity.

Now, I am wondering, why this country still has so many problems in managing the diverse groups living on those lands. The so-called non-western group was in this mosque on last Saturday and everything was alright with them. I am afraid the Dutch state invents its own problem, constantly pointing out the differences and calling for “multiculturele samenleving”.

As always, I am again confused about the idea of multiculturalism and politics of difference.

Recalling Eric Hobsbawm’s article “Identity Politics and the Left“, similar arguments can be proposed from an Islamic perspective, I think.

national dna database

March 21, 2011 1 comment

Please do read the following news of from last week’s Dutchnews:

“We need a national dna data base says police chief

Every Dutch national should hand over a sample of their dna for inclusion in a national data bank to help solve crime, Rotterdam police chief Frank Pauw says in Monday’s Telegraaf.

At the moment, only people suspected of crimes with a jail sentence of at least four years have to hand over dna. The Dutch forensic institute data bank now contains the dna of 11,000 people.

‘If you want to make the world safer, there is a price to pay,’ Pauw is quoted as saying.”

Don’t you think that this is a genius idea? After the fingertips, they are gonna collect samples from our DNAs to detect terrorists quickly.. So we will feel more and more secure..

Don’t you feel yourself more protected since your fingertips are saved for the databank of the police when you extended your passport last time?

And you know what, some states cooperate and share those data with each other. This helps them to trace the suspects all over the world.. One does not have to be a real criminal, being a suspect is enough..
And, yes, they do not even feel the necessity of asking the people before they share those information. Why should they? It is for the good of the people. We, the people, are their only concern.
Everything is for us, by them, and despite us.
Bless the state!