Multiculturalism
Alphabetical List of Links and Notes


"Ayaan Hirsi Ali... In 2002, while still working as a researcher for the then conventionally multiculturalist Dutch Labour party, she publicly described the Prophet as a pervert (for taking a child as one of his wives) and as a tyrant. She took over where the eccentric populist Pim Fortuyn had left off, arguing that Islam was a backward religion, that it subordinated women and stifled art...

"It was towards the end of last year, however, that she became the source of a national crisis in the Netherlands. An 11-minute film, written by Hirsi Ali and directed by Van Gogh, was broadcast on television. It featured the stories of four woemn pleading with God for release from domestic, social and marital bondage. What many Muslims found intolerable were the images of naked female bodiees, on which had been painted verses from the Qur'an authorising the subordination of women...

"On November 2, while cycling in Amsterdam, Theo van Gogh was shot eight times by a young, bearded man wearing a long jellaba...

"In the aftermath of the murder, the already fraught issues of Dutch multiculturalism, and of community relations with the country's 900,000-strong Muslim population, became incendiary. Mohammed Bouyeri, the man arrested for his killing, had been in many respects, a model of integration: he was of Moroccan descent, but Dutch-born and Dutch-educated, and this cast him in the role of the enemy within...

"It is possible that, as Mak puts it, the Netherlands is "a small, provincial country", unable to bear the realities of globalization, which has used a nasty murder as an excuse to conflate issues of Islam, immigration and security. But the country's problems are far from imaginary. Van Gogh and Hirsi Ali are not the only public figures to have been targeted with death threats. Amsterdam's Jewish mayor, Job Cohen -- despite meticulous bridge-building with Muslim communities -- also requires bodyguards, as does his Moroccan-born deputy, Ahmed Aboutaleb.

"In many ways the Netherlands is a crucible case within Europe, because the issues surrounding immigration are so stark. For example, the economic argument deployed by both leftwing multiculturalists and free-market conservatives -- that immigration revives aging populations, provides labour resources and generates entrepreneurial activity -- simply does not apply in the Netherlands. There has been no overall economic benefit to population change since unskilled guest workers were invited to the Netherlands in the early 1970s. According to Paul Scheffer, a leading critic of multiculturalism and professor of urban sociology at Amsterdam university, up to 60% of first generation Turkish and Moroccan populations are unemployed. "It's a huge failure," he says, "everyone can see that."

"Within a generation the Netherlands has swung from blithe, open-door immigration to anxious protectionism... By 2001, 46% of the population of Amsterdam consisted of first- or second-generation immigrants. It is in the Netherlands that European multiculturalism most dramatically flourished and died...

"Add to this the fact that nearly 1 million of the Netherlands' 1.7 million immigrants are Muslim, and it is not hard to see how issues of Islam and migration have become entangled.

"Which is why Hirsi Ali's full-frontal attacks on Islam generate such acute discomfort. She argues that there is less a problem with migration in general than with its Muslim component in particular, and that she should know, because she is herself a Muslim migrant. Hopes for a moderate Islam are only meaningful, she argues, it if is possible to chip away the theological brickwork--constructed, she believes, on a foundation of femaile oppression--which permeates the structure of the religion. But Islam, she says, is unable to endure criticism or change, and is essentially at odds with European values...

Influenced by events of September 11, however, she began to publish articles arguing that Islam was not capable of integrating into a society that was itself not very good at integration. Furthermore, she concluded, if you looked into the condition of women in Muslim communities you found an intractable problem, one which liberals and multiculturalists refused to address...

""I am not against migration. It is simply pragmatic to restrict migration, while at the same time encouraging integration and fighting discrimination. I support the idea of the free movement of goods, people, money and jobs in Europe. But that will only work if universal human rights are also adopted by the newcomers. And if they are not, then you run the risk of losing what you have here, and what other people want when they come here, which is freedom"...

""We Muslims are brought up with the idea that there is just one relationship possible with God--submission. That's Islam: submission to the will of Allah. I want to bring about a different relationship, in which you say, 'Dear God, I would like to have a conversation with you.' Instead of submission, you get a relationship of dialogue. Let's just assume it's possible"" (Alexander Linklater. "Danger woman." Guardian Weekly, May 27-June 2, 2005: 17-18).


Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS