“Fear was first caused by some planes entering buildings, tourists and locals being blown up on Bali and risky transport in Madrid and London. Fear was not caused by polarizing politicians.”
Our Dutch correspondent Michiel Mans also writes for the prominent online magazine Het Vrije Volk. He usually writes in Dutch, but today he has posted a response in English to a January 1st interview with Tariq Ramadan. His article is in the format of an open letter:
To: Tariq Ramadan
Ref: interview erasmusmagazine (page 37 — .pdf file)
I would like to comment on the things you said in your Erasmus University interview. You talked about the ongoing debate on immigration and integration. You said:
We are still far from peaceful statements, and there are still those who try to polarize the political debate. However, there is a difference between the national rhetoric and the local reality. At the local level, people are more used to dealing with problems, with tensions. The people that polarize the political discourse do so to acquire votes. It’s built on fear. I’m always saying that we are dealing with a revolution of fear, while we need a revolution of trust.
I’m afraid you turn things around a bit. Or get them in the wrong order. Fear was first caused by some planes entering buildings, tourists and locals being blown up on Bali and risky transport in Madrid and London. Fear was not caused by polarizing politicians. In Holland the murder of van Gogh and the threats made to Ayan Hirsi Ali and others didn’t help either. That started the polarization. Since the attacks and murders, polarization got worse because of the differences in opinion about how to deal with Islamic terrorism, the immigration and integration of Muslims. It is not just a matter of polarization between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also between roughly speaking, adherers of left wing and right wing sentiments and thoughts. Polarization isn’t a means to an end, or to get votes for anyone, but it is the product of differences in opinion and the way the debates, or lack of, are held.
It’s quite logical in fact. You have a great majority at a local level living together with very little tension – though it’s not perfect. But there is a tiny minority of people who are radical, who live in isolation, and who behave in a way which is not in the general interest.
Actually, it is not a tiny minority. More and more Muslims decide they don’t want to become Dutch and look and behave western. Most of the second and third generation still don’t speak proper Dutch (or a local Dutch accent), but speak with a heavy Moroccan or Turkish accent. Ever met a third generation American with Dutch grandparents who still spoke pigeon English? Where does this desire to wrap yourself in a Hijaab come from? From the native Dutch or out of the Mosque? How does insisting on speaking, behaving and dressing differently helps in depolarisation?
These people are in the discourse because of its exceptional media coverage. The media report on the destructive few not on the many who live in peace with each other. It’s a vicious circle, because through talking about these examples, these exceptions, we forget about the reality of the great majority.
Most live apart in peace, not in peace together. A significant difference. It is not the few religious idiots with guns whom are most feared, it’s the rapidly expanding religious masses, and very recognisably so, who are feared. Not butchering each other (yet), can be called ‘peace’. However, is it peaceful in the true sense of the word? I don’t think so.
What then happens is that this is used by some politicians who say ‘look we have a problem with integration because of these people’. We are no longer dealing with ideologies, but with negativism: ‘I know an Arab, I know a black, I know a Muslim’… and you build a whole community from this. This is exactly the meaning of populism. Populism is an ideology built on fear.
I’m sorry Professor but this is bollocks. Populism is rhetoric in which things are said in a somewhat over simplistic, superfluous and demagogue way. Calling it an ideology built on fear is demagogic language. If not populism.
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Populism is indeed always built on something. So we have to look with a sharp eye and mind at the reality. There is a sense of alienation, marginalization and even self-isolation sometimes. And there is the magnitude of the problem which is completely new, with millions still to arrive.
And who invites these fresh millions? It seems inevitable with our current governments, but we can and should stop the flow of these millions. We cannot absorb those already here, while more keep coming in large numbers. Why come over here anyway? Why not make a decent life over there? We had to do it ourselves as well. Even a few times. Actually, my parents did the last time everything lay in ruins. Besides, in most cases the countries of origin of these millions have a lot more room than we have. And we are horrible people as well, let’s not forget that. No? So why on earth do all these people want to come over here?
So you can’t deny there is an ‘us against them’. However, the question is: do we just continue saying this, or do we say there is a future as a common society? How do we come from us and them to ‘us together’, that’s the question?
You forgot one option. The ‘living apart together’ option. It works fine for many couples, why shouldn’t it work for Muslims and non-Muslims as well? Come to think of it, I think it is a marvellous idea. The desired respect, exchange of ideas and recipes can also come from a distance. Westerners in Europe doing their stuff, Muslims in Muslim countries doing Muslim stuff. We have no trouble with other people except Muslims (and not all Muslims at that). Not really.
The ‘us together’ means accepting that we are in a society and in this society there are rules. It means we say we know where you come from and we respect your memories and who you are. This respect should be shown in the common legal framework. It’s a two-way-process. The newcomers should accept the legal system of the society in which they choose to live.
I’m a bit weary of this respect word. Our Prime Minister is in the habit of using the word just about every other sentence. Respect is earned, not given beforehand or a pre-requisite. Acceptance of the legal system by a newcomer with the intention of becoming a citizen, a native, is the very beginning of acceptance, not the end goal. Certainly your children have to assimilate, otherwise nonacceptance as a native is inevitable. See e.g. a Scotsman in London. He’s British, but not English. It’s the ‘clan gene’ in all people.
The point is to say ‘I am an insider, this is my society and this is where I belong’. An old concept like citizenship should be replaced by a new one like a sense of belonging. It’s the psychological component of integration; to feel at home and confident.
It’s all psychology indeed. Somewhat instinctive even at times. Apart from ‘to feel at home’ for the newcomers, don’t forget the ‘still feels like home’ for the natives. Some parts of Amsterdam, or The Hague, don’t feel or look like home anymore.
But be careful with confidence: real confidence means that one is also able to be self-critical. People do not always understand that. A genuinely confident person is critical towards himself, towards people from his own religion and society; not unifying and not thinking of himself as a member in a superficial way. A critical mind is very important. So we need to add critical loyalty, that’s essential. Critical loyalty is based both on self-confidence and an open mind. Self-confidence means I know what my values are, but I see that not all the people in my society behave according to them.
In an ideal world, where all are ‘genuinely confident’, this may perhaps work. Unfortunately, many are not genuinely confident. Not taking these people into consideration, or dismiss them as being wrong, is not realistic and can lead to disaster. Then, he who starts the throwing of stones, or why, becomes irrelevant. The throwing must be avoided at all cost. Looking at Paris, or on a smaller scale at home in Amsterdam -Sloten, stones are already regularly flying.
So in Holland people are not self confident but Holland is regarded as liberal and the Dutch values are great. However, a number of people fail to see that even in Holland, though it has equal rights for all, when a person is black he has “less equal” rights then others. Exactly the same applies to the Muslims.
Bollocks Professor, bollocks. And you have a seat at the Erasmus University? Dutch Law is ‘firmly’ colour-blind. What individuals or some enterprises do, is something else. Discrimination regrettably exists, but it exists among all. Whites, blacks, natives and Muslims. You actually discriminate us Dutch natives by suggesting we are the only discriminating people in Holland.
There is no discrimination between women and men in the Islam, but in Muslim communities there is discrimination.
No discrimination between men and women in the Islam? Ever read the Quraan Professor? Either you haven’t and your lack of knowledge makes you state this, or you missed something. Quite a lot actually. The third option is that you are a liar. It is that simple. The Quraan discriminates between men and women many times over. It’s there in black and white. For the sake of argument, if this discrimination doesn’t come from Islam, where does it come from in the Muslim world? From Iran to Pakistan, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, women are more suppressed than outside the Muslim world. And most of it is done with the Quraan in hand.
The fears are logical and they are legitimate. They are scared of people coming here who will change society. It has always been like this; we were always scared of newcomers. So the newcomers have to respect the concerns of the people.
Because it has always been like this everywhere, newcomers only should come when invited and when they are welcome. As with guests at home in your own house, it is also not much appreciated when the guests after arrival, invite all of their family to come over as well. Plus half the village. It’s not just a matter of attitude, it’s also a matter of numbers and speed of numbers.
But having said that; how do we get beyond that? Fears themselves are not right or wrong, it’s what people do with their fears. As Nietzsche said about suffering: suffering is not the issue, it is what you do with your suffering. The only thing that helps is a critical mind. We are reducing Islam to the Arab world; countries like Senegal, Turkey Malaysia, all Muslim countries, are in a way following the democratic pattern. Of course, countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia do have a problem. Having said this, one can ask oneself if these countries are undemocratic because they are Muslim or because of other parameters.
How about ‘both’ instead of ‘or’? They have problems because of Islam and because of other causes. Just a thought. It also doesn’t address the root cause of most of the troubles in these countries as well as over here. The Islam is the root cause. It is utterly mad. It is a sick and perverse doctrine full of hatred to non-Muslims. Believers live in constant fear of Allah’s wrath. It is totally ridiculous that one billion people believe that the perceived words of a man who was dead for more than a hundred years before his so called visions were written down, are the literal utterances of Allah, spoken to Mohammed via an angel. When written after a hundred years, it wasn’t even in Arabic. That came later yet again. To respect it, is to respect imbecility. Apart from historical, logical and other reasons why it is lunacy, there is no evidence for the existence of God. Any God. There are about two thousand ‘Gods’ world wide, all being the real deal you know. Allah has a lot of competition.
And look at what is happening now: we are talking about the most powerful democracy in the world, the United States of America, initiating wars everywhere.
Everywhere? And all these peaceful locals were just walking down the street minding their own business when these damn Yankees invaded? The Iraq invasion was wrong, agreed, what else justifies ‘everywhere’ (for no reason)?
Democracy is not a guarantee of peace. So don’t over simplify. There are no simple answers for complex situations. I may also lack answers, but I need to form a clearer picture of the complexity.
Agreed. Democracy is no guarantee for peace.
Another big gap is that between academic success and being successful in society. I earned a degree, but the guy next door without one, selling drugs or whatever, is getting more money then I’m ever going to earn. Here we have another gap to fill. So these are both practical and theoretical questions.
Is the Erasmus University paying that bad? Besides, not all non-academics are into drugs or make good money. Perhaps you should get out some more. As I’m a poor non-academic myself, not into drugs, we might have a drink one day and talk shop.
I have many concerns about the present situation, but I am optimistic in the long run. At the same time, we have to be realistic. I think the solutions are probably two generations from now. In fact, tensions will not be less active with second and third generation immigrants living in Europe,. These tensions are very, very strong. So I think it will take no less then 50 years of us living together, dealing with tensions, and with people working on building bridges.
Aahh, that is where our Minister Ella Vogelaar has her ‘fifty years to integrate’ from. So, fifty more years of doom and gloom with those already here, and ‘millions more to come’. Perhaps our leaders are mad, it certainly looks that way, but a lot of Europeans do not like the idea of hara kiri. Neither cultural, nor economical, nor the katana way.
My work, like many people in the West, is that of a temporary bridge builder. For the time being, we’ve people on both sides saying: look at them, they are betraying us. We need at least two generations to understand what we are doing. We don’t need people who try to divide us and polarize the debate. But I am not naïve, I know that political forces are acting on both sides. One has to be patient and has to resist these forces that can take over because of the fear of people. This is a long process because we are changing mentalities, not only political systems. It’s a rather difficult task.
I’m afraid there are only four options. They have all been described before by others.
|This means taking the Islam about as serious as most European Christians take the Bible. In practice this means e.g. that Muslim women (18+) can dress up, or down, in mini skirts when they feel like it. They can have a drink or two, or perhaps one too many occasionally. Good heavens, they might even have a one night stand with lots of casual sex after such booze up. This doesn’t happen every day I hope, but they can if they want to and nobody will lock them up, stone them or give them the lash. They can marry whom they love, not who their fathers love. You get the picture.
|2.||Europeans become Muslims.|
|Personally, I rather die but it is indeed an option.
|3.||No one gives in.|
|Neither side is willing to give up their way of life and inevitably this leads to civil war. Muslims do their best to increase their numbers. However, for the time being if that happens, you do the math. I’m afraid we are going to see more of this option sooner or later.
|4.||See ‘living apart together’|
|We decide that war is not in either group’s interest and we split.|