Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Big Trouble in Little Holland

flkr photo sharingHolland, my adoptive land, is in trouble, and I think the trouble there is indicative of a wider problem with Western style democracies. The Dutch are having a difficult time maintaining their famous emphasis on social justice and everyone getting along (samenleving) in the face of a growing and increasingly militant Muslim population.

The problem is Holland is complex, so here’s some background.

The Muslim's in the Netherlands come from three main nations: Indonesia, Turkey, and Morocco, and immigrants from each group form distinct subpopulations within the Netherlands that have very little in common with one another. This distinction is the first crucial thing to understand: when the Dutch speak of the "immigrant" or "Muslim" problem, they are mainly talking about people from Morocco along with a much smaller number of folks from a handful of other Muslim nations. The Indonesians and Turks are more often than not second or third generation Dutch by now, and most are fully assimilated.

It's important to distinguish between the related but often conflated problems of "criminality" and an unwillingness of some Muslim groups to assimilate. The Dutch perceive the former as problem with all immigrant groups in Holland including (and some would say especially) with recent immigrants from the Netherlands Antilles. It's difficult to gauge just how accurate a perception this is, especially as, e.g., the Amsterdam police refuse to release crime data by race or country of origin. Still, there is no doubt that crime, especially violent crime, has been on the rise for over a decade, and the, for wont of a better term, Dutch Dutch overwhelmingly blame recent immigrants, fairly or no.

The criminality problem - much of which in my opinion can be ascribed to the usual problems of recent immigrants everywhere: poverty, language difficulties, prejudice - gets conflated with the much more serious one of unwillingness to assimilate because many of the criminals come from the same pool of unassimilated immigrants. Like recent arrivals in many countries, Muslims in Holland have frequently become more fundamentalist in their beliefs and customs. Often poor and lacking meaningful economic and social connections outside their immediate group of fellow immigrants, these recent arrivals have been easy prey for those teaching intolerance. Essentially, Holland now has Muslim enclaves within the major cities that are becoming semi-autonomous entities by claming that their way of life, like all others, must be tolerated.

This means the Dutch must tolerate these groups denying women and girls the rights they enjoy under Dutch law; they must tolerate their artists and politicians being assassinated for speaking their minds about Islam and Muslim culture while Dutch Muslim leaders sit complacently by; they must tolerate calls by these same leaders to do away with secular democracy and replace it with theocracy.

And that's the problem as I see it with Western Style democracies: what do you do with a group of people who would use the very mechanisms that make a tolerant, democratic society possible to create a non-tolerant, anti-democratic one? That was a lot of exposition to reach a rhetorical question, but I think that question has wider implications here in the States, and I’ll get to that in a future post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you can almost fit what I don't know about Dutch Law in the Grand Canyon, but as for the laws of these United States- religious leaders and bus drivers go to jail for killing people.

Additionally, if you yell "Fire" in a crowded theater you are also considered culpable even if you didn't actually do the trampling to death of the other people.

If you were to be the leader of a hate group, say the KKK and you were tell your people to go out and kill a Vietnamese fisherman. You as the leader would be subject to indictment, both by criminal court as well as civil court.

I’m saying murder is murder, whether as a hate crime or by a hate group. Are you suggesting that we need special laws to target groups that act maliciously rather than merely the crimes we commit?

6:20 PM  
Blogger digitalprimate said...

If I understand you correctly, you’re asking whether I think that the law should target groups with a stated agenda that boarders on – but doesn’t cross – into actually advocating violence or crime. The answer to that would be mostly no. Contrarian ideas, even anti-democratic ones, need to remain protected speech in a free society. However, the problem becomes more complex when a group attempts to use the means of democracy to change the democratic society in which they live into an anti-democratic one. In other words, when groups begin turning anti-democratic speech into action, that’s where I’d draw the line. But how you deal with such groups? I honestly don’t know what to do about that situation.

On a more practical note, you can’t simply expel the Moroccans (or any other group) from Holland, nor should you want to. The only idea I’ve been able to come up with is system that would require ALL immigrants to Holland to pass a Dutch language and civics exam before being granted permanent residence or a work permit. I’m not sure how that jibes with E.U. law though.

9:01 AM  

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