The multicultural society is a contradiction in terms. It is all too easily assumed that the bringing together of different cultures will automatically result in a synthesis.
If we look beyond the varnish put on it, what the term multicultural actually stands for is a source of tension and conflict. A multi-ethnic society, on the other hand, does seem a possibility, provided that it exists within the bounds of one, overarching culture: cultural unity alongside diversity of origins.
Part I A short sketch of the issues
In this section it will be explained what the foundation stands for and why it sees it as its duty to make the social aspects of the multi-cultural society a subject for discussion. The second part consists of a more in-depth analysis of the “multi-culture” phenomenon. Part three sums up the existing barriers to developing rational policies. Part four contains recommendations.
1. What does the foundation the club of ten million want to achieve?
The members of the foundation The Club of Ten Million (De Club van Tien Miljoen) make it their aim to maintain and improve the quality of life of all legal inhabitants of the Netherlands. They see the continuing overpopulation, on a global as well as a national scale, as the greatest threat to human quality of life and to the continued existence of other life forms. As a first step, they want to instigate a process of raising awareness within society at large.
Our country is becoming increasingly full while our freedoms as individuals are being limited more and more. This is one of the factors that contribute to the rise in incidences of crime and aggression. These phenomena in their turn evoke fears about safety and feelings of insecurity. That is why the main goal set by the foundation is to bring back the Dutch population to a more responsible size, over time. The provisional target is ten million, the size of the population around 1950. Even at that time the Netherlands was considered to be overpopulated and an active emigration policy was pursued. The government’s view back then is still our view now. We find ourselves in good company, furthermore. Influential in the Netherlands have been the publications of “Tal en Last
” (“Number and Burden”), 1972, and the report by the State Commission Muntendam (1977); the pronouncements made by Dr Willem Drees, collected in Drees 90, Geschriften en Gesprekken
(“Writings and Conversations),1976, by Dr. Jan Pen in, for instance, Tegenspraak
(“Argument”),1994, in particular the statement: “our attitudes are far too saccharine when it comes this urge of ours to reproduce” (published on www.milieudefensie
.nl in September 1999). More recent are publications by Pim Fortuyn and Pieter Lakeman, for example Binnen zonder kloppen
(“Coming in without Asking”)1999. An earlier, but highly remarkable statement is the Queen’s speech from 1979, which includes the phrase: “Our country is full, full to overflowing in some parts”.
2. Taking issue with immigration
In the foundation’s first five years of existence, a lot of attention was paid in its publications to issues such as ecological sustainability, human and animal welfare, the birth rate and demographic ageing. Initially, its attitude towards immigration was reserved, which had to do with, amongst other things, the taboo surrounding the subject within society. On the grounds of its aims, though, the foundation saw it as its duty to explicitly address the issue of immigration, because of the important contribution it makes to the population pressure in our country. Each country is responsible for its own population surplus and should not export it to other countries. At the moment the population of the Netherlands is still increasing. The immigration surplus and the birth surplus currently contribute about equally to the growth of the population. The effects of immigration are in fact even stronger than the figures attest to, because the number of births also includes the children born to immigrants in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, the birth figure among “native” Dutch has fallen below the “replacement level” of 2.1 children per woman (this is the figure which is referred to officially), which could, eventually, result in a population decrease. There is a danger, though, that this potentially beneficial effect will be nullified by the continuing influx of new immigrants and their families.
As a first step, we have drawn up a list of the problems surrounding this issue. The result has been set down in a brochure titled “A Complete Occupation; The Netherlands and Immigration”. Here we want to examine one of the aspects mentioned in that brochure further, namely the effects on Dutch society, taking the “multicultural society” as a central concept.
3. The social consequences of immigration
In the opening lines of a number of our writings including “The Declaration of Principles” and “Policy Proposals, and also “The Netherlands and Immigration”, the foundation states that its main motivation is a concern for quality of life. The threat immigration poses to this lies not only in its contribution to the pressure of population, but also in the risk of serious social disruption.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the influx, in such a short space of time, of so many people with such strongly divergent cultures cannot be adequately absorbed by our society. There were, of course, different cultures present within the Netherlands before the recent wave of immigration, but it was nearly always the case that there was a common, usually Christian, European background. Despite their geographic relocation, immigrants could be accommodated in their own socio-political (religious) “pillar” or group. Integration occurred, therefore, on many different terrains. Nowadays there is hardly any integration because the people coming into the Netherlands do not encounter a suitable, existing “pillar”. The phenomenon of separate pillars has, in fact, disappeared from Dutch society and one consequence is that a form of “spontaneous apartheid” between the original Dutch population and different groups of immigrants is becoming increasingly visible. Its mildest form, one that can be observed throughout the Netherlands, is a tendency towards mutual avoidance. Its effects can be seen in the emergence of so-called black schools and black neighbourhoods.
The chances of integration occurring will become smaller and smaller, and the chances of a permanent apartheid developing greater, as the number of immigrants grows and the influx continues. It connotes a permanent source of tension and conflict, as incidents in the world, both in the past and today, show all too clearly. We can formulate it in another way: a multicultural society, that is, a society in which two or more strongly divergent cultures permanently coexist, is a fiction and a source of social problems.
4. The netherlands as a multicultural society
Along with other Western European countries the Netherlands has developed, between 1960 and 2000, into a multicultural society. Until 1960 the Netherlands was mainly inhabited by people whose roots lay in a centuries-old, Christian culture. After 1960 a sizable stream of immigration started up. A large part of our new compatriots originate from other continents. Their culture is based on other, non-Christian religions and on different conventions. This different background goes together with differing opinions on life, work, marriage and the role of the authorities. During the last decades, their immigration has taken place without there being a guiding plan or vision; we have undergone this development. There has not been any decent guidance and this has caused segregation, which has stranded groups of people in a long-term state of hopelessness and dependency. The foundation is worried about these groups (see the table at the end) and about the continuing stream of people from cultures that are foreign to us. We will make some suggestions for repairing mistakes made in the past and for preventing future ones.
5. A worrying situation
The subject of immigration is heavily taboo in the Netherlands. This taboo has been created by ideologically inspired groups, which present the multicultural society as an enrichment and try to discredit any resistance to immigration by labelling it as “racism” or even “fascism”. This taboo is also referred to by the term “political correctness”, which almost completely controls the media and which politics also follows docilely. As a result, any form of open debate or rational political action has been paralysed for a quarter of a century now. The most worrying aspect is that, up until today, there have been no signs that this paralysis will be lifted in the near future. As long as the present economic prosperity and the relatively stable political relations continue, these tensions can probably be covered up to some extent. What we are actually doing, however, in a futile and needless way, is saddling coming generations of both immigrant and native inhabitants with problems that they will not thank us for in the least.
One unpleasant aspect is that the new social divide got going just at the same time that existing oppositions and inequalities within the original society were rapidly disappearing. This was happening thanks to the introduction of social security, the widening of social mobility (the accessibility of high positions to people from all class backgrounds), the emancipation of women and also thanks to the disappearance of the so-called “pillar structure” along with the existing religious divisions.
6. The position of the foundation
The foundation regards the situation that has developed and the prospects, if current policies are maintained, as very worrying. Its self-appointed duty is to contribute, as much as possible, to breaking through the current state of paralysis in order to get an open debate going. The foundation realizes all too well that it will encounter strong resistance and insinuations in taking this course (a whistleblower does not usually encounter all-round approval). That is why we want to state a few points clearly:
The intercultural tensions that have been observed stem from the universal characteristics of human societies. These characteristics apply to all peoples, throughout history. It is completely irrelevant here whether one culture might be more or less worthy than another.
The foundation regards migration as a benefit, but only if there is the possibility of migration in both directions. This is exactly what is missing in the current situation. If Dutch pig farmers had been allowed to settle in Surinam, for instance, then both countries might have profited.
The responsibility for the impending social disruption lies squarely with our own Dutch society, represented by the government, which is too open to the influence of ideological pressure groups. The immigrants themselves are not to blame because they are simply making use of the opportunities they are being offered. The foregoing implies that we distance ourselves from any form of racism or discrimination.
We have tried to put our message and the considerations surrounding it into words as clearly as possible. We do not wish to imply anything outside what we have written.
Part II A further analysis of the ‘multi-culture’
Each society is multicultural to a lesser or greater degree. Radical demographic changes in a society can cause unrest and a kind of permanent apartheid. In this section we will look further into the different aspects of the coexistence of different cultural groups within society. Our specific situation will be put in a historical and international perspective, to see what we can learn from other situations in other parts of the world, and at other times in history. It will become apparent that the developments taking place in the Netherlands, as well as the developments potentially facing us in the future, follow a general human pattern and are not susceptible to being guided from the point of view of utopian ideas.
7. Gradations of hospitality towards migrants
Different degrees of “hospitality” are shown when immigrants are received in host countries, right up to the extreme of rejection. Sometimes immigrants are “warmly” welcomed. One could think of the reception of 17th century Huguenots from France, for instance, who actually sought and found some aspects of their identity in the Netherlands. Another example is that of the Europeans, among them around half a million Dutch, who emigrated to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, when the Netherlands became too full with a population of 10 million. In these cases the immigrants had, more or less, the same background as the populations of the host countries.
Sometimes immigration is he result of recruitment. In this way, Spanish, Turkish and Moroccan immigrants were persuaded to come and work in the Netherlands. The importation of slaves from Africa to the New World was, of course, a form of forced migration, as was the deportation of Native Americans to reservations.
There have also been examples of violent confrontation between immigrants and native populations: the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in Israel, for example; the conflict between white Americans and Native Americans; the fight of the English colonizers against the Aboriginals and Maoris in Australia and New Zealand, respectively. These last two groups and the Native Americans ultimately lost nearly al their cultural heritage and their populations even came close to dying out completely.
In the 17th century, the process of immigration into the Republic of the Netherlands ran smoothly and played a positive role within society. The number of immigrants was relatively high, but low compared to current figures. The newcomers, who were usually well-educated people, were welcome. This made it much easier for them to adapt. With a population of two million there was also plenty of space. The people who came into the country did, of course, have to make their own living, as there was no such thing as social security. People had a choice between adaptation and failure. The situation worsened when, from 1970 onwards, large numbers of immigrants who were more vulnerable socially and economically came into the country. That was when immigration became a subject for discussion and a cause of tensions.
8. Diversity within society
Within a given society certain sub-groups of the population can distinguish themselves from each other in various ways. A few examples:
- According to religion: Hindus and Muslims in India. Muslims and Christians in Egypt, Lebanon and on Ambon in Indonesia. Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland.
- According to social position. An extreme example is the caste-system in India but milder forms are present in nearly all societies.
- According to race. African Americans and white Americans, whites and blacks in South Africa. Hindustanis and Creoles in Surinam.
- According to “ethnicity”. A rather vague collective term, which can emphasize any of the following aspects: a collective language, kinship, race or religion. There is often a combination of more than one of these characteristics. Examples are the Turkish and Greek populations on Cyprus; the different tribes residing in most African countries (for instance, Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi); Singhalese and Tamils in Sri Lanka; Basks in Spain and the Flemish and Walloon populations in Belgium.
Generally speaking, the distinctions along the aforementioned lines correspond to cultural differences.
9. Segregation in neighbourhoods
It is a universal human phenomenon that people join together in groups, each with a common identity, in which the group members experience a sense of security. As the cultural differences between groups within one society become bigger, their coexistence in multicultural neighbourhoods becomes more difficult. Tensions increase as different groups distinguish themselves more clearly from each other. This usually ends in avoidant behaviour as a way of evading conflicts. (Report from the SCP, the Social and Cultural Planning, 1998, p. 260)
Industrial centres, in particular, have attracted many “guest workers”, later called foreign employees, and immigrants. As a result, the original inhabitants move away and a neighbourhood of foreigners and minorities develops. Existing concentrations of immigrants, in their turn, attract the next generation of newcomers, so that even more of the original inhabitants move away. The already common prejudices that associate disadvantaged neighbourhoods with criminality, noise pollution etc. are thereby strengthened. Even if the economic situation does not deteriorate, unemployment will remain high in such neighbourhoods if there is continuous immigration. Here follow some examples of segregation on a neighbourhood level:
- Jewish ghettos in many Eastern European cities before the Second World war;
- “Chinatown” in San Francisco and the black neighbourhood Harlem in new York;
- Neighbourhoods with a high percentage of West-Indian people in the “Bijlmer” area of Amsterdam;
- In Berlin, in the year 1999, one particular neighbourhood is called “Istanbul am Spree”.
In this last neighbourhood a Turkish “microcosm” has developed with a virtually self-supporting community of some hundreds of thousands who have their own shops and all manner of other activities. People only receive Turkish language television and radio channels. Thanks to their exclusive orientation towards their own group, the third generation Turkish immigrants’ German is worse than that of the second generation. The German language is only heard at school. Such undesirable developments also threaten to occur in the Netherlands. Something similar is happening in the Rotterdam neighbourhood Delfshaven (see the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant of 22 Jan 2000, p.6). The Netherlands’ clumsy, multicultural way of dealing with things, in particular the introduction of non-Dutch education, has led to, for example, the Turkish community in the Netherlands functioning the worst in relation to the other Turkish communities in Western Europe.
Thanks to the same evasive behaviour that exists in residential neighbourhoods, so-called “black schools” have emerged, with a majority of pupils from immigrant backgrounds. It is an expression of people’s desperate attempts to avoid each other. As the number of pupils from immigrant backgrounds starts to form a substantial percentage, the “native” pupils start to avoid that particular school and, soon enough, nearly the whole student body consists of pupils from immigrant families. At six percent of Dutch primary schools 50% of the pupils are from immigrant backgrounds. At 41% of the primary schools in the main cities the figure is even 60% or more (CBS Report, 1997, p. 252).
10. The new apartheid
One could ask the question whether minorities actually want to integrate. As was to be expected, a form of apartheid is becoming increasingly visible in our society. The mechanism by which black schools and black neighbourhoods emerge has already been mentioned. Two citations from the 1998 SCP Report are particularly revealing in this context:
- “If minorities constitute nearly a third of the population of a city and are on the way to becoming a majority, then distribution or integration is no longer feasible. There is a definite threat of “ghetto-formation”. In 1997 the following percentages of minorities were measured in certain neighbourhoods: 32% in Amsterdam, 31% in Rotterdam, 27% in The Hague and 21% in Utrecht” (p.244).
- “Instead of a successful integration we are seeing a society which is slowly fragmenting, with minorities developing separately and a degrading state of affairs in the centres for asylum seekers. The Dutch labour market cannot continue to absorb the arriving migrants outside of boom periods and insofar as we want to keep holding economic growth sacred. Especially in times of recession, though, the social frustration will hardly contribute to the integration of the people coming into the market. Continuing immigration and the increase in scale of the immigrant element within Dutch society will make the cultural isolation of immigrants, on the underside of a layered society, irreversible. To some extent this is already the case in the large cities” (271).
This new apartheid reveals itself in high unemployment and a culture of poverty in the immigrant neighbourhoods. These last two factors make people turn to criminality more quickly. Despite the huge efforts of the Dutch educational system and the labour market to promote the integration of minorities, any potentially positive result is continually undermined by the influx of new immigrants. To put it simply, it is a waste of time and effort. We seem to be dealing with a race between immigration and integration. The chances of successful integration taking place are getting smaller and smaller while immigration is increasing and the population is growing. We do not want these things to happen. We are not alone in holding this view, as articles and books from the past and today show (see recommended literature below).
The failure of the integration process has been analysed and described by Paul Scheffer in his article “The Multicultural Drama” in the Dutch newspaper NRC (29th Jan 2000). This piece has caused such a great deal of controversy that is was the subject of a debate in the Dutch parliament, a debate which did not, however, lead to any substantial change in immigration policy.
A society can be compared to an ecosystem. If one disrupts the existing balance, then an explosive situation is liable to emerge. We could call such an imbalanced society a socially flammable mixture.
11. Changes in the attitude of the majority
Historically speaking the Dutch are a hospitable and tolerant people, as they generally still are today. There are plenty of examples of this attitude, from the Huguenots fleeing persecution in France, the hundreds of thousands of Belgians escaping the violence of WWI, through to the large numbers of Hungarians, Chileans and others who were forced to leave their country because of persecution in recent decades. The first “guest workers” who came to the Netherlands after WWII, from Italy and Spain amongst other places, were also welcomed and, eventually, either returned to their countries of origin or integrated into Dutch society.
Unfortunately what we are seeing now is that large groups of Dutch people are developing a negative attitude towards immigration and immigrants. This can vary from the aforementioned “avoidant behaviour” (not wanting to have anything to do with it) to more actively negative attitudes, leading to discrimination and aggression. The reasons for this lie, in the first place, with the large numbers of immigrants and their dubious motivations for coming into the country. At the reasonable end of the scale people wonder what the sense and purpose is of this development. From more emotional grounds, though, people tend associate all manner of social problems, such as crime or excess claims on social benefits, exclusively with certain immigrant groups. What follows is a list of factors that feed into the tendencies mentioned above:
- The unprecedented numbers of immigrants are standing in the way of a successful integration process.
- The doubtful motivations, under the auspices of which the government allows immigrants into the country. It is openly admitted by the government that many false statement are made in order to obtain residence permits, without anything being done about it.
- The lack of financial interest on the part of the Netherlands in the incoming immigration. According to the writer Pieter Lakeman, immigration costs the state 13 billion guilders yearly.
- Immigrants arrive in a country where overpopulation has been a recognized problem for decades, but one which is officially denied. Their arrival sets back any possibility of halting population growth and discourages the Dutch people who practice birth control. To make things worse, the first generation of immigrants, in particular, exhibit certain forms of divergent and undesirable behaviour, such as having a very high number of children per family. By the second and third generations the number of children tends to fall to the level customary to the Netherlands. This does not solve the problem, however, as there are constantly new “first” generation immigrants coming in.
- The new immigrants, many of whom are entitled to benefits, make a larger than average claim on a range of collective facilities. At the same time, the facilities for underprivileged Dutch citizens have been cut back substantially. Immigrants often get into a habit of claiming on the government, even though there were not used to systems of social security in their countries of origin.
- The government’s attitude to the issue does not help at all. An overpopulated country should only admit groups of immigrants if and when a majority of the population agrees to this. Furthermore, the government needs to be very open about the fact that the arrival of the newcomers will demand a sacrifice on the part of the people already residing in our country (both financially and where population pressure is concerned). The decision whether or not to admit foreigners, a decision taken exclusively by an elite of civil servants and pressure groups up till now, is consistently kept out of public debate. The inhabitants of our country feel that their opinions are not being consulted. They wonder what the point is of all this and where it will end.
- Frequent reports in the newspapers about crime, political extremism and the abuse of the welfare system indicate what is going on in practice and strengthen the existing, negative image. (If these reports were kept out of the papers deliberately [censured] then the image would become even more negative, for that matter).
- The resistant attitude towards Dutch norms and values, the lack of effort put into mastering the Dutch language and immigrants’ retreat into their own ethnic groups make an unsympathetic impression on the original Dutch population.
- When economic conditions become more difficult (when unemployment increase, for example, or base materials become scarce) the resistance, on both sides of the flammable mixture that is society, will increase.
If a large minority starts presenting itself as a group with a distinct set of norms and values, even an set of laws, that is experienced as unfitting and even as a threat to others’ personal living sphere. Although it is true that the cultures of new groups usually do not take permanent root in a new country, there are still enough examples of fatal situations that can develop in this way. One example is that of orthodox-Christian Kosovo, whose population was just 7% Muslim in 1910, a percentage which rose to 60% in 1960! The former, Christian majority became a minority in its own country and felt itself being increasingly driven into a corner. As we know, this had terrible consequences.
The point has not been reached yet, though, of the current immigration policy turning the original, hospitable and tolerant attitude of the Dutch into an attitude of rejection and xenophobia. It would be in a sensible government’s utmost interest not to let things get so out of hand because, otherwise, we too will have to deal with the type of radical elements that we can already see arising in other, surrounding countries.
12.Backgrounds to uneasy relations
People look for security and homogeneity in heir own group. Some deny this basic human behavioural pattern and sacrifice it to other principles. The historian Jan Romein stated, early on, that the western individual has become alienated from the “general human pattern”. There are also people, according to whom man is a tabula rasa or blank slate, who is “free” from birth, that is, malleable and who can be made to fit into any type of society. We have our doubts about this and regard people’s thinking and acting on these assumptions as the laying of an ideological minefield.
This actual human behavioural pattern was aptly set out in 1955 by the Surinamese academic Van Lier, professor of Sociology of non-Western societies in Wageningen, in a reading about problematic race relations. He put it that we, in the Netherlands were right to point the disapproving finger at South Africa and the United States. According to Van Lier, the Dutch did not, at the time, show evidence of racism because the “strangers” in the country were small in numbers. For a most part, the group consisted of repatriated inhabitants of the former colonies in Indonesia, students and some seamen. He expected that, if large numbers of people, whose appearance and habits were foreign to us, were to settle in “normal” Dutch neighbourhoods, the Dutch too would develop a defensive reaction, more or less instinctively.
This reaction springs from a deeply rooted human characteristic and becomes stronger in times of “hardship”, such as high unemployment.
Van Lier, who was of Surinamese descent, knew what he was talking about, because he had done research into Surinamese social groups, among which existed uneasy relations. His predictions are now becoming reality. There is currently an immigrant problem, particularly in the large cities. This is also being called the “multicultural drama”. Unfortunately, there is now increasing resistance toward foreigners, especially in metropolitan neighbourhoods. This resistance was not there in the past.
13. People’s attachment to their own identity
In a general sense, a society’s culture can be seen as the totality of the unwritten and tacit agreements, norms, values, rules and habits common to all. More specific elements of a common culture are language, religion, form of government, exercise of power and commonly held opinions about the role of women, marriage and the role of sexuality. They are binding factors, which have developed during the course of a culture’s history. Their aim is to let the relations between the members of a society pass off with as little tension and uncertainty as possible.
Each culture is equally valuable in its binding role within its society. Within an existing society, socio-cultural differences are not, fundamentally, alien to each other. Problems between Christian denominations, linguistic conflicts such as we see in Belgium and the emancipation of women are often much less far-reaching than conflicts in which an existing society is threatened from outside, by war, conquest or unwelcome mass immigration. Against this background, the permanent coexistence of two, or even more, fundamentally differing societies within one society is an impossibility; in that case there is, in fact, no longer one society. This also serves, perhaps, to throw light on the remarks of the publicist Raymond van de Bogaard, who pleads for the formation of ethnically homogenous states in former Yugoslavia (In the newspaper NRC, 12 March 2001).
The degree of difference between cultures is important. Relatively small differences, such as differences in age, occupation and social status, occur in every society. The term subculture is often used in this context: it implies a form of (relatively fluid) group formation. Subcultures do not threaten the stability of a society, as long as they are covered by the umbrella of a common (in our case, Dutch) culture with common factors such as language, norms and values and the state of law.
Problems occur only when there are big cultural differences, such as the ones that have become apparent in the recent influx of large numbers of immigrants into the Netherlands: the immigrants’ cultures differ too much to fit into the coordinating, Dutch culture. The problems start with latent conflicts about norms and values. People’s fears of losing their identities play an important role in this.
Such tensions and conflicts will chiefly arise in times of economic malaise and political instability. World history and daily news reports from around the world contain countless illustrations of this rule. Dutch citizens themselves have never been consulted, by way of elections or through a referendum, about whether there should be a multicultural society in the first place.
14. Islam and the attachment to a separate cultural identity
The role of Islam must also be considered in this context. To the south European, Christian world, in particular, Islam represented the great historical enemy over a period of centuries, in which there was a series of armed conflicts and many expressions of mutual fear and intolerance. In the past centuries, characterized by European colonial expansion and technical progress, Europe no longer had as much to fear from the Islamic world and did not regard the former as a very influential factor. Over the last 50 years this situation has radically changed. Various reasons can be given for this. Due to the large reserves of oil and other base materials, the Islamic countries, which often show a strong solidarity amongst each other when facing the outside world, have become an economic superpower. Partly due to a missionary zeal and high birth numbers, Islam is growing rapidly worldwide.
Conscious as they are of their numbers and of their economic power, a spirit of revenge is present in many Islamic countries in regard to the former, western colonizers and exploiters. Feelings of revenge, conquest, dominance and superiority are nourished by the religion of Islam itself: Mohammed is the last and the definitive prophet; the Koran, literally and integrally revealed by God himself, is not put into perspective, as a document bound to a particular culture at a particular time, in any way; the proclamation of Islam, with violence if necessary, is a point of doctrine.
On many points, Islamic ideology is contrary to our Western attainments, attainments such as the separation between church and state, parliamentary democracy, the independence of the judiciary, freedom of speech and expression, equality between men and women, free entrepreneurship, the legal recognition of homosexuality, abortion. In many Islamic countries these attainments are often absent, either formally or in practice. (See P. Fortuyn, “De derde Revolutie”, “The third Revolution”, 1999, pp. 152-165)
Not all of these things apply to the whole of the Islamic world. Within Islam there are also orthodox and liberal movements with their personal responsibilities. The followers of these movements live their lives based on a respect for their fellow man, even if he or she has another religion and another lifestyle. When movements like these are the face of Islam in a country, then a healthy society, consisting of Muslims and people holding other convictions, is possible. However, it is the fundamentalist visions and conceptions of faith, in particular, which are propagated by many political and faith leaders in Muslim communities. They use these to influence the masses within Islamic countries, and also beyond, in countries such as the Netherlands.
In the Netherlands roughly half the immigrants from outside the European union have an Islamic background, making them the largest sub-group. Due to this group’s cultural and religious singularity, there is a real possibility that large concentrations of low-paid, unemployed and illegal Muslims in the Netherlands’ major cities could contribute to problems. Additionally, the Islamic immigrants, who come from the least developed and educated layers of society, have a particularly strong connection to their highly orthodox leaders. Many Imams come straight from Turkey or Morocco and do not speak a word of Dutch. In summary: Islam could easily become a basis for mobilisation for agitators. (Social and Cultural Report from the SCP, 1998, p. 272)
The fact that this last point- about social unrest- cannot be mentioned even in a hypothetical way became clear in December 2000, through the “Teheran on the Maas” affair. In this incident a play in Rotterdam was cancelled after threats were received from Morocco, which claimed that the content was offensive to the Islamic religion. In the aftermath of the incident, a former member of parliament (PvdA, “Labour Party”) with an immigrant background, Fatima Elatik, currently a member of the council in Amsterdam, declared that there are limits to the freedom of expression. Furthermore, it also recently emerged that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East became the pretext for a group of Muslim inhabitants of the Netherlands to vent their fury on Jewish property.
Every religion goes through its fundamentalist phase(s), but we in Europe can do without a newly imported form of Islamic fundamentalism. We are relieved to have been so recently freed from the anathemas, the burnings at the stake and the religious wars which played such a violent role in the history of the Christian churches of the free West. No Christian looks back on these practices with approval. At the same time, the taboo surrounding this subject makes sure that forms of Islamic fundamentalism are insufficiently addressed by our governments. It smacks of selective indignation, by the way, that, within the European Union, the Vatican is called to account for its “fundamentalist” stance on contraceptives and the fight against Aids, while the fundamentalist forms of Islam hardly encounter any restrictions in the political sphere.
15. European integration as an example
Within Europe, too, we can see that people are increasingly attached to their “own” cultural identity. Europe as it is today looks very different to the Europe of around 1900. It is true that openness and mutual contact between the different peoples and nations has increased, mostly as a result of tourism. European political cooperation, however, has lost much of its initial fervour and in has become, to too great an extent, an ideal imposed from above. The only things that still seem to matter are economic pragmatism and maintaining a competitive position in relations to the US: what is good for the economy is also deemed good for the European citizen. Eastern European nations’ desire to enter into the European Union also seems inspired by strictly economic and strategic motives and not or no longer by wishes for far-reaching cultural and political unification and hopes for permanent peace.
Now that the European internal borders are disappearing, to all extents and purposes, citizens seem to be becoming increasingly attached to their own regional and cultural identities. Within the walls of the multicultural European Union, where a sporting duel or a minor political difference of opinion between the member states can be enough to arouse negative feelings on both sides, the integrator process is stagnating. Decisions taken at the highest levels ignore the opinions of the electorate. Meanwhile, under the surface, a counter-movement of small, regional associations is developing, in which familiarity and self-identity are considered to be at odds with the bureaucratic bastion of the European Union. Even the safety net of a strong economic union seems unable to stop the flight into separatism. Some examples:
- The Slovaks have recently separated themselves from the Czechs.
- Scotland and Wales are looking for a more independent position in regard to England.
- In Belgium, the Flemish and Walloons parts of the population are drifting further and further apart.
- Catalans and Basks feel the restrictive bonds of the Spanish government.
- Yugoslavia hardly exists any more since Croats, Slovenes and Macedonians chose independence and were released from a political and cultural straightjacket.
- Separatists are active in Corsica, the French Basque country, Brittany and Normandy.
- The proposed division of Italy into north and south has been a political topic for a long time now.
- The Russian federation has fallen apart into dozens of long-established units. This process will presumably continue and could lead to Russia, as it exists today, falling apart even further (Chechnya).
All these people are looking for a way of retaining their own cultural, political or religious identity and are sometimes willing to pay a high price for it. In this aspect Europeans are no different to the immigrants coming in from outside Europe, who are also looking for economic security within the European Union and who also put a high value on their own identity, on familiarity and the bonds to their own minority group.
Part III Barriers to rational policy
16.The taboo and political paralysis
In the Netherlands a taboo has come to surround immigration and population, which has paralyzed all forms of open discussion and political action. When, in the 70s, a sizable wave of immigration started up (the arrival of people from Surinam; family reunification resulting from Turkish and Moroccan guest labour) any objections to this phenomenon were quickly branded as being “racist” or even “fascist”. For a long time, the government officially declared that the Netherlands was not an immigration (destination) country. Paralyzed by the effects of the taboo, however, it took little action against the now continuous immigration; it just let it, and still lets it, go on. Once a sizable immigrant population hat settled, the “multicultural society” was declared and presented as an “enrichment”. In his memorandum “Getting Opportunities, Taking Opportunities: Integration Policy 1999-2002” (“Kansen Krijgen, Kansen Pakken: Integratiebeleid 1999-2002”) the minister for Metropolitan and Integration Policy, Van Boxtel, expressly called the Netherlands an immigration country for the first time: “It is an undeniable fact that the Netherlands has become an immigration country and that it has to prepare itself for increasing pressures on the immigration policy”. The memorandum was dated the 30th November 1998. We, the members of the foundation, see it as an ultimate admittance of powerlessness.
Parliament and the media take note of this in a spirit of assent or indolent resignation. Up till now, there have been no signs of them wanting to set out a new course. In the aforementioned debate on “The Multicultural Drama” people went out of their way to avoid the cause, this being the ongoing, continuous immigration.
17. Ideological backgrounds
The taboo effect, usually referred to as “political correctness”, was created, and is maintained, by ideologically inspired pressure groups, which control the media to an important extent. S.W. Couwenberg, former professor of public law and editor of Civis Mundi, a monthly magazine for the Netherlands and Belgium, gives a pointed characterization of this phenomenon in an article published in the newspaper Trouw on October 14th 2000. A few quotes from that article:
- It is especially on that left side (of the political/ideological spectrum) that people like to lecture other people and, moreover, introduce and cultivate new, in this case left-wing, taboos and acts as a kind of mind-police against anyone who dares to call those taboos into question…”
- A new leftist-libertarian accent. This manifests itself, on the one hand, in an extreme flexibility: an “anything goes” mentality. …On the other hand, a new form of leftist-libertarian intolerance is developing. Due to the fact that the new flexibility was soon accorded the status of an unassailable value, which could not tolerate the coexistence of other values.
- “…Everything which diverged from the new leftist-libertarian orthodoxy was condemned as a harmful right-wing aberration and declared taboo. Public discussion was restricted for years as a result…”
- Divergent views on foreigner and immigration policy were stamped with the effectively silencing label of racism. The Netherlands was introduced to the intolerance of politically correct thinking, which also considered the defence of one’s own cultural identity taboo, and condemned it as “cultural racism”…
- Against this, I have defended the statement that, within our society, we can recognize a number of sub-cultures. …These, however, are covered by the umbrella of a common, Dutch culture, consisting of a common language and a complex of norms and values, which are at the basis of our political culture and justice system. … it is this Dutch culture which we should be allowed to set as a norm for immigrants who settle here for any length of time.”
That is what Couwenberg has to say on the matter.
The native majority of a country only feels the need to manifest itself as a cultural majority if and when it has to defend its own identity. In a society that contains many cultures the majority and minorities will, therefore, continue to fight for their identity. Due to the current taboo, it is impossible to transform the existing multicultural society into a society with one, unified culture, as long as the following factors continue to play an important role in today’s “ideology of political correctness”:
The conviction that we, in the Netherlands, have a duty to receive every needy person from the third world who knocks on our door, and to absorb them into our society. We, as a foundation, feel there is nothing wrong with helping others, but that what is missing in Dutch society is a crucial consideration. We should be able to make a choice between mercifulness towards the outside world and responsibility towards our own citizens. We should not see anything as an automatic duty without first analysing it in depth.
Our feelings of shame about our colonial past, the slave trade and the Second World War. We, the foundation, feel that these issues still evoke so much guilt that they are preventing us, as a country, from undertaking rational political action.
Multiculturalism and colourfulness are seen as enriching and desirable aspects of society. We feel that not enough attention is paid to the kind of arguments that are described in this brochure.
The Dutch citizens of today are wealthy and think they are invulnerable. Our opinion is, however, that the Netherlands is completely dependant on a continuous stream of goods (food and base materials) coming in from other parts of the world and that we need to realize that there are limits to growth.
The denial of tendencies towards certain behavioural patterns in individuals and human societies, in this case the tensions between population groups that have been pointed out. Our opinion is that society should not be seen as “malleable”. Opinions that oppose the thought that man is “malleable” should no longer be disqualified on the grounds of being “social-Darwinist”, “racist”, “fascist” or on the “extreme-right”. This is comparable to condemning gravity on the grounds that its effects might be seen to be in conflict with our vision of an ideal world.
Part IV Summary
It is our opinion that the society in our country should be based on mutual respect and unity. Our country must not develop into a deeply divided society. Outward differences in culture and ethnic diversity are welcome and can even have a stimulating function. There needs to be a consensus, however, about the underlying norms and values, on which our laws and our social manners are based. It depends on the circumstances and on future government policy whether far-reaching avoidant behaviour and segregation will arise. This will certainly be the case if policy does not change course and it will be accelerated if employment decreases or if the influx of immigrants shows a strong increase. “For the time being, the Dutch government is selling out national culture, nature conservation and environmental management, by cannily playing on Dutch people’s fears of increasing unemployment.” (Prof. Westhoff, “Visies op natuurbeheer” (“Visions on nature conservation”), Wageningen, 1984)
A lot of effort should be invested in the integration of foreigners residing in the Netherlands. A common language is an important factor in this process. Herein lies a big task for the Dutch educational system and for the labour market. The government should also primarily use Dutch as the language for daily written communications, though; the use of Turkish and Arabic in schools and in informative materials such as brochures should be avoided.
Refugees represent a source of continuous population growth. Global developments and the defensive attitudes of other European countries have resulted in the wave coming into the Netherlands becoming larger and larger in recent years. Such large numbers can no longer be integrated. It may well be characteristic of the Dutch mentality that there is a great readiness to help people who are truly in need; the abuse of regulations should be dealt with, though, otherwise that readiness to help will decrease even more. Some options worth considering are: central application points at foreign embassies and a reception point outside the EU; a more even distribution of the burden over the European countries; reception within the refugee’s own region; a temporary stay in combination with regulations for repatriation; limiting reception to authentic refugees, in the spirit of the refugee conventions of 1951 and 1956.
The government will fall short if it does not look for other forms of aid for refugees in order to prevent the sustaining capacity of Dutch society being exceeded. A number of foreigners do not feel at home in the Netherlands and have not integrated into Dutch society. The available material facilities continue to bind them to the country, though. Regulations could be put in place to provide long-term benefits for re-migrating immigrants. The regulations that have been designed up till now have been too meagre.
The Netherlands, as an overpopulated country, can only absorb a limited number of asylum seekers and no economic refugees at all. Immigrants can only integrate, after all, if there are opportunities for them to find long-term employment and to build up an existence. Admittance could be made conditional on the support of a large part of the population; it should not be based exclusively on the considerations of a political and social elite. Furthermore, a positive attitude may be expected of the immigrant towards the Dutch, the Dutch language, certain Dutch norms and Dutch culture. Examples are: equality between men and women, birth control, contemporary parent-child relationships and religious and political pluriformity. An immigrant must have no criminal record and be prepared to work with the Dutch towards the advancement of Dutch society.
The Netherlands must learn from the mistakes that were made in admitting the guest workers in the past. Now that employers are again asking for the recruitment of employees from outside of the European Union, the government should not comply. We also feel, by the way, that an influx of employees from within the European Union is undesirable, because of the existing overpopulation. Employees from further afield will have a much harder time than employees from our surrounding countries, because of a lack of knowledge of the language, a different education and different habits. The guest workers of today will once again become the unneeded workers of tomorrow. In our opinion this is an unfair policy. When a shortage of employees occurs in a particular sector, alternative solutions should be considered: higher wages, moving production abroad instead of moving employees to the Netherlands.
There is not one single reasonable argument for letting the population of the overflowing Netherlands increase even more. It would we sensible to first deal with the problems of the immigrants that have already been taken in, before even thinking about new immigration. Inspired by values such as humanity, tolerance and equality, which are characteristic for Dutch society, we, the Dutch, feel compelled to help foreigners who are in need. If the reality of the situation as it is in the Netherlands itself is ignored, however, then we will be making the problems that our guests have worse while, at the same time, creating problems for ourselves.
With world history in mind, we point to the dangers that arise when people try to make different cultures coexist in one society. One of those dangers is increasing feelings of security. A common basic need of people is exactly a need for security within one’s own familiar group and resistance to what is unknown. People are undeniably different, even if they are equal. That is reality. It would be naïve to presume that this reality applies to the rest of the world but not to the Netherlands.
Both the multicultural society as well as the socio-economic unification of Europe are being implemented hastily, from above, and lack transparency. Instead of integration, a regional fragmentation is taking place. This is why voters are seeking safe, regional alternatives. In the past church and state controlled its opponents by declaring them heretics. This no longer works, although bandying about the label of racism is, unfortunately, a very effective way of paralysing the right to free expression (a constitutional right) these days. The manipulators of public opinion do their job. This only eases the pressure temporarily though. Anyone who ignores this will, ironically, be ensuring that history repeats itself.
A sensible government, such as that of France, recognizes the problems and strives for cultural uniformity. Any government that encourages its immigrants and minorities to apply their own norms and values, to use their original language and to import their own laws and structures of authority, is not doing its larger population a good service. We are “balkanising” the Netherlands in this way. What is left is an undemocratic government which can only enforce the multicultural society by using repression. Such a development seems very untrue to the Dutch nature and extremely undesirable.
A country that has a strong cultural unity does not feel threatened by culturally divergent minorities. In such a society there is room to work, in peace, at the integration of people who might look different but who do, literally and figuratively, speak the same language. A continuing influx, though, actually makes successful integration impossible.
Het raadsel van de multicultuur : essays over islam en integratie (“The riddle of the multi-culture; essays about Islam and integration”) / J. Brugman. - Amsterdam : Meulenhoff, cop. 1998. - (Meulenhoff edition ; 1734). - 183 p.
Published earlier, in a different form, in NRC Handelsblad, Hollands Maandblad and HP/De Tijd, amongst others.
Critical essays about Islam and Muslims in the Netherlands.
De verwarde natie : dwarse notities over immigratie in Nederland (“The confused nation; contrary notes on immigration in the Netherlands”) / H.J. Schoo. - Amsterdam : Prometheus, 2000. - 198 p.
Tegen de islamisering van onze cultuur : Nederlandse identiteit als fundament (“Against the Islamization of our culture: Dutch identity as a fundament”) / Wilhelmus S.P. Fortuyn. - Utrecht : Bruna, cop. 1997. - 110 p.
Author’s name on cover: Pim Fortuyn
Warning about the threat to western norms and values by Islamic fundamentalism.
Binnen zonder kloppen : Nederlandse immigratiepolitiek en de economische gevolgen (“Coming in without asking; Dutch immigration policy and its economic consequences”) / Pieter Lakeman. - Amsterdam : Meulenhoff, cop. 1999. - ill. ; 212 p. - (Meulenhoff edition ; 1769)
Brief aan mijn dochter : een tocht door het pandemonium van seks en geweld (“Letter to my daughter; a journey through the pandemonium of sex and violence”) / Jaffe Vink. - Amsterdam : Meulenhoff, cop. 2001. - (Meulenhoff edition ; 1879). - 96 p.
Essay about the increasing trend in both overt and hidden acts of meaningless violence in the Netherlands today.
Het multiculturele drama (“The multicultural drama”) / Paul Scheffer
In: NRC Handelsblad (29 Jan 2000), p. 6