November 29, 2006

Unreported Holland, Part I

Why is it when there’s a sparrow causing havoc in some entertainment show in Holland, I can read all about it on the BBC front page, and the story lingers for days, whereas when substantial attacks on democracy occur in the same country, I have to resort to the Dutch newspapers? Since no one else does, I thought I’d bring you Unreported Holland.

The first story to bring to your attention, has actually been mentioned briefly in the media, mainly because it concerns recent developments in the UK. The Guardian even managed to make it front page news (at least on their website). Supposedly, the Dutch were going to ban the burqa from the streets. Surprisingly, this article only lingered for a few hours.

To be fair, the article was stirring with insufficient information. The parliament had merely accepted a proposal that allowed looking into such a ban. The Guardian failed to mention that at the time, within a week general elections were to be held, and a left-wing majority opposing such ban was bound to be formed as a result. On top of that, the news did reappear once more, when The Economist outrightly denounced the mere thought of banning religious clothing, wondering where the Dutch justice department had not been reading allowing the green light for this process.

One further comment. The following letter was placed after the original article in the Guardian:

Naima Bouteldja is unhappy with Dutch law banning the veil because she believes Muslim women are being asked to submit not to the law of the land but to a dominant way of life. But the dominant way of life in any country is what that country’s laws do or should reflect. No sensible western woman would walk along the streets of a Saudi city wearing a miniskirt. Saying that she worships the beauty of the human body would not save her from condemnation there, and rightly so.

I wonder if the writer realizes that he has just put Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands on the same line. Most Dutch people – even these days – would consider their country tolerant, and would probably see that as the dominant way of life. A way of life, where we don’t tell people what they cannot do. Now let’s hope the predictions are true and this proposal ends up in the bin as soon as the new government is formed.

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