Monday, May 31, 2010

Possibly Dutch and Muslim?

The New York Times does a pretty thorough job at explaining the challenges facing those of non Dutch decent currently living in the Netherlands:

'Europe lags far behind the United States in its ability to craft a truly multi-ethnic society, to turn newcomers into citizens. European countries, by this reckoning, are prisoners of their old racial or nationalistic identities '

Muslims, Jews, Turkish, Moroccans, and Dutchies. Could the first four still maintain that identity, and still be Dutch? Of course they can. But there's one problem. (Some) 'Native' Dutch people don't agree.

'Over the formative centuries of European history the two words that most succinctly signaled “other,” “foreign” or “enemy” were these: “Jew” and “Turk.” Crudely unpacking them, “Turk” meant Muslim, Arab, infidel, the threat from without; a Jew was the enemy within, someone who, even if born and raised in your hometown, was part of another political as well as religious entity...'

'“Jew” and “Turk” were in fact constructs Europeans used to help define their own identity: that which we are not.'

Which just goes back to that current question on the Dutch political scene: 'Who are we as a people?'

Unlike the rest of Europe, the Dutch have never been a tribe or a clan. They created their land. And then one day, around 1813-15: poof! The United Netherlands had a King. Bestowing royalty to a land that, at one time, didn't even exist. What Dutch people don't realize is that it's not just going to be 'Dutch' people anymore. Newsflash: it's 2010! And that's somethings (some) Dutch don't like, or even understand. The United States' immigration and naturalization story is a bit different: In the United States, 'newcomers internalize the ways of their adopted land and apply them with an intensity that natives may have lost... the problems in the Netherlands today mostly stem from the fact that the Dutch don’t read their own history and aren’t aware of their traditions, including both pioneering the notion of tolerance and trying to define its appropriate limits. If they did understand, he says, they would apply their own laws.'

All this, because I have just moved into the Indische Buurt, in the east of Amsterdam. And as the 'Dutch' would say: Het is heel multiculti. (English: It is very multicultural) And I love that. I feel at home among diversity. It must be the American in me.