Netherlands not so Dutch Anymore
By MIKE CORDER,Associated Press Writer AP - Thursday, November 22
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - One was a Somali refugee, the other an Argentine investment banker. Both are now high-profile Dutch women challenging this country to rethink its national identity.
Princess Maxima, the Argentine-born wife of Crown Prince Willem Alexander, triggered a round of national soul-searching with a speech last month about what exactly it means to be Dutch in an age of mass migration.
"The Netherlands is too complex to sum up in one cliche," she said. "A typical Dutch person doesn't exist."
Her comments have tapped into an unsettled feeling among many Dutch who fear traditional values have been eroded in a country roiled by a rise in Muslim extremism. It's a view espoused by Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has turned her back on her Islamic roots.
Conservatives in this nation of 16 million say the long Dutch tradition of welcoming immigrants and putting little or no pressure on them to integrate undermines Western values.
"Unfortunately, the debate about Dutch identity is too often held at a very trite and trivial level _ as if the discussion is between Brussels sprouts and wooden shoes on the one hand, and couscous and caftans on the other," said Bart Jan Spruyt, founder of The Edmund Burke Foundation, a conservative think tank.
"What is really at stake, due to a frivolous immigration policies and decades of multicultural indifference, is the identity of the Dutch nation, Dutch history and culture as a part of the history of Western civilization."
BINGO, so just change the rules. This didn't happen overnight. This is all due to changes wrought after 1973. Change immigration priorities. Establish assimilation goals and norms.
Han van der Horst, author of a popular book on Dutch culture and history, staunchly defends the nation's live-and-let-live traditions. He points to an old Dutch saying that translates as "everybody is entitled to his own views," but hastens to add: "It doesn't mean you respect those views or share" them.
That attitude historically allowed rigidly separated groupings known as "pillars" to form in society, meaning people of different faiths or political persuasion had their own churches, schools, newspapers, television and radio broadcasters and labor unions.
The system began to unravel in the 1960s, but some observers see the rise of Islam as a new pillar in Dutch society _ mosques are springing up around the country and Muslims have their own schools and Web sites.
Hirsi Ali, the former Somali refugee, is one of the success stories of Dutch immigration policy, but also one of its fiercest critics. She condemns the Dutch tradition of multiculturalism, saying tolerance for the intolerant has provided a dangerous breeding ground for Islamic radicalism.