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- Written by Eman Jueid
- Category: Culture
That depends on what direction the Muslim community wants to go. As things stand, there are members of Parliament who have chosen to represent traditional Dutch parties, and happen to be Muslim as well. This does not allow for a very strong Muslim identity in the political landscape. But for non Muslim-centric parties who serve broader constituencies, they have to take into account their party’s demographic as a whole. Consequently, these parties end up banning halal slaughter, and Muslim politicians are expected to vote according to their party’s line. So while having a few votes, the Muslim community arguably doesn’t have a voice.
A common point of criticism coming from the Muslim community is that they resent their representatives inattention and inability to stand up for Islamic tenets and that they are not steadfast enough in their opposition against those politicians who attack them. As long as the issues in question also align with the needs and beliefs of Christian, liberal, socialist or conservative constituents, Muslim and non-Muslim politicians work well together. But gaps appear when beliefs diverge and colleagues can no longer be counted upon.
One of the solutions proposed is that the Muslim community delivers its demands by means of a political lobby. But even this formula has not proven fortuitous for other minority groups. Jewish lobbies have proven to be insufficient at stopping the banning of kosher slaughter in parliament, and while it may prove to be a valuable addition in the future, a lobbying representation may not give the guarantees of representation.
What, then, has prevented the rise of a political body dedicated to Islam? Despite their minority status, with the sheer number of Muslims in the Netherlands (approx. 850,000), one would think any amount of alienation could be overcome. Moreover, as an increasing number of them both are highly educated and politically active – more so than past generations – the opportunity seems to be theirs for the taking.
However, two problems seem to be prevalent above all others. First, there is an inability to settle on issues. With the wide diversity present amongst the Dutch Islamic community, there seems to be a barrier to resolving disagreements. Whereas the Dutch Christian community can afford to choose from three separate parties which differ in their approach to issues while retaining a Christian label, forming different approaches to subjects like euthanasia, abortion and the use of drugs, the same cannot be said for Muslims, who are hard pressed to get a single party going. Consequently, diverging thoughts on a variety of issues mean that there is something such as the “Nederlandse Moslim Partij” (NMP) or Dutch Muslim Party, but it has failed to manage taking part in national elections.
Then there is the matter of national identity. Even the mainstream media labels people who have been born in the Netherlands but have roots elsewhere as Turks, Moroccans, Maluku and so forth, and it’s often the case that they refer to themselves using those labels as well. This verbal identification as “the other” makes it harder for this demographic to become enthusiastic about Dutch politics, and more likely to be critical from the sidelines. Yet there is an opportunity there. As Christian parties in the Netherlands have become increasingly conservative, the Dutch political scene could do with a new party that defends the interests of immigrants and their family. Unfortunately, the “New Dutch,” as people with foreign roots but born here are now called, are not without prejudice themselves. For instance, here, as well as in Great Britain, it’s common for mosques to limit themselves to ethnicity (Turkish mosques, Surinam mosques etc.).
Another characteristic of the identity issue is socio-economic identity. For example, the leadership of the NMP is a highly educated group, a “political elite’” that has been accused of being unable to connect with the “people on the street.” And very little is being done to bridge that gap. One of the best ways to keep people away from voting is giving them the feeling they are not being listened to, and that this elite is simply unable to connect to the issues of the ordinary citizen they wish to represent.
These problems are by no means impossible to overcome, but it will require the insight to see it through to fruition, the flexibility to compromise as a minority group, and the motivation to involve a variety of people. Until then, Dutch Muslims will continue to be underrepresented.By Lennart Proot, Aslan Media Contributor
*Photo Credit: Wikimedia
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