Searchlight - March 2006
The offensive "cartoons" published in Denmark have, not surprisingly, been published with glee on all the websites of the extreme right-wing in the Netherlands. Anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders has also posted them on his website. As a result, the Al Thaweed mosque has filed a legal complaint against him. The mosque, in Amsterdam, hit the headlines in 2004 and last year by selling a book – now under judicial investigation – that is alleged to incite hatred and call for violence against gays and women. So far, however, the mosque's restrained response to the cartoons has been indicative of the general reaction of the Netherlands' Muslim population.
The appearance of the cartoons on Wilders' website, though, prompted the Islamist organisation Hizb-Ut-Tahir to dish out leaflets in four Dutch cities demanding that removal of the cartoons. On 10 February, 150 school students hit the street in Maastricht and burned a Danish flag. Also, a planned national Muslim demonstration against the cartoons on 11 February in Amsterdam mobilised just a couple of hundred people after all the big Moroccan and Muslim organisations discouraged participation. One extremist outfit trying hard to hi-jack the issue has been the Belgium-based Arab European League (AEL) which is not really popular among Moroccan youth in the Netherlands because it represents Arabs and not Berbers. (Most Dutch Moroccans are of Berber origin). The AEL published tasteless antisemitic and Holocaust-denying cartoons on its website supposedly "to test the limits of freedom of speech". The Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel has now lodged a complaint against the AEL.
It appears generally that the big debates on Islam and integration that have raged in the Dutch media and politics since 9/11, the rise and fall of Pim Fortuyn and the Islamist murder of film producer Theo van Gogh, have had a sobering effect and produced an atmosphere in which people prefer to go on living together in peace rather than to disrupt society with hatred.
By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net in Utrecht