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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 6:14 pm on July 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Netherlands, , , , , , terrorism   

    When hate kills 

    By Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    In the first place, sincere condolences to the victims and families who endured or lost their loved ones in the massacre in Norway. Then comes reflection on this heinous crime of hate.

    There has been considerable coverage of the terror attack itself and of the perpetrator, some coverage bigoted (especially before any facts came to life), some thoughtful and balanced. In a nutshell: an extreme right-wing Christian terrorist took out his hatred of immigrants and especially Muslims on scores of innocent people. The response of the Norwegian government has been noble: so far, it has pledged to respond to terror with more democracy, not with hunting ´em down. But how long and how effectively can democracy withstand attacks on democracy itself?

    Breivik, Wilders, LePen, Griffin, and Co. enjoy talking about “Western” values which are presumably “threatened” by immigration (read: Muslims). But their demagogy is ridiculously plain to see when they call to stop that mythical “threat” with as undemocratic means as could be. Banning mosques and minarets means not only restricting freedom of religion but doing so in a discriminatory fashion; outlawing headscarves and dictating personal dress codes amounts to violating not just religious expression but privacy and personal integrity; deporting foreigners is often breaching not only freedom of movement but elementary, non-derrogable due process. And now merciless mass killing.

    Even though not every right-wing leader has explicitly called for violence, the fact of the matter is that terrorism as a weapon against immigration in general and against Muslims in particular has been in place for some time now, undeniably inspired by the toxic populist rhetoric. Just last Autumn a “lone gunmen” terrorized the immigrant community in a Swedish town of Malmo. Muslim mosques had been burned in the Netherlands just a few years before that. Daily verbal if not physical harassment against ordinary Muslims in Europe is as common as it is impunible. But these things do not get reported and speculated about as much as alleged attacks by “Islamic terrorists”, who are about as representatives of Muslims as breiviks are of Norwegians.

    Hate kills, we have just witnessed that, yet again. Moreover, there are concerns that the massacre in Norway can be a template for others. And while the intention of responding to terror with more democracy is respectable, it is useful to remember that even democracy has its limits, if it is to survive. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany — a country that knows these things first hand — stipulates: “Whoever abuses the (basic rights) in order to combat the free democratic basic order shall forfeit these basic rights.” Norway, and the rest of Europe where right-wing terrorism has taken hold, must resist to protect their democratic values. That means restricting rights of breiviks and especially people in the position of power who influence breiviks with their hate speech (Dutch courts that last month let Wilders off the hook should take note). Hate does not just speak, it kills.

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:50 am on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , Netherlands, , ,   

    Freedom of intolerance 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    As was to be expected, Geert Wilders was acquitted of hate speech against Muslims. The media reported that the case tested limits of freedom of speech in a “traditionally liberal” country. But could it be that the case merely tested the limits of intolerance?

    Indeed, The Netherlands has been traditionally considered a “liberal” country. But perhaps we should specify what we mean by “liberal”, as it may mean different things to different people. For some, the US democrats are “liberals”; for others, staunch free marketeers are “liberals”. Some assume that not killing opposition members is a sign of “liberalism”; yet others might mean something completely different. Let´s face it: for many people outside of The Netherlands, its “liberalism” essentially equals the red lights district plus permissive soft drugs policies (a propos, something that the Wilders´ party has vowed to do away with).

    But if you belong to the first, second, third or other generation of non-European immigrants, especially if you look Muslim (whatever that might mean to different people), and especially if you insist on doing “Muslim things” (whatever that might mean to different people), then you are entitled to have your doubts about the Dutch “liberalism.” The Volendam girl expelled from a school for wearing a headscarf is certainly entitled to have her doubts.

    Many critics point out that freedom of expression, including religious expression, is applied inconsistently across Europe; The Netherlands is no exception. For example, Muslim women are not permitted to wear headscarves in a number of countries, even though nobody has any issues with the nuns´ outfits. Holocaust denial is outlawed in several countries, but speech that offends Muslims´ religious feelings is permitted (remember the Danish cartoons?) And now hate speech against Muslims as a group has also been upheld in the Dutch court.

    In my opinion, there is formidable consistency of Dutch, or for that matter European, attitudes towards Muslims. This consistency is manifested in two clear patterns. Pattern I: religious expression of Muslims is curbed. Pattern II: anti-Muslim expression is protected. To put it bluntly, intolerance against Muslims is not intolerance, it is freedom.

    So, it appears that the Netherlands has just got itself a new right: freedom of intolerance. But this is hardly an achievement to be proud of.

     
    • Illegal Immigration Statistics 8:33 pm on July 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

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  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 8:59 am on September 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Netherlands, , , ,   

    A ghost of racism in Europe? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

    Rephrasing a late European philosopher, a ghost wonders about Europe, a ghost of racism. How else can those facts be interpreted:

    • Nicolas Sarkozi deports Roma indiscriminately, and his approval rating with the French public shoots up from 30 something to over 60%.
    • Thilo Sarazin publishes an anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim book, and it is a bestseller in Germany before even hitting the bookshelves. (He must be chuckling to himself for all the free advertisement he got, thanks to frantic media coverage.)
    • Geert Wilders recycles a few unimaginative islamophobic slogans of the late Dutch xenophobes, and he comes third in the national election. And his promise to join in Muslim bashing on “ground zero” only seems to push his popularity higher.
    • “Mother Reich” Barbara Rosenkranz, spouse of an effective neo-nazi, came second in Austrian elections on strikingly ultra-right rhetoric.
    • Berlusconi… well, the point is clear.

    Something is profoundly wrong with the political climate across Europe. And there is no point in sacking, condemning or silencing the people who just say what the majority of others think and evidently support. They are merely messengers of the public opinion which does not want foreigners, Roma, Muslims, Africans, others (insert as appropriate) in their countries.

    In 2000, Jorg Haider´s xenophobic slogans led the rest of Europe to spring up in defence of human rights, Austria even faced EU sanctions. Ten years later, much stronger-worded xenophobia, sometimes coupled with action, of the above politicians does not seem to prompt similar reaction and action. Is it fatigue? Or is it acceptance that xenophobia, far from being a marginal force, is the political mainstream, best expressing what European public support?

    Perhaps, concentrating anger on groups regarded as alien provides, albeit illusionary, escape from much more complex and invincible every day issues, such as economic crises, ever increasing climate problems, and so on, and so forth. It is certainly more placable than suggesting that racism, intolerance and persecution of difference may be part of common European psyche, “European common values.”

    For the sake of Europe, I would very much like to believe that one day this propensity to look for scapegoats will be overcome, and more rational and pragmatic thinking will prevail among the majority. Let´s hope this happens before the “beware of the enemy” attitude would result in yet another great human  catastrophe.

     
    • thilo2 1:34 pm on October 2, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      es sind einfach zu viele geworden die menschen verlieren ihre identität.

    • Adam 12:22 pm on September 30, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Oh stop with the lies. and smear. It is only right and fair that all European Countries are being reluctant to allow people in who don’t want to live by European Values – and it is also fair European’s want to ensure there countries are populated, in the distant future, with people of their descent. You must be a women, or a person desperately trying to become a journalist by writing about politically correct speaking points, in the hope of some day getting on with a major news paper. Maybe you should try to do some actual reporting on the streets before you start with your ‘opinion piece’, because, quite frankly, you seem to have no clue what you are talking about.

    • Rick 5:48 pm on September 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I believe that most Europeans are not opposed to the presence of foreigners living and working in their countries. What they ARE against is a large demographic change that will , over time, destroy the uniqueness of their Caucasian nations, and turn them into multi-racial, multi-cultural Towers of Babel!

  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 9:38 pm on March 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Netherlands, , ,   

    Who oppresses Muslim women in Europe? 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH Pro Igual

    The EU countries seem almost obsessed with fighting for women´s rights within their Muslim minority communities. While intentions to secure rights for Muslim women may be laudable, the object and methods chosen are not. The burqa/veil debate is quite telling. Most ardent anti-burqists claim that women in Muslim countries are oppressed, that burqa is a sign of oppression, that oppression of women cannot be tolerated in free countries, and therefore burqa in Europe must be banned. But does this all hold up to scrutiny?

    It is a fair statement that in some Muslim countries women are oppressed. But it is an equally fair statement that most people in those countries are oppressed, because they are not free countries. Those countries are unfree not because they are Muslim countries, any more than other countries are unfree because they are Christian (or atheist). And if  people decide to leave their unfree countries and come, for example, to the EU, they probably hope to be more free than they were in their countries, be it Muslim, Christian, animist or atheist.

    Unfortunately for Muslims, though, they seem to get the LFR (“least favoured religion”) status in Europe. There appears to be a preconceived and deeply ingrained notion in many host countries that “European values” are necessarily good, and Muslim values are necessarily bad. (And if it seems like an overstatement, preparatory works and public statements on the European Constitution are quite elucidating.)

    Some states act simply irrationally when pretending to deal with the “integration” of their Muslim communities. Thus, Holland for example, pushed through a legal ban to prevent some 300(!) women – most of whom, by the way, are European converts – from wearing a full veil in public (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5414098.stm). One may only wonder whatever has happened to the Dutch common sense. Surely, the public monies expended on preparing, debating, adopting and enforcing that legislation could have been put to much better use, such as providing the Dutch lessons or CV-writing workshops for the immigrant Muslim women to ensure their better integration.

    Currently, France is also debating whether to ban the burqa in public places, including transport. It would be interesting to see to what depths the state machine will go to implement this, essentially absurd, ban in practice.

    Why burqa/veil gets such attention is puzzling. The fact of the matter is that only a few Muslim women wear burqas. As Nazia Hussein of the Open Society Institute put it in her blog Not another Headscarf, there is

    the vast majority of people who have a Muslim background but who do not wear their religion on their sleeve or indeed their head. The debate raging in Europe on the burqa completely misses the point that it’s only a tiny minority of women who wear this apparel, and it’s not the uniform of Muslim women.

    The intentions of European countries to support the rights of Muslim women, if indeed genuine, would have been much more credible if individual Muslims, women and men, received equal treatment in all areas, including employment, education, and justice system, and not just burqa emancipation. Such equal treatment could reinforce a positive message of tolerance and freedom. Instead, it seems to be  a permanently open season to ridicule, harass, and discriminate against Muslims under banners of free speech, terrorism crackdown, and immigration control.

    Further, to make declarations of its commitment to human and women´s rights credible, the EU could try and help improve the human rights situation in Muslim – and non-Muslim – countries by applying its soft power, economic incentives, and aid. Unfortunately, the EU is very far from consistent when it comes to human rights commitments in its foreign, or even home affairs, policy. The EU members are clearly more concerned about keeping their citizens fed, warm and comfortable, than triggering potential conflicts with economic partners, many of whom happen to be unfree countries.

    Instead, the EU countries, behaving in this case much like a school bully, choose to pick on the ostensibly weak and defenseless –  Muslim women. Burqa ban very clearly targets women, because men do not wear burqas. But burqa ban is not the only way Muslim women are targeted for discrimination and exclusion. Ethnic profiling, media bias, and societal prejudices are all feeding on the lack of genuinely equal and participatory debate on the situation of Muslims in general, and Muslim women in particular. This only perpetuates the communal divide and mutual mistrust. And as happens with other marginalised minority groups, Muslim women are bound to be affected in more ways than men. So, while Muslim women may have been oppressed in their unfree countries, they most certainly have not escaped oppression in free Europe.

    And what lessons can Muslims, and especially Muslim women, take home from all this? As far as the Muslims are concerned, the EU´s most consistently upheld common values appear to be Islamophobia and double standards. So, who is then the real oppressor of Muslim women in Europe?

     
  • Centro de Investigaciones en Derechos Humanos 11:23 am on March 6, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , hate crime, , , , Netherlands, ,   

    Something rotten in the state of Netherlands 

    Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual

    Geert Wilders, a controversial Dutch politician, is riding high in the polls. “The fact that he has been charged with fomenting hatred and discrimination has, if anything, only served to increase his popularity, at home and abroad”, report the media: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8549155.stm .

    Well, if being branded racist helps win the elections, what does it say about the society? Ironically, the Netherlands used to be synonymous with tolerance and open-mindedness. But it feels so long ago that not many even remember it. In the past decade the headlines about that country were mostly about controversial politicians (Pim Fortuyn, Rita Verdonk, Geert Wilders), Islamophobia, restricting immigration, banning muslim dress, and the like.

    Tolerant reputation, as any good reputation, is much easier to lose than to earn. Too bad the Dutch politicians don´t seem to bother.

    Some may ask, why should anyone bother about their country´s racist reputation? Perhaps, the counterparts from Australia can answer that. Following a wave of hate crimes against foreign (mostly Indian) students there, the number of willing to study in Australia Indian students dropped considerably, costing the economy almost $70m (£44m) in one year, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/8444870.stm .

    So, if moral considerations are not enough, the money should do the talking to convince those in the Netherlands who believe the country would be better off if they chase all the undesirable groups away. Just do the math, please!

    P

     
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