Prevent the breeding grounds for extremism

Minister Verdonk now claims that double citizenship conflicts with being (or wanting to be) Dutch. According to Geert Wilders Islam is irreconcilible with the Dutch constitutional state and he proposes to restrict the civil rights of Dutch Muslims. Both positions illustrate that within dominant thinking Moroccan and Dutch or Muslim and Dutch should become mutually exclusive categories. Within dominant representation this is in fact already the case, and now policy should follow.

Verdonk and Wilders are actually saying that extremism and violence equal Moroccan and Muslim. They are non-Dutch. Verdonk and Wilder want to purify Dutch identity from 'foreign' stains and so the borders of what is Dutch (and what is not) should once more be well demarcated. They believe that with restricted civil rights or having a passport that is either Dutch or Moroccan the extremist act of violence of Mohammed B. could have been kept out the space of Dutch society. But Folkert van der G. [i.e. who killed Pim Fortuyn] already made plainly clear that extremism is also part of what is Dutch.

The irony is that Mohammed B. is a well integrated Dutch citizen of Moroccan origins. The surprise that this aroses among some politicians once more shows with what kind of naivity politicians approach questions of integration and security. Politicians and policy-makers are stunned by the fact that he was a good student and holds a number of diplomas. A smart guy. Mohammed B. gives the underlying assumption of integration policy a fatal blow. This assumption implies that after a compulsory 'citizenship training' [in Dutch: 'inburgering': a notion close to 'naturalisation', but without an autonomatic gaining of Dutch citizenship. Concretely implying compulsory courses of Dutch language and culture] one feels fully Dutch and is treated as such.

This vision on citizenship focused on 'inburgering' ['naturalisation'] was introduced by Bolkestein. In the tv-program 'Buitenhof' last Sunday he said that integration with the preservation of identity (the old policy) is impossible because someone's identity changes through integration. This approach implies a coherent, rational, autonomous individual who, in the integration meltingpot, can be reforged into a Dutch citizen. But this image is out of date and rooted in a retrograde image of individuals that goes back to the time of Decartes.

Mohammed B. shows that somebody who is well integrated can have very diverging identifications and selective affinities. Identity is fragmented and multiple. The majority of the Muslims demonstrate that Islam and Dutchness are in perfect harmony. In other words, integration with the preservation of identity is possible.

The essential question is why somebody with good diplomas and opportunities for social mobility identifies, in the context of Dutch society, with political-religious extremism. The answer to this question should not be sought in Morocco but precisely in the Netherlands, and this is a sore spot for many politicians and policy makers. This implies that a positive self-image needs to subjected to critique.

In contrast to what Wilders aims for, politicians and policy-makers have to ask precisely whether all citizens of the Netherlands can in fact fully enjoy their civil rights. It is impossible to argue that Dutch citizens with migrant origins enjoy the same opportunities and possibilities as autochtonous Dutch people. If you already might feel fully Dutch as a migrant, most autochtonous people will not stop to remind you that you (still) aren't considered as such. In the worst case scenario this leads to exclusion.

In other words: 'inburgering' ('naturalisation') offers no guarantee against exclusion. Couldn't social exclusion and the demonising of migrants acount for the extremism of Mohammed B.? Or formulated in yet another way, isn't it crucial to make sure that in actual terms everybody feels included in Dutch society? That would imply that integration went hand in hand with a strong equal opportunities and non-discrimination policy to secure civil rights.

Not only migrants but all Dutch people have to comply with the rules of the Dutch constitutional state. Politicians set the example in this respect. That means that offending claims by politicians about ethnic groups ('Kutmarokkanen' - translates badly as 'cunt moroccans'), religions ('Mohammed is a pervers tiran') or the exclusion of women from political participation (SGP) need to be rejected. If the political elite of a country participates to (symbolic) exclusion, the shit hits the fan. The commotion around Fortuyn made this very clear. Sadly we lack political leadership which can strongly embody this message. Balkenende has up till date not shown once that he is the prime minister of all Dutch people. The cabinet does little beside focussing on the AIVD [the internal security service] and extra security measures. No sign of 'keeping the lot together.' [this expression is currently popular in Dutch public discourse, i.e. the need to 'keep the lot (the country) together.']

Eliminating double citizenship or restraining civil rights for Muslims is as stupid as trying to restrict the acces to internet. After all, Mohammed B. saw Muslim extremists sites and films of the U.S army who bomb Iraqi citizens through the internet. In a globalising world there's no way of stopping transnational political, economic or digital networks. This implies that citizens have increasing transnational identifications and affinities.

Political streams or movements have always been international. That was the case for communism, liberalism, and also for the neoconservatism that emerges every where in Europe and the U.S. Also countermovements as feminism, gay and lesbian movements, alterglobalisation movements spill over the boundaries of the national. It testifies of much naivity that Verdonk and Wilders believe that moslim extremism could be kept out of the Netherlands with their proposed measures. More important is making sure there is little breeding ground for extremism in whatever form it takes.

Maayke Botman
PhD student Women's Studies, Utrecht University
Monday 8 November 2004