Dutch Grapple With Immigration Explosion And Their Future

May 1, 2006: Dutch Grapple With Immigration Explosion And Their Future

Tue Apr 25, 7:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON –Dutch politicians, analysts and diplomats met at a luncheon last week at the Royal Netherlands Embassy with a warning for several hundred of their compatriots living here. They hoped to engage in an influential discussion about what happens when a prosperous but inattentive state gives in to the multicultural delusions of the left and lets large numbers of culturally hostile immigrants enter the land.

“Today, we have 1 million Muslims out of 16 million Dutch,” Frits Bolkestein, an impressive center-right Dutch politician and former E.U. commissioner, began. “Within 10 years, they will have an absolute majority in both Amsterdam and Rotterdam. We are staring into the face of a shortly to be divided community. Muslims have the right to their own schools, so there is no teaching of evolution, gay teachers are not tolerated but anti-Semitism is, and the Holocaust is not a subject for teaching.

“Unemployment of immigrants has gone from 9 percent in 2001 to 16 percent today. Immigrants tend to marry women from their home country, and they have little contact with Dutch society except for the Iranians. Eighteen percent of Moroccan men are suspected of crimes, compared to 4 percent of Dutch men. Half the Turkish and Moroccan population believe their cultures are incompatible with Dutch habits.

“I was born in Amsterdam,” he then said sadly, “and I resent the idea that the whole culture is to be changed. But these people are there to stay, and we wanted to draw attention to the dark side and risks of these changes.”

Other immigrant-target Western countries are beginning to get the message that Islamic immigrants in particular have not come to the West to join it, but to overcome it. One participant at the meeting noted: “In France, the majority of young Muslims believe that French society is dying, committing suicide. More like 10 percent to 20 percent of them believe that they are in the process of replacing European civilization with an Islamic one.”

But lest this sound as though the Dutch are as baffled, bewildered and browbeaten by immigration problems as, say, the American Congress, one must add that the Netherlands is doing more than any other European country to deal with immigrants. The Dutch are stressing dialogue between the cultures, reasonable affirmative action programs, the strictest immigration policies in Europe, discouraging arranged marriages, and even forcing would-be immigrants to see a film, “To the Netherlands,” which shows topless sunbathing and homosexuals. If the would-be immigrants cannot agree to accept this, they are simply told not to come.

Meanwhile, moderates in the Muslim community have begun to respond as well, doing their own monitoring of their communities.

Such Dutch strictness is new in a country known in the '60s and '70s for its multiculturalism (there were no cultural differences between people; all would automatically and wondrously integrate) and in the '80s and '90s for its liberal philosophy of “social peace.” That was a kind of wily liberalism that was characterized by open marijuana use in the Amsterdam coffeehouses, ameliorative drug programs in place of civic opprobrium, almost open immigration and the idea of saving the next generation.

When I was in Amsterdam in 1994 investigating how their liberal attitudes toward drug use were working, Ernst Bruning, director of the international affairs bureau of the Municipal Health Service, explained the different morality there from other countries. “We try in Holland to manage social problems,” he said. “It's a different paradigm.”

But today, that paradigm has considerably toughened; the Dutch are making it absolutely clear that they are not going to change their tried-and-true principles, which have made them one of the most prosperous and peaceful countries in Europe, for any immigrants.

Even in faraway Australia, faced with a similar problem of immigrants wanting to impose their own culture, Conservative Prime Minister John Howard recently summoned to his office a large group of Muslim leaders and clerics. He told them that anyone residing in the country must give “full allegiance to the secular Australian constitution and not to any other laws.” The treasurer then added that, if this was not agreeable to them, they would have to leave.

We are witnessing a dramatic change in Europe, which men like Bolkestein see as underlined by a drop in national confidence in European countries over the entirety of the last century. The immigration problem, he says, “has to do with the loss of confidence in one's own civilization. It started with World War II, which was really a mass European suicide. Then, the rise of fascism, the Holocaust and the 1968 student cultural revolutions across Europe. There is no clear European identity today. This has a real impact on foreign policy.”

Indeed, it does. But as this meeting shows, the Europeans are finally beginning to face their problems, and to grapple with “the immigrant” and particularly with his too-often arrogant and insatiable demands upon another man's house. In this process, they are discovering again what it really is to be a European. In some countries, it may be too late. But in the thoughtful Netherlands, there is still a chance of working it out.