Amsterdam and the Clash of Civilisations: is this city on the frontline?
Amsterdam and the Clash of Civilisations: has this city put itself on the frontline?
The Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks is frequently in the media for his decisively controversial cartoons that seem to unremittingly try and provoke the Islamic communities across Europe. Just this week alone he was the target of two separate assassination plots that were to be carried out, interestingly, by two women who had converted to the religion he vilifies.
Lars, in a recent interview with the Associated Press, insisted that he has never tried to deliberately provoke any muslim individuals or groups, rather he tries only to show that nothing is beyond reproach, that there is no one thing in the world that is so holy it can’t be ridiculed.
"There is nothing so holy you can't offend it," he said.
The infamous anti-Islamic Dutch politician Geert Wilders used a similar argument when he went to the UK to show the House of Lords his short film “Fitna”, which shows images of the 9/11 attacks against a backdrop of quotes from the Quran.
He said his film was not targeted at Muslims, but was rather intended to show that radical islam was not compatibile with European beliefs, and especially not Dutch values.
"I believe Islam is a violent and dangerous religion – but I have nothing against Muslims," he told reporters. However, he said he wanted a Europe-wide ban on Muslim immigrants because "I believe they bring along a fascist ideology."
And again, similar opinions have been espoused in the controversial issue of whether to ban the burqa in France.
Every time there is an incident that happens, or a statement made, or a picture or article published that could be seen to be offensive to muslims in Europe, there are mass demonstrations and protests across the continent.
So is Samuel P. Huntington right then? Will the next major war, or the next series of conflicts, revolve not around resources or territory, but values, beliefs and culture, the pillars that make up our civilizations? In short, are these events a harbinger of a coming clash of civilisations as he predicated? And if so, has Amsterdam made itself one of the cities on the frontline?
Amsterdam, the capital of Holland, does not have as much experience as other European cities (like London), as the Dutch never had an empire as expansive as Britain and so modern day immigration into the city is an oddity for many residents.
Islamic immigrants now make up 14% of the population of Amsterdam, and in this European city they feel isolated, unsure of themselves and unsure of the future, moving overseas is a scary and uncertain undertaking. So they find comfort in their religion, this is what guides them.
By the same token, Amsterdam is an extremely liberal community. Marijuana and prostitution are decriminalized and euthanasia is legal. Amsterdam is one of the most liberal cities in the world, in contrast, it makes Islam, to many residents at least, seem intolerably conservative.
This is what leads people like Wilders to make the weeping and (by-and-large) offensive statements about Muslims and their religion, which in turn creates a backlash from community already made defensive by immigration.
Wilders, and many people in Amsterdam, want immigrants, if they move to the city at all, to conform to the values of the community into which they move, while Muslim immigrants do not see why their belief must always come under attack, why they must be indicted as a group for the radical actions of a few in their faith.
It is a dangerous and increasingly unstable situation, and unfortunately for Amsterdam, it is one of the first cities in Europe facing the crisis. There have been reports of police too scared to enter Muslim-majority areas, there have been widespread riots and demonstrations following the publication of ant-Islamic material, there have been increasing reports of Islamic violence in Amsterdam.
What one has to wonder is where it will end. Do residents of Amsterdam have a right to voice anti-Islamic rhetoric (one of the side-effects of freedom of speech), or should tolerance extend to those values and beliefs which are in opposition to your own? It’s a challenge both Muslim immigrants and citizens are facing: members of the Muslim community see the liberal values of Amsterdam (such as freedom of speech) as sometimes going too far, and locals in Amsterdam see the Islamic religion as too conservative for their country, and encouraging of violence.
It is a catch twenty-two that leads to ongoing bloodshed, violence, repression, isolation, and intolerance, both sides are guilty and this is why Amsterdam is on the frontline.
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