Letter From Amsterdam
By Ian Buruma, The New Yorker, December 27th 2004
www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?050103fa_fact1 (external - login to view)
Mohammed was never a hangabout. On the contrary, he had a good high- school education, and was known to his teachers as a promising young man. He was, as they say in the neighborhood, a positivo, who would surely make it in Dutch society. Not just ambitious for himself, Mohammed was always helping out troubled Moroccan kids, making plans for a youth program at his old school, and writing uplifting articles for a neighborhood bulletin. He was someone who could talk to city councillors and social workers. He knew his way around the intricate byways of Holland’s generous welfare system, where applying for subsidies is an essential skill.
A social-studies class I visited included Africans, Indians, Turks, Moroccans, an Egyptian, and a few whites. We had a discussion about van Gogh and Hirsi Ali, and the only girl in class who wore a veil spoke more often and more passionately than the others. The girl, who was born in Amsterdam to Moroccan parents, didn’t condone the murder but could “understand why Mohammed B. had sought comfort in Islam.” She said that people had insulted her in the streets after the murder, spitting at her feet or telling her to take off her veil. “When I hear people talk about ‘those ****ing Moroccans,’ I feel defensive and really want to be Moroccan, but when I visit Morocco I know I don’t belong there, either.” A Moroccan-born boy said that it was because of her Dutch accent.Quote has been trimmed
I noticed that some of the Muslim boys, who were described to me later as “quite fundamentalist,” snickered every time the veiled girl spoke, even when she argued, to loud protests from the other girls, that Muslim women were not oppressed. “Hirsi Ali is a dork,” she said. “She doesn’t look beyond her own experience.” The whites in the class remained silent, as though afraid to enter this treacherous terrain. One of the black students made fun of the Muslims’ preoccupation with “identity” and said, “Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian - who the **** cares. They’re all thieves.” The others laughed, even some of the Muslims. A dark-skinned girl with Indian features suddenly spoke: “I think Hirsi Ali is really...