Source: The Detroit News
Dutch officials visited the city Wednesday to discern why Muslims are more accepted in the United States than in The Netherlands.
Dutch society is plagued with problems of high unemployment and low integration and participation in the society by Moroccan and some Turkish immigrants. There also are ongoing culture wars between Muslims and the Dutch, including the assassination of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 and the production of a film "Fitna," which Muslims criticized as highly intolerant. Amid the social and religious tensions, the Dutch are trying to negotiate the difficulties sometimes caused by free speech and seeking to reassert their long tradition of tolerance and freedom.
Dutch Cabinet Minister Francis Timmermans and an entourage of officials met with 35 local Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders at the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the country.
"We are good at allowing people to make their own choices," said Timmermans, the European minister of The Netherlands, reflecting on the long tolerance for multiple Christian denominations in his country. "But were we good at dialogue? This world needs dialogue."
While Muslims in Metro Detroit and the United States sometimes struggle with discrimination, religious bigotry, verbal harassment and other forms of intolerance, there is a general sense, backed by public opinion research, that their circumstances here are more tolerable -- sometimes considerably so -- than in Europe.
Victor Ghalib Begg of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, which organized the event along with the Dutch embassy to the United States, said part of the assimilation of the Muslim community in Metro Detroit and the United States is the struggle for civil rights, which is part of the American experience for other groups, too.
"I really believe that Muslim Americans are at the front of the civil rights movement in America," Begg said. "We thank our African-American and Jewish brothers and sisters for going before us."