Immigrant Political Participation in Netherlands Promotes Acceptance

June 2, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe

Wire Service: Reuters

On June 2, 2006 Reuters reported, "Immigrants in the Netherlands have had enough. Four years ago, populist Pim Fortuyn promised voters in Rotterdam he would stop the building of a huge new mosque near the city's Feyenoord soccer stadium. Today, the country's biggest mosque is nearing completion and immigrants have helped oust Fortuyn's party from power. While immigrants in France have expressed frustration by rioting, in the Netherlands they are using the ballot box. 'People are saying we are here for 30 years and we have worked hard and done our best to integrate so what gives them the right to talk about us this way and to hurt us?' said Brahim Bourzik, a Moroccan-born former member of Rotterdam's council. 'You cannot say we have a football (soccer) stadium but you cannot have a mosque because they are big,' he said. 'Why can't you have a very big beautiful building? So it is a mosque, so what?' In local elections in March, immigrants voted in droves for the opposition Labor Party, helping remove right-wing councils in Rotterdam and elsewhere, a warning shot for the center-right government ahead of the general election in 2007. About 10 percent of the Dutch population of 16 million is defined as having 'non-Western' roots, 1 million of them Muslims, mostly from Turkey and Morocco. Among the young in the big cities such as Rotterdam, immigrants are in the majority. Bourzik said the dispute over possibly stripping prominent Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Dutch citizenship after the Somali-born member of parliament admitted lying to win asylum showed the need for immigrants to fight for their rights. 'There will be a day in Holland, and in Rotterdam, when you cannot act without these groups. If you look at Rotterdam now, it is 47 percent immigrants and we know that immigrants are the only ones having babies,' he said."