Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Dutch strive to ban the veil

Well well. Mhambi has to eat his words again. Is the Dutch reputation going the way of their smelly cheese? Today the UK Guardian reported:

The Netherlands may become the first European country to ban Muslim face veils after its government pledged yesterday to outlaw the wearing in public spaces of the niqab, or veil, and the burka, or full-length cloak covering the head...

Rita Verdonk, the immigration minister, signalled that the government would now push for a total ban, even though the legislation would be likely to contravene Dutch religious freedom laws.
"The cabinet finds the wearing of a burka undesirable ... but cannot at present enforce a total ban," the Dutch news agency ANP quoted her as saying after a cabinet meeting.


The announcement is in stark contrast to the laissez-faire image of the Netherlands. The country is known for its tolerance for drugs, prostitution and euthanasia, but in recent years has passed some of Europe's most unforgiving entry and immigration laws.

Religious tensions have been heightened by the murder of film director Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan militant in 2004, and by the dramatic rise of Pim Fortuyn, an anti-immigration and anti-Muslim gay politician who was assassinated by an animal rights activist days before national elections in 2002.


The proposal comes at a time when the debate on veils and whether they prevent Muslim women from integrating, has gathered momentum across Europe, and has drawn comments from Tony Blair and Italy's prime minister Romano Prodi. In 2004, France banned wearing of overt religious symbols in schools, arguing they were contrary to its separation of church and state.

This Ducth clampdown reminded me of a discussion I had with friends about the absence of radical islamic activity in South Africa. Their were bomb attacks, like the one on the Planet Holliwood restaurant in Cape Town in the late 90's, and later some action, ostensibly against gangsters. But since the September 11 attacks on the US World Trade Centre, there have been no radical muslim activity in South Africa. But why not?

I's arguable that it should be easier to operate in South Africa. The police are under severe pressure, under trained and under motivated. But still, nothing has happened. If fact, the relationship between muslim South Africa and the rest has never been better. One reason might be the South African governments support for the Palestinian cause.

But Mhambi thinks their may be annother reason. Unlike most European countries and even the British under their old (now abandonned) policy of multi-culturalism, South Africa had apartheid. Here the seperateness and peculiarness of the muslim community was actively encouraged. So far, except perhaps on language policy, the new ANC government has done little to put pressure in order to integrate South Africa's disperate communities. Muslim South Africans I expect don't feel the pressure to conform, like they do in the Netherlands, France and even the UK.

The racial killing of a young white Glasgow boy recently by a group of Pakistani youths illustrate the huge gap between SA and the UK when it comes to relationships between Muslim asians and the rest of the population. In South Africa it would have been unthinkable. Lets hope Mhambi remains right on this one.

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